עיתון החוג לתקשורת באוניברסיטה העברית – סטודנטים מדברים על תקשורת. בלי צנזורה ובלי בושה.
Alon Merlin Orion Moore
“Fake News”, the viral song from the hit musical production of the same name, written by Someone, and conducted by the Other.
Ever since the election of the incumbent president of the United States of America, a day does not seem to pass us by without mention of what it is, why it matters, and how it is all ‘their’ fault!
From left to right, liberal to conservative, extreme to unopinionated centre, these words are on everyone's lips; “the Media is Lying”, “Social Media is Hacked”, “Our Freedoms are Dying”, or “Our Courts are Crap”. The year of We’re-Bored-2019 seems, at the moment, likely to continue production of the highly esteemed play, with new actors, improved production values, and the ever-increasing prospects of being swept away.
Until recently, the writer of this piece had not found a good reason to publicise his own thoughts on the topic. There was no denying the production’s popularity and growing brand, but did it really offer anything unique to the theatre-going audiences? Farces masquerading as tragedies aren’t exactly new; Agenda-props and rumour-mills have spread them around far and wide. So, what is so different about the present snide?
Nothing and everything, the writer prompts with glee, but before I can state what I mean by that turn of phrase, I must first tell you a tale which is closer to home, and which you may appraise.
In recent days, the student community of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem received a rather fascinating spinoff of the aforementioned play. According to the popular cultural press, our story begins with an argument between a soldier-student-in-military-uniform and one who feels Uni-should-be-formally-without-uniform. The initially localized conflict between the characters quickly escalated, and was carried beyond the confines of the classroom, thanks to either the recording of the ‘outrageous attack on the soldier by the lecturer’ on the one hand, or ‘a purposely misquoted private conversation, recorded by a skulking non-attributing third party’, on the other; depending on the bias of the beholder.
The second part of our play begins at this point of crisis, from which the remaining actors attempt to fashion the meaning of the event into a narrative for their respective causes. Though the actors are energized and highly motivated, they are stalled as a particularly sticky problem comes to ahead; the soldier apparently anonymously requests that her part remain a private endeavour. A message delivered through WhatsApp reads these words in plain green on that sort of pinkish-white coloured background, but none-the-less questions abound; is it a genuine communique or is it fake? A second message arrives that negates the first, claiming the catalyst approved of the political action taken in her name, further increasing the confusion regarding the event and what the appropriate responses to it may be.
This play could continue as the classical attempt of the main character to uncover the truth, common in tragic and the comic genres, but the play has ended, and the curtains have descended on to the earth. Alas, we return to reality.
The crux of the matter is that it took quite a simple affair to paralyze the Thinking Faculty of the Mind through a dash of doubt in a mix of conflicting information. This is in my view the core difference between Fake News and older phenomena that only sought to make us believe in false idols; Fake News seeks to undermine the legitimacy of not only the official sources of information, but of our ability to tell truth from deception, and forces us to trust in our biases.
Recently, in Mexico, a mob trusted their biases, and re-enacted the witch-hunts of the 15th century by burning alive several individuals, thinking them responsible of child kidnapping, when the only thing they where guilty of was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This event did not happen because of some great character flaw in the Mexican people, but because ordinary human beings doubted their media, doubted their police, doubted due process, but not, ultimately, their own actions. It can happen here, and unless we as individuals examine our biases and how they are so easily manipulated by those with a desire to do so, it will.