Comment is free, but facts are sacred. At least that’s what Charles Prestwich Scott thought. That is what he proclaimed in 1921 in an essay to celebrate the centenary of The Guardian, which he edited from 1872 to 1929. Many things have happened since then. This includes leaps and bounds with regard to the human rights and freedoms that were codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Mr. Scott’s main idea is quite explicitly referenced in article 19, which posits that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
In today’s social and political environment, the media, now self-constituted as the fourth estate, has–in its own way–attempted to safeguard the freedoms of human beings. And it has granted itself the responsibility of protecting citizens’ rights, playing the part of check on government power; a power divided by Montesquieu, in his work The Spirit of the Laws, into three bodies–legislative, executive, and judicial–in 1748, just 200 years before the UN Declaration and 173 before Mr. Scott’s essay.
But is it true that the modern media protects the freedoms and rights of the people? Does the word of the media guarantee the sacredness of the fact itself? Can the fact itself, told by the media, be transformed into truth? Are all free comments valid? Can public opinion be (dis)oriented with transformed truths?
Much has been written in philosophy on truth and falsity. And there are as many opinions as apparent truths. Aristotle, for example, claims that “to say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.” I.e., claiming, still considering the traits of a thing, that what is yellow, like a banana, is not yellow, is false; and saying that what is yellow is yellow is true. This example extracted from the book Logic: Key Concepts in Philosophy by Laurence Goldstein can, seemingly, offer us a clear understanding of what is true and what is a lie. But it is not all so simple.
In this new fake news context, lies and truth are more ethereal and, of course, less conclusive than in the classical era. Today–in the so-called post-truth era– the great minds of the century agree that everything the media touches is adulterated. Fixed. Altered. Intoxicated. Or infoxicated, as the great minds say. And this is not just because of the pure entropy experienced by the media faced with such an avalanche of information from the press offices of leading political parties and large companies, as in yesteryear.
Today, there are so many assertions and conclusive certainties, so many free comments in response to so many sacred facts in the jumble of the Web, driven by lesser, but more influential minds on Twitter, that one no longer even knows if bananas are yellow, orange, or passion fruit red. And this is not because of the reference to color blindness and the undoubted truth of color vision deficiency, but rather because retweets tend to dump into brand content containers–companies’ “infoxications”–so much salvation for the human race if we only consume their brands that none of them can be taken as absolute truth. This is mainly because, apart from bias, on most occasions it is difficult to find where the information originates.
Darío Sztajnszrajber, philosopher and Argentine TV host–what a strange professional cocktail, by the way– defines post-truth as “reading from reality only what is agreeable to you and closing you into what you already believed.” I.e., one can always find the data one needs to justify one’s fallacies or the fallacies of others. In fact, the BBC reported that another philosopher, Briton A.C. Grayling, says that when trying to find results in Google he wrote “did the…”, and the words suggested were “holocaust happen.”
So, searching for “did the holocaust happen” was trending, and therefore one can deduce that there were still people who questioned its grim existence. But that’s not all. It gets worse. In fact, after the search, the top results sustained that those unfortunate crimes against humanity never took place.
Another chilling fact. In a 2018 study, the consultancy firm Edelman surveyed over 33,000 people from 28 different countries and 63% of the respondents could not distinguish between a news article and a rumor–or fake news as the clear-minded refer to them. In addition, 59% of these same respondents stated that it was getting more and more difficult for them to recognize if the article came from serious press or from less “credible” media outlets.
Truths, lies. Half-truths. Opinions. Facts. All camouflaged under the guise of two concepts (post-truth and fake news) adopted from cyber culture that sell quite a bit among the top media outlets. Or among the most scholarly people in the world of globalist lies. Targeted fake news about an event, scattered to the plebeians. Let’s cut to the chase, what in Spain has always been called a stupid hoax.