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In Full . . .

THE VILLAGE VIEW

Posted on November 28 2016 at 11:11:30

News has always been an adaptable beast; the same story can be presented in many ways depending on the medium and to suit the purposes of its purveyor, often for political or ideological reasons.

But what has remained a constant down the centuries, whether in a tabloid newspaper or a broadsheet, on the television or the radio, is that the story was based on facts.

Until now.

We have entered a “post-truth” world, a state already recognised by that expression being named Word of the Year 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries.

The outgoing President of the United States is said to be obsessed with the problem of “fake news” since the election result in his country.

He warns that people’s inability to distinguish between identically packaged fake and real news online means that we now live in a world where “everything is true and nothing is true”.

Clearly, there were other factors contributing to the poll bombshells on both sides of the Atlantic over recent months, but the ease with which people could be misled could only happen in such a truth vacuum.

The Brexiteers could only claim that a vote for their cause would mean £350 million a week extra for the NHS – and even write it large on the side of a bus – because they felt immune from the brickbats that would surely have rained down on them in previous times when admitting it wasn’t actually true – and after such statements had swung the vote in their favour.

In “normal” times, the campaigns of both US Presidential candidates would surely have been stopped in their tracks by revelations in the run-up to polling day. But in the truth vacuum, no one knows what is true and what is false.

One or all of the “stories” could have been invented by teenagers in an eastern European attic to attract valuable advertising clicks to their sites.

For those drawn to read these stories, there is no distinction on social media between a made-up story and one published by The New York Times.

Meanwhile, the advertising revenue, with which trusted news organisations employ real, trained journalists, is being sucked away by online platforms, meaning there will be fewer and fewer real, trained journalists and the truth vacuum becomes more powerful as fake news fills the gap.

No one, by the way, has a solution to this (even President Obama). Some news organisations are trying new models, asking readers to support independent journalism online through subscription rather than reading it for free.

Such a “truth tax” may in time turn out to be the only way, but don’t worry – it’s not our way here at The Village.

Thanks to the advertisers who find our pages a great way to be seen by villagers, we continue to thrive . . . and to provide news and features based on facts.

There is no truth vacuum in The Village.


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