There was a time when a person being caught out in a lie would at the very least feel embarrassed. Then if a politician or someone in authority was found to be a liar, it was a resigning matter. Not so any more, dear readers. There is neither shame nor stigma attached to spreading false doctrines in today’s world. The liar reacts by replacing his lie with an even bigger one. ‘Alternative facts’ or ‘the real truth’ they will call it.
The ‘far right’ and conspiracy theorists have perfected the art of lying to new levels. Actually, they haven’t perfected it at all: They just tell the lie often enough and hope that some of it will stick. Occasionally, as in the case of Dick Farrel, A US radio host, the lie boomerangs and justice appears to have been served.
Mr Farrel called the Covid pandemic a hoax, his right-wing radio broadcasts urged listeners not to accept the vaccine or wear a mask. He labelled Doctor Fauci, who is regarded as the world’s foremost medical scientist and immunologist, as an “ego tripping lying freak”. Mr Farrel did finally admit to being wrong – a couple of days before he died from Covid last week.
We don’t have to go to America to find crazy misinformation. Some Irish genius is claiming that climate change will actually benefit Ireland. The fact that if the Gulf Stream collapses, Dublin will have the same climate as Toronto is lost on this genius.
Fact checkers have counted the many thousands of lies told by Donald Trump. His motto is ‘tell the big lie often enough, loud enough, and to as many as you can and it will be believed.
Even Boris Johnston followers will admit that he is ‘economical with the truth’. Although this trait got him fired from his job as a journalist, it proved to have been a huge advantage in getting Britain out of the EU and getting the bould Boris elected as prime minister.
Back in the day, ‘The Irish Independent’ was regarded as a Fine Gael newspaper with ‘The Irish Press’ representing Fianna Fail. This was true, but to the eternal credit of both newspapers this rarely impinged on the integrity of good journalists.
The opposite is the case in America at the present time and it has gotten to the stage where Americans don’t want unbiased news. Those who support Trump and the far right, tune into ‘Fox News’ and similar online ‘alternative fact’ platforms. Those who believe in Joe Biden watch only CNN. The parallels with Trump and Hitler’s Germany are frightening.
Our news coverage in Ireland stands the test and our investigative reporting continues to do the ‘State some service’. The same can be said in favour of the BBC.
But we wouldn’t want to become complacent with regard to the infiltration of far-right conspiracy theorists. There are small very active groups beavering away to undermine our democracy. Any yahoo can post what he likes on social media. The movement is brilliantly clever, always lacing the lies with a few facts. I saw one claim recently, which seemed to make a reasonable case that the vaccine is spreading Covid!
What people need to do when you read stuff like this is go back and look for the facts. Letters are sent into papers from strategically planted ‘ordinary people with ordinary names’ with what often appears to be a plausible counter argument. Sometime such a letter will quote a source to add authenticity to their argument – but most often the quote turns out to be by another yahoo.
Let us quickly recognise that free speech is a fundamental right and the last right we should ever want to lose. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion … but not to their own facts! Some of the most ludicrous far-right lies are sown on social media and spread through ‘online mobbing’.
It is suspected that foreign interests and foreign money plays a part in this type of propaganda. Then a few people start to question the findings of the scientists and before too long someone in a respectable newspaper is giving a platform to a ridiculous theory.
Back to the news and more importantly, ‘the truth in the news’. We have praised our mainstream news outlets, but they need to be more vigilant. A lot of what passes for news nowadays is actually opinions.
Opinion journalism is now commanding a greater proportion of newspapers than hard-nosed reporting and factual news. This is what happened in America until the people developed such a lazy brain that they could not be bothered dissecting fact from fiction. Populous cult figures love this. Please God it will never come to this in my country.
Yes, Lads, I know this column is only an opinion!
It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times, than to believe a fact that no one has heard before.