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Connexions Other Voices: The Fake News issue

December 20, 2016

"Fake news" is the latest mania to convulse the mainstream media. All at once, we're being subjected to an outbreak of hand-wringing articles and commentary about obscure websites which are supposedly poisoning public opinion and undermining democracy by spreading "fake news."

Since we don't like to be left out when a new fad comes on the scene, Other Voices is jumping on the bandwagon too, with an issue, the last of 2016, devoted to "fake news."

Our focus, however, is not so much on the crackpots and trolls making mischief on the fringes, but on the dominant actors in the fake news business: governments and the corporate and state media. Turning a blind eye to their own role in producing fake news, which mainstream media commentaries invariably do, amounts to not just ignoring the elephant in the room, but ignoring a whole herd of trumpeting pachyderms running amuck.

Fake news? How about credulous coverage in the mainstream media of Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," an outright lie used as a pretext to justify an unjustified war of aggression, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths? Or the uncritical media coverage of Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program, used to lend an air of legitimacy to the vicious sanctions and war threats against that country? Or the false reports about impending massacres by Muammar Gaddafi's troops, used to justify NATO's destruction of Libya, with results we are all too familiar with?

When it comes to war, "defense," "national security," and the interests of the state, the corporate and state media almost invariably act as propagandists, not as critical or independent seekers for truth.

So when the mainstream purveyors of fake news declare themselves aghast at the behaviour of fringe websites, it's hard to see this as anything more than complaining about competitors and imitators moving onto their turf.

The truth is, the market for these fringe website has appeared because so many people have learned that they can't trust what they read or see in the mainstream media.

Articles featured in this issue of Other Voices look at the media's role as purveyors of disinformation, propaganda, and lies. Also included is a look at well-funded climate denial think tanks, who produce what is arguably the most dangerous fake news of all.

We also feature an interview with Noam Chomsky on what may face us when Donald Trump enters the White House, a report on what is happening to India's poor as India moves to a so-called "cashless economy." Drawing on the archives, we spotlight the legendary publication I.F. Stone's Weekly (1953-1971), now archived online, and Dorothea Lange's long-suppressed photographs documenting the expulsion and internment of Japanese-Americans in World War Two.

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