Douglas Bullock has kindly written a Daily Paradox on Should Fake News be controlled?
Could ‘Fake News’ be an aspect of human behavior? Perhaps, but if it is, unfortunately, like alcohol and drugs, it is not always a helpful aspect. As with alcohol and drugs, small quantities apparently do little harm and may even lubricate the wheels of society. Like substance abuse, a laissez-faire approach to limiting the collateral damage from Fake News will probably not work. It has all the identifiers which require intervention and authoritarian action by (say) government.
This will be a struggle, given the diversity of governments around the world, which vary both in style and maturity. Fake News is not limited in this way, of course. However, government will probably be obliged to act and to do it in two directions, both within the governed community (easy) and by intergovernmental cooperation (harder).
The Achilles Heel is what will without doubt, be a real or perceived assault upon individual freedom. How to convince a diversity of views, even within a single society, that the curbing of individual freedoms is necessary; even if, ostensibly, it will only be a temporary expedient?
And how often these ‘temporary’ arrangements persist and endure! But I doubt we have the ability to self-regulate in preference to subjugating our individuality to government intervention.
The messaging which ‘sells’ government action will need to be subtle and inclusive. In mature societies this will be even more of an affront, as we are expected to grow our ability to self-regulate, not subjugate our individuality to government intervention. As with going to war, the public relations campaign should be focused on the notion that the gain will exceed the pain. As for content, what will be important will be an appeal to reason, decency and the reward of greater opportunity and freedom once society is relieved of the demeaning nature of Fake News.
A different and more cynical question: are Substances, Donuts, Fried Chicken and Fake News just control mechanisms secretly ignored by governments to keep large sections of the population soporific and compliant? Why not feed the appetite and manage the harm – if any – caused? The main reason the Gin Acts of 1736 and 1751 were introduced were as a result of liberal concerns about the social devastation wrought amongst the poor by cheap gin, although it also
presented an opportunity to gain much needed revenues. It is hard to see however, that Fake News would have such an obvious cause and effect.
Who then, is carrying out evidence-based research into the corrosive effect of Fake News? There are several sources, and most suggest that it is currently pervasive and yet has little ongoing effect, on the premise that people do not like being cheated and that as audiences become more exposed, they become more adept at establishing the veracity of the News, fake or otherwise. Of course, there will always be the seeking out of ‘evidence’ to support personally held views.
There is hope! One may put one’s faith in human nature after all.
Good day to all Daily Paradox readers
Douglas is a Wise Friend of Terrific Mentors International