Pro-administration people here aren’t bothered about dishing out fake news. In fact they love fake news. It is their most potent propaganda weapon.
Recently Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre conjectured whether opposition politicians were involved in planning the conflict in Marawi City, where a rebel force called Maute Group tried to establish an Islamic caliphate. He tagged Sens. Bam Aquino and Sonny Trillanes, Rep. Gary Alejano and members of prominent local families.
It turned out this wasn’t true at all. Aguirre claimed to have been misquoted by the media, one of the lamest excuses around. The National Union of Journalists complained about being made scapegoats again.
But, whether intentionally on Aguirre’s part or not, the damage had been done. The wrongly accused politicians have been labeled as warmongers and destabilizers and that is stuck in the public consciousness.
That is the value of fake news. It’s not spread just for amusement, it has a sinister objective, that of implanting spurious “facts” into people’s minds to achieve a particular goal, either to influence the thinking of people about a certain topic or to taint the reputation of a certain personality.
There is an invisible machine that’s behind all the fake news circulating in society. If we look back, Mr. Duterte won the presidency through fake promises. He boasted about riding a jet ski to the disputed West Philippine Sea islands and planting the Philippine flag there in defiance of China.
He bragged about eradicating the illegal drug scourge in three to six months. The same with eliminating in one week the dreaded bandit group Abu Sayyaf and the same Maute Group that’s been battling with the armed forces for weeks now in Marawi.
Those were all incredible, impossible promises that 16 million Filipinos believed and voted for him. But it’s all fake. It’s fake because it can never be done the way he promised. But 16 million Filipinos were gullible enough to believe him.
Duterte’s defenders peddle fake news all the time. It’s either fake news or it’s so nonsensical only dumb people believe it.
Duterte himself is a fake news pusher. He himself has said not everything he says is true. If it’s not true, then it’s fake news.
Fake news as a propaganda weapon has been around for a long time. Fake news, after all, is just another term for “lies.” Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, used it with a lot of success during his boss’ reign of mass human destruction.
US President Donald Trump, too, has benefited from fake news. It’s the consensus in America that the Russians had a hand in getting Trump elected last November through a massive disinformation campaign against Trump’s presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
The Russians were also reported to have tried to influence the recent election in France. And the current crisis in Qatar, resulting in fellow Muslim countries severing ties with that nation, is also said to have been instigated by the Russians by planting a spurious news story in a Qatari news agency.
So, people who are inveterate purveyors of fake news aren’t clumsy with questionable information, they are expert at spreading such information to suit their purposes. Whatever they send out out there is not for the information of their critics, it’s for the consumption and further use of their believers. That way they keep their political base intact and sated with manipulative news. It also poisons the minds of the public at large.
Fake news is vital in the battle for people’s hearts and minds. Propagandist Goebbels’ dictum was: “If you keep saying a lie, in the long run people will believe it to be true.” To the gullible, you only have to say it once.