Fakery by Susan Grimsdell
Have any of you readers out there seen the video of the Queen doing an excellent TikTok routine? Who knew she could move like that at the age of 95? Just incredible. Well, incredible is the word – it’s a fake video going round the world, but it’s completely real in every respect other than that it’s not.
What’s worrying isn’t so much the making fun of our dear old queen, it’s thinking about what else we believe is real when someone has decided to do their best to fool us.
Finding the truth
It wasn’t so long ago that people got all their news from media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and TV, all of which were staffed by professional journalists who followed a code of ethics. Everything passed through layers of editors before it went public, and those editors were accountable either to newspaper owners or advertisers or both. As consumers we chose what we wanted to read or listen to, depending on our trust in whichever branch of the media it was. Certain tabloids were well known for sensationalising news, and for picking out trivial stories that entertained readers. Others had a reputation for seeking truth no matter what. Think of the Washington Post and its expose of the Watergate scandal. We knew their bias and we made our choice.
Subverting the truth
Those days have gone and will never return. Now most people get their news from social media. There are no layers of editors, no accountability, it’s open slather and everything has the same validity as everything else. We have no way of knowing, for example, who’s behind the notion that vaccinations cause harm. It’s a new idea.
In the 1950s when Salk discovered a vaccine against polio, everyone lined up for it. There was complete trust in the medical system and lucky for us there was, because that terrible disease was wiped out as was smallpox some years earlier.
When Covid came along it suited someone to suggest that the vaccine was harmful and that the government and experts were not to be believed. Whoever had that idea has been quite successful at enticing followers. Not as successful as they would have liked, however, with 95% of New Zealanders recognising it for the rubbish it is, and bowling up at the vaccination centres.
Pursuing the truth
We can all breathe a sigh of relief that so many of us still have faith and trust in medical experts. But the seductive allure of false and fake information that feeds into what some people already half-believe can never be ignored. We should shiver in our shoes when we realise the power of social media and when we see all those people using smartphones and they’re not reading the Guardian website! It’s a solid dose of social media day and night.
When what’s true looks as real as what’s not true and powerful people are behind the fakery, it’s starting to seem truly scary (and that’s the truth!).