The latest national discussion is the prevalence of ‘fake news’ being shared on social media platforms. Blatantly false information is now being broadcasted on Facebook and other outlets to generate ad revenue. During the election cycle, tin-foil hat conspiracy theories about the presidential candidates were blindly exchanged with little regard for truth at alarming rates. According to a recent CNN article, Facebook is in the process of developing tools to fight the omnipotence of fake news.
While it is true we should make every effort in our power to decipher truth from fiction, the dominant discourse on this topic is very superficial. The pervasive assumption is that once we purge our News Feeds of questionable sources and convince our family members to adhere to the demands of journalistic accountability, all our news will be ‘real’ again. This line of thought, however, fails to account for the everyday propaganda shoveled down our throats to maintain the system of capitalism and the military-industrial complex.
The Nexus of Power and Truth
There is an old saying: “the victors write the history books”. In other words, truth does not exist in and of itself, it is determined by those who are in power. The top echelon of society make the crucial decisions about what is considered true, and what is considered false. What we call true, in most cases, is that which fulfills the agenda of the powerful. What we call false, in most cases, is that which frustrates the agenda of the powerful.
For the ruling class to maintain power, it must have at least two forms of control: hegemony and coercion. Hegemony is the imposition of a worldview by the ruling class onto the lower classes in such a way that it becomes ‘common sense’ and the only credible perspective. Coercion refers to the physical force reserved for people when they refuse to submit to the hegemonic order: police, prison, and the army.
Hegemony is maintained, in part, by the ruling class’ complete domination of the means of communication. As of 2012, 90% of the American media was controlled by just 6 corporations. Many of the mainstream television stations and newspaper outlets we trust have already been consolidated under this shrinking umbrella of ‘truth’.
People in power are not interested in being genuine or in abiding by a humane code of ethics. They are interested in maintaining their power by any means necessary. For example, the Bush Administration knew full and well that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Over 1 million Iraqis died because of that ‘real news’ story.
Instead of juxtaposing ‘fake news’ to ‘real news’ in a dichotomy, it is more accurate to view both on a spectrum of fraudulence.