Fake Media is the number one pet peeve of Donald Trump! Is this phenomenon real?

09 March 2017

Trump has been going to town in the first month of his Presidency by literally taking the bull by its horns – The Bull being none other than the Fourth Estate. Now truth be told, you don’t need wise men to tell you how bad an idea it is,considering you are representing the most powerful democracy in the world and not to mention the best example of the free world.

Caught in the ‘eye of the storm’ are some of the most reputed names in journalism including media houses such as the CNN and The New York Times. The President seems to have made it his war cry to vilify the media by labelling them ‘fake’. The situation has reached an extent where he refused to take a question from a CNN scribe as he considered the publication to be representative of fake news.

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The relationship between the media and the Whitehouse only went further downhill when the President spent over an hour criticizing the press at a formal press conference. Terming the news fake since the story about the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn was leaked to the press, he also singled out the Intelligence community for being responsible for the leak.

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No surprise hence that talk show hosts, media in general and most television programmes are taking the President apart. But he appears clearly nonchalant with all that’s happening around and proceeds unfazed in the faith that he is backed by the popular mandate in the country.

While there is a growing smorgasbord of jokes, digs and references being made to him, some media even went to the extent of likening him to German Dictator Hitler. In German ‘lügenpresse’ means ‘lying press’ and was a phrase bandied about then by the Nazi party for any media house that was not in line with the Nazi diktat.

However all is not bad for American media as there is a silver lining for few. The Fox News group appears to have won the favour of the President and he never misses an opportunity to single them out in praise. The Fox News along with their bouquet of TV channels appears to be the only shining media group in the country that is not tarnished by the ‘Fake News’ phenomenon.

Is ‘Fake News’ Real?

Well the reality is that even journalists are human and as the popular saying goes ‘To err is Human’. Hence I am driven to believe that journalists are bound to be influenced by sensationalism and at times can sway away from the real truth. However I believe this is more of isolated examples and not a norm as most journalists that I have interacted with are passionate about being associated with this field.

Hence I am not convinced about the truth that large media houses propagate ‘Fake News’ to sell more copies of their newspaper or to hike TRP’s.

Now I am sure that all of you are familiar with the word ‘Propoganda’. Governments have historically used this tool to brainwash desired segments of the population, local and foreign as the purpose demands. Hence isn’t it clear that media houses as unbiased as they may want to be are at most times under the influence of the government to simply survive. The media on their part cannot shy away from these duties as it might call on their patriotic leanings if they feel otherwise.

While free media and freedom of the press is a hot topic of debate in democracies, remember that we are living in the internet age. What this mean is that the truth cannot be hidden forever. Media houses today are competing with online media which can take the world by storm overnight and reach remote corners of the world in the blink of an eye. Hence I don’t believe that any serious media house that is committed to growth can survive on a strategy of Fake News and deviousness. They are bound to be exposed sooner or later resulting in their immediate and total fall from grace.

Is ‘Real News’ Fake?

Yes if the media houses are to be believed, even they are at times taken in by the authenticity and the news they receive and go ahead and publish them unverified. India being a vast country with varying ethnicities, religions, races, languages, cultures and much more, is a veritable boiling pot for fake news and propaganda. Some of the recent examples that come to mind include:

  • Post the demonetization announcement, a rumor proliferated that the new currency notes would have a GPS chip to detect black money
  • The media was abuzz with rumors recently that Farida Jalal (yesteryear actress) having passed away. There were even videos that circulated claiming to be from her funeral
  • Sometime before demonetization, there were rumors that the Rs 10 coin was declared invalid by the government. Many shopkeepers refused to accept these coins for a while. The RBI had to step in and announce that the coins were still legal tender
  • A news report on a satirical news website claimed that in light of the large number of visitors to Aero India 2017 in Bangalore, the organizers planned to combine an auto show along with it. The report even contained a quote from someone claiming to be the event organizer. This news was circulated widely on social media proving later to be false
  • A recent social media post claimed that freedom fighters; Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on Feb 14, 1931. Having been taken in by the news, authorities from a school in the Northern region even organized a memorial ceremony for them on the day
  • An 18 year old from West Bengal, Sataparna Mukherjee claimed that she was the first and youngest Indian to have won a prestigious NASA fellowship. She even displayed an official letter allegedly from NASA that offered to fund her PHD and literature studies at the Oxford University. Many electronic, print and online publications picked up the story and she became an overnight sensation. Deccan Chronicle soon broke the story of the hoax

Hence trump is using his hate for some of the mainstream media as his battle cry to help him build his persona. But being the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, one would tend to believe that he must handle such issues more responsibly.

As the saying goes, according to Kenneth Blanchard ‘The key to successful leadership today is influence and not Authority’.