This is a strange quirk in the history of logic: innocent Cretans had to give his name to the famous “paradox of the liar”. It is assumed that Crete He said, “All Cretans are liars”. If He was lying, he was telling the truth and thus lied.
Something similar can be said about the US President Donald trump: even when he speaks the truth, many believe that he is lying. Thus he remains true to himself. His trolling is well known. For many years he argued without any evidence other than unnamed sources, which he called “extremely reliable” that the birth certificate of Barack Obama was a fake. During the Republican primaries he said about the involvement of the father of his opponent Senator Ted Cruz for the murder of John F. Kennedy. He promoted a quack idea that vaccines cause autism, and has skillfully deployed a suggestio falsi.
This is exemplified by his statement that climate change is a lie designed to undermine the American economy.
A thriving market for fake information, fakes, hoaxes and conspiracy theories have always existed. “History is the essence of gossip,” wrote Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. The sellers of fakes produce information for money or political gains; among the gullible, lustful or vengeful will always find eager buyers. Gossip is always entertaining.
Modern history demonstrates few known examples. The Zinoviev letter was a fake about the involvement of the British labour party to the Communist insurgency under the leadership of the Kremlin, was published by The Daily Mail four days before the General election in the United Kingdom in 1924, depriving the labour party a chance.
Perhaps the most famous type of false document of this kind was the “Protocols of the elders of Zion”. The papers that may have been released for money, alleged as a proof the plan of the Jews for world domination. They say: “We are so tire the goys that will force them to offer us a world power that would be able to absorb all the state forces of the world and without violence to form a super-government”. Common tsarist secret police in the early 1900-ies to justify a regime of pogroms, they were the main anti-Semitic literature of the first half of the twentieth century, which led to terrible consequences.
So, what has changed? Today the attention given fake information, due to the extremely high speed at which the produced digital information is distributed worldwide. Early to throw a “fake” story, had to cheat more or less reputable news agencies. Today, misinformation can spread via social networks as a modern “black death”.
The main question is how this will affect democracy. Is unprecedented ease of access to information frees people from mind control or strengthen it to such an extent that democracy simply drown in a sea of manipulation?
Optimists and pessimists have good arguments. “Knowledge is power,” say the optimists. It seems that the more information available, the more informed are the voters. Thus, it will be more likely to attract leaders to justice.
But, say the pessimists, is not knowledge. To be a knowledge, information needs to be structured. Institutions such as schools, universities, Newspapers and political parties, was our traditional “structuring” devices. But digital technology is institutionally vulnerable. It does not provide any mechanism for structuring and, therefore, does not control the dissemination of knowledge of unsupported opinions.
Social networks certainly played a role in the development of populist politics, which thrives in such conditions. Left-wing populists, such as Jeremy Corbyn in great Britain, Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France, the ability of social networks to bypass traditional news channels has given a significant impetus. Right-wing populists, such as trump, marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, have used the same way. Both sides accuse long-standing media in the “fake” news.
Perhaps, in the end, the market news will find its balance between truth and lies. Part of the population will always be willing to believe fake news, but most will learn to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources.
If we consider the spread of misinformation virus, it can lead to disaster. So it must be “contained” vaccine.
Few trust politicians who rely on false information to do their jobs. One of the answers are an independent Agency, similar to the structure for the protection of consumer rights at Which? Currently, there are a number of websites dedicated to fact-checking and exposing fake news. One of the most famous, Snopes. com, was launched in 1994 as a project for the validation of the “urban legends”. Today, Facebook tries to flag fake news reports, noting that they “challenged the third-party factcheckers”.
Despite the importance of these attempts, they also have disadvantages: the work of verification of the information they still have on readers. But we all look for information that confirms our beliefs and ignore what contradicts them. It is impossible to achieve objective verification of the facts by those whose beliefs are based on the desire to avoid the truth.
There are no simple answers. It is obvious that education in critical thinking, especially in the social Sciences, including Economics, is necessary. But will it be enough to counter the significant growth opportunities to spread fake information?
Democracy depends on the rights to freedom of expression and right to knowledge. Perhaps we have only one option — to establish between them a new balance.