People in recent times have carelessly used the terminology “fake news” whenever they come across news that does not resonate with their confirmation bias of political, religious and social views and ideas.
The term has received enormous publicity since President Donald Trump started shutting down some of the news anchors from CNN by labeling them “Fake News” to squash any type of questioning or criticism at him during the white house press conferences.
Shutting down media by calling them “Fake News” weakens the cerebral values of democracy. More often than not it discredits the true information by declaring it as fake. Politicians in recent times around the world have found this terminology as a convenient tool to command their followers and critics, to not to believe in a story that is contradictory to their ideas by discrediting the news organization that produces it.
Inspired by Trump’s strategy, in third world country like Pakistan, an established news outlet “Dawn News” has been labeled as “Fake News” by the leaders of the ruling Party, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf aka PTI. The followers and supporters of PTI are often found doing intellectual policing by trying to silence the PTI critics on social media like WhatsApp and Facebook, declaring any story publication coming from Dawn Newspaper as “Fake News”.
On the side, it’s also a fact that Social Media has been an effective propaganda tool used for mixing true information with false stories and associating them to important personalities. However, there has to be a distinction between a fake Whatsapp and Facebook Posts from unreliable sources versus a story published by established news outlets like CNN and Dawn News.
I do not disagree that news channels and outlets do have their agenda and biases towards one ideology and interest versus the other and they try to frame the news stories to influence their viewers and readers. Even if the story is true it can be framed in various ways by painting it positively or negatively.
However, I believe that carelessly using the “Fake News” terminology to justify the discrediting and censorship of new channels and media outlets is counterproductive as it basically suppresses legitimate questions and criticism coming from the free press.
In any democracy, diverse political views and opinions have an important role to play even if it doesn’t fit our confirmation biases. Shutting down someone if the views and new stories are not to one’s liking is basically insulting your own intellect.