Attempts to bring ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’ here

Donald Trump is following the example of a tirade of tyrants with his ongoing attacks on non compliant US media as ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’. Attempts are being made to bring these sorts of insidious assaults to new Zealand.

From Facebook:

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Far from the real truth

I think this is quite unfair on New Zealand media. There is plenty to criticise them about – especially things like their growing obsession with trivia and click bait, reducing numbers of journalists, rushing the ‘news’ under online pressure, and their picking of winners and losers in politics.

But I don’t think they can fairly be accused of deliberately assaulting the truth. Most journalists do their best in high pressure jobs to be accurate and balanced.

New Zealand has reasonable complaints systems (too slow, but as good as could probably be expected) that help hold our media to account.

Fortunately there is unlikely to be a popular anti-media movement in New Zealand. When ‘fake news’ is promoted on Whale Oil – like First and second place for fake NZ news go to… – the declining number of people who take any notice of that site will note more irony than reality, given WO’s record of unbalanced activism while claiming to be a brave new version of media.

The fact is that most ‘fake news’ is circulated and promoted by anonymous sources acting in the shadows of the Internet as deliberate attempts to mislead and misinform.

Newsroom (March 2018): Fact or fiction? Behind the rise of fake news

Like it or not – and most of us don’t – we’ve become embroiled in a murky “fake news” propaganda conflict aimed at controlling our opinions and our choices.

It’s most prevalent in our social media feeds, including Facebook and Twitter.

Broadly speaking, fake news is the dissemination of falsehoods disguised as truth.

A producer of CBS’s 60 Minutes programme, Michael Radutzky, defines it more specifically as “stories that are provably false, have enormous traction in culture, and are consumed by millions of people”. In other words, fake news creates a misinformed public, fostering societal pressure on politicians to enact policies against the public interest.

It can also undermine the legitimacy of “real” news stories.

That is often it’s aim – and seems to be a clear aim of Trump.

Adding to this problem is a general 21st Century decline in journalistic standards that has weakened the ability of news outlets to subject their information sources to effective scrutiny.

With this in mind, Snopes founder David Mikkelson warns that fake news is “a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon which encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone”.

So it adds to growing problems with news coverage.

One of the teenagers in Veles, named Goran, told the BBC how he got involved.

He started by plagiarising stories from right-wing American sites and posting them on Facebook with sensationalist headlines. He paid Facebook to “boost” these posts, sharing them with a large US audience hungry for Trump stories.

When those people shared the stories and clicked on their “like” buttons, Goran began earning revenue from associated advertising. According to Goran, he pocketed 1800 Euros ($3000) in one month.

When questioned about the morality of his actions, Goran said, “Teenagers in our city don’t care how Americans vote – they are only satisfied that they make money and can buy expensive clothes and drinks”.

But the also recruit a lot of willing unpaid helpers who get sucked into their crap and give it credence. That’s perhaps the biggest worry.

It’s far better that an open democracy that values free speech has a diverse, imperfect media and not a compliant bunch of Government mouthpieces afraid to hold power to account.

Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  5th August 2018

    We are lucky here with on the whole pretty balanced journalism, Nat radio is probably the furthest left but its still pretty darn good.
    I do find some of the journalists in particular on Stuff as crazy millennial type snowflakes but I am 50 so probably not their target market.

  2. duperez

     /  5th August 2018

    There is one site I am reminded of by that bit about teenager Goran in Veles.

    Stuff is posted with sensationalist headlines with selected bits from some source. It mightn’t be fake news in that it is true. It seeks to paint a false picture by misrepresenting, telling only part of the picture and hinting at bad things. It is nicely packaged propaganda. And of course it is ethical, moral and honest.

    • There are plenty of examples of crap coverage and distorted news due to selectiveness and misleading headlines.

      But we have nothing like the open bias (on both sides of a widening political divide) that they have in the US.

      It’s flawed but better in New Zealand than most of the alternatives.

    • chrism56

       /  5th August 2018

      As I subscribe to the DomPost, it is very educative to compare that to the Stuff website. There are major differences with many lead or front page stories not getting mentioned on the Internet. There is also a big contrast between the weekday and Saturday papers – the former a very poor imitation of a tabloid, with the latter a serious broadsheet.

      • I don’t know why tabloid papers seem less serious than their cumbersome counterparts. No doubt this image will change when all papers change forrmat. Tabloids are much more convenient, especially in a cafe.

        • chrism56

           /  5th August 2018

          Kitty. I suspect the format change alters the mentality. There are a lot of serious weekly papers in the smaller format, but when dailies go down, they seem to get the “Red Top” rush. There no longer are long pieces and they go for “Gotcha” headlines, with the follow on text matching the sensationalism. The text seems to be in a larger font and articles rarely more than 1/4 page text, so it is more often than not superficial with nothing in depth or even a background there. The reporters seem to have no knowledge or even understanding of basic science or history so the superlatives come out, when just a moment’s reflection and a Google search shows the claims aren’t what they seem.

          • It may be bias, one thinks of Truth and Sunday News…..

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  5th August 2018

            I know what you mean, but wondered if I was biassed. Truth and Sunday News were (are ?) in tabloid form.

            So were the less well-thought of papers in the UK when I was there.

            They are a much more convenient shape for reading, I must admit.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th August 2018

    I think it’s certainly a concern how much fake news is spread on FB. And I hear about more with a Left bias than Right. I am frequently telling the gullible to go check out properly the stories they tell me.

    • Some people seem to google the subject and look at one entry. One or two people here certainly do. Google whatever they are laying the law down about in an unthinking way, and the first entry will show where they found their information. This is very sloppy thinking.

      I would also be suspicious if there is nothing at all to back up a claim.

      Snopes is a useful little tool to see whether something is, in fact, an urban myth.

      • Two people disagree that one should do more than look at one Google site and take the trouble to do a little research. How (un)surprising. Anyone can put things on Google, and one would have thought that it was obvious that one should at least check the source and its credentials before quoting it as the truth. These people can’t have been to university and learned the basics of research.

        The obviously faked German dialogue accompanying a peaceful religious procession which may or may not have taken place where it was said to have done shows the danger of being gullible and believing it if it’s on Google.

        Remember the bombed ambulance that was, in fact, a derelict one ?

  4. alloytoo

     /  5th August 2018

    Replace “truth” with free speech would describe the NZ press in the past few days.

  5. PDB

     /  5th August 2018

    The MSM is already not trusted to tell the truth in NZ. Net trust of (negative) -42% in the recent 2018 Colmar Brunton public trust survey (only better than bloggers) and even back in 2015 they were bottom (below politicians) in a research NZ trust survey. These type of results have trended downwards for some time.

  6. What a sexist, sensalionalist cartoon.

    It’s unfortunate that they label the drooping girl TRUTH….this makes it seem, at first glance, that they mean the newspaper of that name.


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