During a recent English tutorial with college students, we had an interesting discussion following the reading of an article on how fake news was involved in the US elections in November 2016.
We were asking ourselves: Where are we now, almost a year later? What happens when there’s a lot of fake news around?
Confusion, lack of trust, apathy – were some of the answers.
We looked at the journey from naivety to cynicism, from believing too much to believing too little, having had our fill of so-called fake news, to the point of indigestion.
Much like Aesop’s Cry Wolf fable, where the mischievous boy doesn’t get the help he desperately needs because he has turned his people into a village of cynics, of non-believers, so too can fake news eventually lead to disaster.
Early on this past year there was a shift, using the term ‘Fake News’ to label and deflect any disagreeable opinions or, dare-I-say-it, facts. Certain political leaders have turned this manoeuver practically into an art form.
But this can also eventually lead to disastrous consequences. Imagine a doctor who came along and told you that you were very sick and needed medical care. Then later you found out it wasn’t true and the man wasn’t a doctor at all. Of course, though relieved at being healthy, you’d be angry that someone had tried to fool you. But supposing a while later a real doctor comes along and tells you that you’re sick and need help. Because you don’t like what he says, you ignore him, choosing to believe that because one doctor was fake, all doctors are.
Also with the news. Not all news is fake just because some is. There is news that needs to be listened to and acted upon, even when the facts are uncomfortable!
The important thing is NOT one political side against another. Or one power versus another. Or he-says-she-says. That is polarization. The danger here is that it pits two groups of people against each other. And everyone loses, especially, ESPECIALLY the most vulnerable.
Colleague Vina reminded us of the Korean proverb: “When whales fight the shrimp’s back is broken.”
When we have two sides so busy arguing and trying to score points off each other, we don’t know when to stop, be reminded of what we have in common, and together figure out the real problems so we can figure out the real solutions.
It’s actually very human. Have you noticed when people are having a big argument, what we get really passionate about is winning, not figuring out the truth. But it’s only reality that sets us free. Not winning an argument, not gaining more supporters.
Imagine a basketball match, the finals of a national tournament, excitement at fever-pitch. Reds versus Blues, players, coaches, spectators alike caught up in beating the other side.
But a fire breaks out in the roof of the arena.
Now suddenly it’s not about winning. It’s about what’s happening.
How crazy would it be if Red and Blues just continue battling it out, ignoring the smoke, the flames, the screams.
Let’s stop what we’re doing, for everyone’s sakes, including our own. Let’s call off the match and vacate the building before anyone gets hurt.
Photo: Manila sunset August 14, 2017