Thursday, 12 January 2017

"False news" is starting

to be something more than "a bit of a problem". It is dangerous.
I know politicians are considered to be fair game for all sorts of criticism and that remarks are made about them that, in the normal way, would not be made about other people. 
Any news site which allows readers to comment will have messages on it which would be considered offensive, even highly offensive, if they were made anywhere else. If they happen to be made about "the other side" of politics of course we all tend to read them with amusement and a "serves them right" sort of attitude. If they are about "our side" of politics it is a different story. If they express a view we share that's fine. If we don't share that view then we are all tempted to send off a sarcastic or angry response.
But how many of us also read the article and also believe everything which is being said in it? How many of us believe in the most ridiculous of statements.
I was given something to read recently and I have been thinking about it since then. It was an article on a news site I happen to treat with caution anyway but this was ridiculous. I thought it was a joke but some people were taking it seriously. There were a few comments on the site but the first remarks I heard were being made at a meeting on the other side of the world. 
Put simply people believed it when a Tory MP in the UK said that the then Prime Minister David Cameron got someone else to cut the crusts off his toast.  
I took the article - it was given to me - and read it. At the end of it I thought I understood what had happened. There was a residential conference of some sort. The Prime Minister was present and so was someone else. The other person arrived late for breakfast and sat in the only other unoccupied seat - opposite one which was briefly unoccupied. He helped himself to some toast already on the table. The Prime Minister returned, saw the toast had gone, and decided to have a joke against himself with the eater of the toast. "You've eaten my toast." "I didn't know it was your toast." "You should have known it was my toast because someone had cut the crusts off for me." 
It would have been silly, "after-the-night-before", breakfast time humour  between people who don't normally eat breakfast with each other and are trying to make sure everyone feels comfortable.
But, some people believe it. It is now a "fact". 
There are plenty of other "facts" floating around in the media soup. There are outrageous claims about interference and non-interference in elections, sexual preferences, what people eat or drink or wear, who has done (or not done) what, their behaviour (or lack thereof), what they should or should not do and why, climate change (or lack thereof), the number of deaths in an incident, and much more.
I told the person who had passed me the article what I thought had happened. He disagreed. Everyone in the room, apart from myself and one other person, disagreed. It was in the paper. It had to be true. 
I might be wrong. Mr Cameron might get someone to cut the crusts off his toast...but I don't believe it.


Melodye Traupel said...

What this story illustrates is that there were two intelligent, analytical, open-minded people in the room.

Anonymous said...

I am still laughing! Chris

Jodiebodie said...

My goodness! People are so naive and that is the problem.
If your account is true, it sounds like the Prime Minister was having a sarcastic dig about his privileged position as an attempt at humour (while at the same time putting the toast eater in their place with a smile) Some people can't take a joke, can they?

catdownunder said...

It was a "serious" report in a newspaper I don't have a lot of time for Jodie. My guess is that something like that happened but people won't see it as a joke. They would rather think badly of the individual. It's rather like the reports of one our PMs doing his bit volunteering and then people saying it was only a photo opportunity - without being aware of the law surrounding what he was doing.