Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Fake News

Recently there has been a huge controversy over a single column news item titled ‘Modi, Xi will mate 6 times in 24 hours’ allegedly published in Times of India. Later it was found to be fake and doctored. The original word was ‘meet’. It was photoshoped to ’mate’.   Many including senior and veteran journalists fell for the doctored one and reposted it on their social media account either with a cheek-in-tongue comment or with sarcasm at the mistakes present day newspapers commit. Times of India filed a police complaint (for details read: https://www.firstpost.com/india/a-blooper-that-wasnt-toi-headline-claiming-modi-and-xi-will-mate-six-times-is-fake-newspaper-clarifies-4448577.html)

The point I am trying to make is the menace fake news can be and the damage it can inflict.

Fake news refers to deliberate, brazen misinformation with intent to mislead. It is different from ordinary misinformation and disinformation in that it takes the form of real news stories provided by what appear to be legitimate news outlets. It is more dangerous because people tend to easily believe information given to them in the name of news.

Fake news, as a concept has been there for centuries- probably from the time the concept of news took shape. It gained credence recently- say from post millennium. There are three reasons for this. First, the technology made creating fake news and disseminating it at a global scale easy. Second, as mainstream media began to lose its credibility for various reasons, people began to trust news accessed from other sources. Third, as social media became increasingly popular, people opted to access news from social media platforms, thinking it would provide them the ‘true and unbiased’ news. People in their hurry to embrace the obvious advantages of social media failed to realize its flip sides.

Fake news has become an industry in many countries including India. In the last US Presidential elections in which Trumph became president, fake news allegedly played an important role.

Fake news can impact us in many ways. It can amuse, titillate, and embarrass us. It can create misunderstanding and conflict among communities and countries. It can influence and manipulate people’s perception and make people act in a pre-planned way.

This is the most dangerous thing that Fake news can do. It can damage democracy by playing and manipulating people’s perception. Let me explain how it can work. In a democracy people’s will is supposed to be supreme. People elect their representative and get ruled by te representatives. People vote for a person/party based on certain considerations. These considerations are based on certain perceptions, which are formed by certain facts. Fake news can ill inform or mis-inform people and thereby manipulate perception. When perception is manipulated, people will act in a different (read in in intended) way. The purpose of democracy is defeated. Though the façade remains intact, the soul is gone. Fake news, like termite, can eat the democracy from within and it hollow.

The post-truth world provides a conducive environment for the Fake news to spread and work. Post-truth refers to dishonesty and deception in contemporary life, a culture that plays on People’s emotions and personal belief and drugs them so that perceptions, not facts, determine their actions. The potency of Fake news increases in such an environment.

Fake news alone is dangerous. In a post-truth environment it can become lethal.

The question now is how can somebody detect fake news? There are two simple ways to do it. One: be aware. Two: question, critique.

Judith Burns, Education reporter of BBC offers some simple tips including checking the source, trying to understand the agenda and context of the news and checking the data source.

Applications have also been developed to help detect fake news, which can be used by internet users to verify the authenticity of the concerned news. However, truth does not travel at the speed of the lies. Therefore unless we are vigilant and aware, fake news will cause damage.

Water

Water is a great teacher that shows us how to move through the world with grace, ease, determination, and humility. When a river breaks at a waterfall, it gains energy and moves on, as we encounter our own waterfalls, we may fall hard but we always keep moving on. Water can inspire us to not become rigid with fear or cling to what’s familiar. Water is brave and does not waste time clinging to its past, but flows onward without looking back. At the same time, when there is a hole to be filled, water does not run away from it in fear of the dark; instead, water humbly and bravely fills the empty space. In the same way, we can face the dark moments of our life rather than run away from them.

Eventually, a river will empty into the sea. Water does not hold back from joining with a larger body, nor does it fear a loss of identity or control. It gracefully and humbly tumbles into the vastness by contributing its energy and merging without resistance. Each time we move beyond our individual egos to become part of something bigger, we can try our best to follow the lead of the river.
(with inputs from an email forward)

Plant a Sapling

Pranab Pratyush, my student at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal presently works at The Pioneer, Ranchi. Last year on his daughter Tvisha’s birthday he planted a sapling at the school premises his daughter studies. Within one year the plant grew taller than his daughter. Pranab has posted a photo of his pretty daughter with the plant at the background.

This is what every parent should do. Plant a tree and nurture it at the hospital where your son/daughter is born, plant one at the school, plant one at the college.

Trust me, every tree that you nurture blesses you and your family.

Tailpiece: Men will be men

Man in bed with his wife slides his hand slowly across her shoulders…. across her waist… under her neck… below her neck… under her back…and  suddenly stops…..

Wife: (In a romantic voice) Why did u stop???

Man: Remote mil gaya…    Tu soja..

Happy IPL.

(Courtesy: Social Media)

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Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha district town Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction. English translation of his Odia novel Shakti is just being published. [email protected]

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