The problem of legislating against fake news

March 17, 2018

Beaconing out the fog of rumour and conspiracy is not new as much as old dressed up as new….this is the problem that is as old as mankind itself.

The solution as I see it cannot be more laws. Only because this is neither an intelligent or sustainable response to the advent of fake news.

I want to emphasize that in no way am I diluting the gravity of fake news and how disruptive it can be. Infact thru the yeara i have observed a sharpening of this issue and on many occasions I have written on the pressing need to examine in greater detail how the search alogarithms of corporations only seem to be amplifying this problem to crisis levels.

The way I see it….fake news can only be effectively neutralised by innoculating more people with the power to think well. This would of course mean investing in critical thinking skills along with perhaps reviving the whole idea of investigative journalism, since the process of winnowing truth from lies cannot be left entirely in the hands of governments.

To my understanding that is like giving Count Dracula the keys to the blood bank and the reason is very simple. Governments have consistently without fail shown thru out history that they are incapable of being reliable purveyors of the truth. Frequently the apparatus of mass assimilation that is under the purview of governments is so riven with vested interest, partisanship and biaseness that these news platforms end up becoming the very agents of faking news on an industrial scale.

If governments have a good trek record maybe i will persualded to think otherwise…maybe someone can cite me one single casewhere that might have been the case. I am not asking for one hundred or even ten cases thru out 2,000 years of mankinds wordsmithing history….I am merely asking for one happy case!

The problem as I see it is the custodians of power dont seem to understand there is no such thing as purity or kosher truth….in reality one mans turth has always been another man’s lie and multitude of vantages from which man perceives himself and the known world predates even the internet itself….winnowing truth from lies is not a mechanical process, it cannot be as it involves a cerebral dimension that requires material to be distinguished, contrasted and graded into many levels of the ‘truth’ – as we can see the ‘truth’ can exist at many dimensions, it can take the form of satire and even assume the guise of entertainment. In other cases such as Singapore, it may even involve meteorology where one is required to spot test balloons and even ask a range of questions like…what does this all mean? Where might all this be going? So as we journey deeper and deeper into this kueh lapis of the idea of the ‘truth’ – what we are dealing with is not only only the feral internet where everything is good to go…neither is it true to say, it’s not only the fact-free, rumour mill of social media which can get its facts wrong.

Governments too can get it very wrong as well and my feel is when they rush into believing the magic bullet lies in enacting more laws instead of looking at the real problems of real journalism in Singapore has been systematically emasculated and hollowed out of all its metier at beaconing out the murk – or how govwrnments themselves are guilty of dabbling with the wonder spin machine amid an era of dwindling budgets for real labour-intensive journalism, our how whole disquisitions have been reduced to nano sized doggy bites to even explain important evens along with the razmatazz of PR spin doctors, partisan think tanks, activists, NGOs, and material ripped shamelessly from the devil itself…the internet.

If we’re really to make hay of being honest with ourselves, the real problem is not so much “fake news”. Rather the root cause of our seeming crisis can stem from an acute erosion of trust between the custodians of power and citizenry and this may perhaps explain why no one…not in government least of all seems inclined to either believe or talk about how. The only enlightened and intellectually sustainable way to make progress out of the hubris of ‘fake news’ is to nourish the public consciousness with powers of critical thinking so that they themselves are empowered to winnow truth from lies.

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