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The news platform has evolved over the ages starting from the printing press which came into existence in around 1440s till date. Now we are living in the new era where we have internet which connects people from all around the world regardless of the time and distance within a short period of time. We cannot overstate how the media influences people through various sources such as the radio, television, social media platform (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. ). There are so many news channels and so many news being released each day. Among that news, we can never know if the news that’s been published or being realised to the people are reliable or not. Some source may provide the facts, and some might even manipulate the fact in order to increase their viewers. In today’s world, these media are more concerned about increasing their viewers and profitability instead of conveying the facts to the people. At one point, we cannot say if the media is telling the truth or deceiving the people. One among those sources can be the television, which has now specialized in providing “fake news” to the people. However, one cannot say how bad or good is a “fake news” as it depends on the viewer and the media who provide the news. So, how serious a problem is ‘Fake News”? Let’s see how Nietzsche and Baudrillard would say regarding the “fake news”.
More recently, though, fake news has become virtually available everywhere with legitimate news publishers such as National Report and Empire News flooding the internet with fake stories, it somehow impacts the people and the politicians as well. What makes the viewers believe that news is the manner in which that Fake news is framed and titled, making them appear more credible. While the widespread fake news may not be of a serious issue, it did have some real impact on people and shaken the general public’s trust in media. For example, the news about the United States to Destroy All Nuclear Warheads, Israel to Dismantle Settlements; Recognize Palestinian State, Sarah Palin Calls for Invasion of Czech Republic, and the Republican Bill Demands Immigrants ‘Americanise’ Their Names. All those headlines sound plausible to many readers as they were published on Web sites that resembled legitimate news organization sites and contained information that many people want to believe. But none of these stories was real.
By contrast, fake news stories intentionally mislead readers and make it hard for people to differentiate between fact and fictions. Nietzsche, however, would have emphasised on the relativity of knowledge, truth, belief-systems, and moral-systems, to different cultures and different historical times and places. According to him, he says that ‘reason’ is not totally convincing as a vehicle for revealing the truth but perhaps it is the ‘idea of truth’ itself that is more of a problem than how we reveal It. He has a different view regarding truth. Instead of going for the complete truth, why not go for the possibilities? In this context, maybe he does not disapprove of the fake news? There are possibilities that what assumed or considered fake news might turn to be true at times. This is possible, in the way how news is covered and conveyed to the viewers. Nietzsche doesn’t really believe in complete truth, but only ‘perspective’. He rejects the idea of truth and says that there are no objective truths. So, what becomes the truth is the perspective that prevails, and no perspective can be shown as absolute truth. Perspective is just an individual subjective judgement about the way things are and the way people view it. It’s the people who develop their views and beliefs and prejudice first and then use rational philosophy as a means for justifying their view. For example, there are two ads being aired at the same time. One is a chocolate milkshake ad and another one is a strawberry milkshake. Each of the ads is so specialized in the way they are trying to convince the people that their choice is the best over another. Somehow, people will have a different view when it comes to choices but if one of the ads (let’s say chocolate milkshake) get more viewer and more review then people will be driven to believe that it’s the truth. Fake news gets attraction because it is really difficult to know what the true news is and if it gets enough number of people supporting them the fake news can become real news. It is hard for us to differentiate fake from the truth as the fake news itself becomes ambiguous.
For example, in a news ad it presents a table which is perfects in every way and people might get manipulated by the fact that, yes that is the perfect table unchanging and I should get one. But is that table really perfect? It might seem perfect as how it has been presented to the people in the ad but in reality, that table must be changing in terms of colours and shapes. Another example of McDonald ad, where they show you the biggest and delicious Mac burger but once when you go to the store, one might find it completely different from the ad. The ad may last for a couple of weeks and month, but the menu of the store will keep changing. Even after changing the menu of the store over the years, it still will be the McDonald. So, the point here is that regardless of the change in the menu and the staff of the McDonald, it will still be called or viewed as McDonald, but we do know that some things have changed in the process, but no one really cares or talks about it. One may not even think of this unless we start thinking from the philosophic view. Nietzsche also states that just as words are arbitrary, so are perspectives and so is the truth. For example, in a news, it says that “from 2018 there will not be any robbery in any store or elsewhere as safety measures have been strictly implemented”. This might create a stereotype in the minds of the people that there won’t be any robbers anymore but is it really possible? Nietzsche would say that we cannot get out of our perspective, we can only accept what seems convincing to us, while we know that it may not be necessarily true in any objective or absolute sense.
