Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Fake news is nothing new

Unless you were on another planet last week then you would have seen reports of US government officials accusing their Russian counterparts of interfering in the US election.With these allegations ranging from Russian hackers sabotaging electronic voting machines in some American states to claims the Russian government flooded US social media with fake stories about Hilary Clinton, indeed some leading democrats have gone a far as accusing the Russians of costing Clinton the presidency http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-cyber-idUSKBN1441RS.

Now i'm not in any position to comment on the veracity of such claims, but i do know enough about how US administrations work to treat some of the claims they make with some caution. Also let's be honest it was the intervention of the Director of the FBI 10 days before polling which probably had the greatest bearing on the outcome of the US election, that and the Democrats selecting a candidate as widely disliked and distrusted as Hilary Clinton was.

But it's important to remember that Fake news is nothing new and that it existed long before the internet and social media were ever even thought of.The mass murdering British Monarch Henry Vlll used his functionaries to spread malicious allegations (fake news) about most of his wives in order to justify annulling his marriages to them and their Beheadings (yes we were beheading people long before ISIS). The British government used fake stories of German soldiers raping Belgian nuns to build popular support for its involvement in the first world war https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/atrocity-propaganda

While states like the US have been practicing the dubious art of spreading fake news for decades.The Gulf of Tonkin incident which the Johnson administration used to gain congress support to increase US involvement in Vietnam - and which would lead directly to the catastrophic Vietnam war - was a lie and what today we would call 'fake news' http://fair.org/media-beat-column/30-year-anniversary-tonkin-gulf-lie-launched-vietnam-war/. Similarly in the months prior to the first Gulf War in 1991 readers of newspapers in western countries began to read horror stories of Iraqi soldiers throwing new born babies out of incubators in Kuwait - again these stories were completely baseless.

In 1999 the western media was fed stories by NATO spokespeople of the mass killings of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces in the former Yugoslavia. And these false stories were enough to win public support in Britain and America for NATO to bomb Serbia, and which would infamously see the RAF dropping cluster bombs on Serbia (another war crime Tony Blair appears to have got away with) http://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-s-war-against-yugoslavia-was-based-on-lies/32302. While probably the most insidious example of 'fake news' in history occurred just a few years ago when Bush and Blair lied about Iraq having 'weapons of mass destruction'. 

And the modus operandi is always the same. So called 'intelligence experts' and government officials accuse the government or enemy it wants to attack/remove of perpetrating or planning to perpetrate some terrible act or other and these claims are dutifully and uncritically reported as facts by various outlets in the print and broadcast media. Indeed it is for this precise reason that both the CIA and MI6 have for many years planted scores of operatives in the the US and British print and broadcast media https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2015/06/please-communicate-this-challenge-to-the-journalist-of-your-choice/

In addition to enabling Governments to get away with military actions on seemingly non existent evidence another serious consequence of what is state sponsored 'fake news' has been that it seems to have bred a general sense of cynicism among the public - to the extent where they now end up doubting the truth of any major news story. Thus within hours of the cowardly murder of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey yesterday idiots began popping up on on social media suggesting that either the Ambassador's murder never happened (ie it was staged) or even more bizarrely the Russians had arranged the murder of their own Ambassador themselves.

Indeed this blog witnessed a very depressing example of this type of idiocy when an anonymous poster seriously suggested in the comments section of a blog posting that the Remain campaign planned the murder of Jo Cox https://rodolfowalshglasses.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/paul-nuttalls-fairly-secret-army.html. We are certainly right to bemoan the baleful and corrosive influence of fake news through social media and it's good to see that companies like facebook are looking at ways of addressing this growing problem http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38039506. But let us also remember that governments and political leaders have been deploying fake news for decades - and getting away with it!  


  1. Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain. The USS Maine exploded in Havana harbour in 1898. A US board of inquiry could not find out the cause of the explosion, but the event helped to drive the USA to war with Spain within the year following the intervention of Hearst and Pulitzer in what became known as Yellow journalism.