When we were at university studying the media we learned about the Frankfurt School of Thought. We studied Adorno and others. We learned about the public sphere and more. I see a lot of articles today discussing whether we live in a post-fact and post truth age. Social media are given the blame but this is over-simplistic.Â In the Frankfurt school Knew Trump was comingÂ Facebook is blamed for theÂ proliferation of fake news when it is an aggregator rather than the source of disinformation.
For years the American news industry has shifted increasingly towards entertainment and audience rather than fact and context. As a result of that shift mainstream media in the Anglo-Saxon world has been dumbed down. Through putting commercial interests ahead of hard news mainstream media have lost some of their authority. By authority I mean trustworthiness and fact based reporting.
Rather than look at social media as the culprit I would look towards Fox News, Sky News, the tabloid press and right wing propaganda. Assange, Snowden and others wanted to undermine the democratic party and in so doing undermined Democracy as a whole. As a result of that undermining they encouraged people to shift their media consumption habits from hard news sources towards opinion news sources where facts were optional.
Lies have long legs: they are ahead of their time. The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power, a process that truth itself cannot escape if it is not to be annihilated by power, not only suppresses truth as in earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish. So Hitler, of whom no one can say whether he died or escaped, survives.
If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized_
We see this as a key discussion point today with Trump, Brexit and the defeat of the Si vote in Italy. Lies are spread and reinforced so that empty promises win campaigns, rather than logic and reason.
_The failure of Facebook to halt the proliferation of fake news during the campaign season should have surprised no one; the local hirelings of logic are too enamored of their algorithmsâ€”and of the revenue they generateâ€”to intervene_
Social media did not fail. The Fourth Estate failed. We have two choices. We can read the over-simplified sensationalist crap or we can delve deeper to the content that is based on fact but may put us to sleep. Not everyone is reading news for entertainment. Some of us switch between media sources to avoid being narced (pardon the diving term). We see certain sources are anti-European on a daily basis so we switch source, we switch language. Social media is not the problem. Blind belief and trust is the problem.
I hold a strong belief that the study of history and the necessity for people to study current affairs are essential. I also believe that educational systems need to encourage people to think critically and to understand the media landscape. They need to understand how propaganda works and how disinformation can go into a positive feedback loop whereby lies become truth. “positive feedback loop” in this context is a term taken from environmental science. It describes how a small negative change, over time can gain in amplitude and feed into itself.
_Fake news is an extension of the same phenomenon, and, as in the Napster era, no one is taking responsibility. Traffic trumps ethics_
For years people have worried about privacy but from what we see today privacy is not the problem. Disinformation is the problem.Â Mainstream media and their audiences need to be more critical. They need to read numerous sources and use ethics and morality to see which sources they trust and which ones they disregard.
It is too easy for