In Baudrillard theory, he talks about stimulation and hyper-reality. He doesn’t really talk much about truth but simulation which is the assumption and expectations that people already have in their mind. Hyper-reality is the idea that is on a world where everything is experienced through media, our impression of reality is in fact completely removed from the actual reality. Instead what represents truth isn’t true at all, because it is so disconnected from any empirical thing in the first place. At first, that idea seems ridiculous, not at least because it’s so disturbing.
One of the most popular references to Baudrillard’s idea is the film ‘The Matrix’ (where a copy of simulation is used as a prop). In the film, the world that appears real soon turns out to be a simulation. A character quotes the book, calling it ‘the desert of the real’. Despite its disturbing qualities and whether you accept Baudrillard’s claim that there isn’t real at all, it’s easy to accept his observation. In a mediated world, in which everything is represented or reproduced rather than actually experienced, it won’t take long for notions of veracity to become questionable. Indeed, questioning reality is now an actual thing in itself. Baudrillard developed his theories for simulation before the internet dominated news reporting and the media. Nonetheless, it makes his argument that much easier to support. Now, with a bit of tweaking, we can use an off-the-shelf WordPress theme to make a website look, ostensibly, as authentically newsy as the New York Times. Beyond this, Twitter and Facebook offer ready-made templates for news production and dissemination that make it laughably easy to pretend to be real news producers. In the case of Facebook, the platform is reported to be engineered to favour self-referencing, uploading a video to the platform appears to elicit more engagement than linking to it on YouTube, owned by Facebook’s rival, Google. Another example of simulation could be, uploading the picture of Kim Kardashian. The image we have of Kim Kardashian is different to reality. The way she is presented in social media is different from the real her as Kim Kardashian. We don’t know how she is in real life, but we have a stimulation of her that selectively present itself in some respects as more real than the real Kim Kardashian. By means of this simulation, we are conditioned into thinking that the real Kim Kardashian is perfect as she appears in the social media. This is all due to the way we think, or the way people make assumptions about things. As Baudrillard said in his theory, that simulation is the assumptions or the expectations that people make ‘before-the-fact’. Another good example of hyper-reality could be Disneyland. Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas Los Angeles is no longer real but belongs to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. Baudrillard wrote an article called “The Gulf War did not take place” which was very controversial. In it he suggests that the media set the agenda on the narrative of war, the war we saw on TV did not match real events.
Media doesn’t show all truths; therefore, this limits knowledge and power. Let’s take another example of the US when they lost the Vietnam war. Films represent it as though they won but the more we see these representations the further the truth is. When we look at celebrities, they are idealised and ‘hyperreal’ because their reality is based on ideas which aren’t real because people don’t have flawless skin/huge bottoms, luscious hair etc. When we see an ad on TV or on social media, those ads are presented in such a manner that what they are showing to us looks so real but in reality, they are all made up. For example, the ad of dove, where the model does a lot of makeup before the photo shoot and after the photo shoot the photographer actually edits most of the part to make the model look more attractive. Hence, this shows how media can be deceptive and that’s how fake news is made up.
In the end, from what Nietzsche and Baudrillard say regarding the “truth” it is hard to conclude as to how much serious of a problem a ‘fake news’ is, as it depends on the ‘perspectives’ of each individual (Nietzsche) and the way people make the judgement. Baudrillard didn’t really believe in truth. He explores a phenomenon called ‘hyperreality and simulation’, which is the idea that in a world where everything is experienced through media, our impression of ‘reality’ is in fact completely removed from the actual reality. Instead what represents truth isn’t true at all, because it is so disconnected from any empirical thing in the first place and if the truth isn’t the truth then how can one really tell a fake news from a real one? It is really hard to tell a fake from real and sometimes fake news can also bring positive things rather than being fake. If we viewed this issue from other philosophic views such as Kant and utilitarianism, then the utilitarians might say that fake news is fine as long as it brings in excess happiness. Whereas Kant would say, regardless of the result, we have to stick to our moral duty which is to tell the truth at all times.
So, to conclude fake news is just that, news that looks and feels real, but which is intentionally intended to deceive its viewers rather than to entertain them. Although the fake news has been around us, it gained its influence with the printed word and an explosion of influence more recently through the internet and social media platforms. Some sources such as National Report and Empirical News even specialize in the fake news that appears just authentic and credible enough to manipulate people its readers who then spread the information through their social media pages and this vicious circle keeps going. It is a challenge to question how serious a problem “Fake news’ is, as it brings in the perspectives of the different people and the simulation that we already have of things around us. Therefore, people need to remain sceptical about what they read and see until they can confirm it through other reliable sources.
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