The media has been for many years used as a tool for propaganda, persuading people’s beliefs, attitudes and changing their behaviours. The rise of social media together with the advancement in digital technologies has not only proliferated the pace at which news is disseminate and received but has also created different versions of the truth. Moreover, the mainstream media has become reactionary, often focusing on negative stories at the expense of positive news. This article highlights the danger of fake and negative news, how it can potentially destroy the decorum of any society.
Mainstream media propaganda is not new; it can be traced as far as the publication of early newspapers. However, in modern history a practical use of main stream media as a tool for propaganda can be traced in Nazi Germany under orchestration of Dr Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’ Minister of Propaganda. As a minister of propaganda and national enlightenment, Dr Goebbels censored all media houses in Germany to carry the propagandistic message of Hitler and the Nazi, which encouraged Germans to see Hitler as god and themselves as a superior race.
During the Second World War, BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) was used by the British government as tool to transmit British propaganda and counter crude Nazi propaganda message. Today, censorship has become a norm in different media houses especially within those run by the state. This interference in media reporting has resulted in what is called today ‘fake news’.
In the last US national election, which saw Donald John Trump become the 45th President of the United States of America was characterised by fake news and biased media. During the campaign trail, the mainstream media and their television networks anointed Hillary Clinton as their preferred candidate for the white house. After their failed attempt to prevent Donald J Trump from ascending to the white house, mainstream media is now talking about ‘fake news’, forgetting their own partisan and hideously wrong coverage of major global events, from ISIL to US elections.
No doubt, the mainstream media is panicking as more people seek alternatives to CNN, BBC and NYT (New York Times) in their pursuit for factual and truthful news. Because of fake news and partisan journalism that prevailed during 2016 elections, the United States of America has become the ‘Divided States of America’. Additionally, the mainstream media together with establishment should accept that they contributed to Trump’s win. Similarly, Brexit was another indication of how fed up the British people are with the establishment politicians. The French and German elections slated for this year will inevitably also show this growing dissatisfaction with western mainstream media and the establishment. Yes, some people can blame Russia and can cry foul that Russia is trying to undermine the West. Nonetheless, to be honest the mainstream media has become partisan, thus it has lost its credibility.
The same can be said about the mainstream media here at home and across the continent, which is increasingly being censored, resulting in many citizens opting to seek information elsewhere.
In South Africa for example, censorship and interference has delegitimised the SABC and other main stream media houses such as ANN 7 (Communication department of the Gupta family).
Interference does not only happen at the SABC, during the fees must fall for instance there was a variance in what the mainstream media reports to what was happening on campuses. Moreover, during fees must fall the media broadcast the police brutality but painted students as disruptive and violent beings who do not want to go to class.
On the 14th of February, Hon Swartbooi called Utoni Nujoma an ‘idiot’ in parliament for tabling the land bill before the national land policy conference, I missed the parliamentary plenary that day on NBC 2 but wanted to know the context in which it was said. The same evening, I tuned into NBC news at 8, to my disappointment NBC removed Hon Swartbooi’ comments from the insert.
NBC as a public broadcaster shouldn’t have done the right thing, which to inform the public what the Hon. Swartbooi said. There are many other instances where NBC because of censorship and political interference they do no report factually. This may be very dangerous as it will eventually result in citizens losing trust in the public broadcaster. Consequently, allowing citizens to become preys of ‘fake news’ as they seek alternative sources of news.
We live in a world of alternative facts with different versions of the truth. Journalism is a 19th century unreformed industry fighting to be relevant in this data driven disruptive era. Our powerful gadgets, including mobile phones and tablets have empowered us to collect data and information in our surrounding. Additionally, using these devices we are able to exchange and share information faster than newspapers, magazines or television. In conclusion, there are tons of ‘fake news’ and alternative facts out there. Yet, journalists should ask themselves, “Are they going revive the outdated bourgeoise ideals of objectivity, impartiality and factuality?” They better get it right, or someone will do it on their behalves.
Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: SoftwareDevelopment (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc.