The recent discussions around us are being dominated by the topic of fake news and measures to regulate the same. Now, as we dive deeper into the issue of false narratives and information, it is important to define the problem in the right way. What do I mean by defining the problem? I believe it is important to analyse the issue of fake news and distortion of history in light of the society we are living in, which basically means to establish a connection between the state of societal thinking and the issue related to circulation of false news.
Society and Beliefs
One of the most popular ideas in recent times is pointing the entire responsibility on an ‘individual’ and forgetting the underlying facts and collective responsibility. Now, this statement may make no sense to you, but let us take a deeper look at it. The most easy example that comes to my mind is on the issue of waste disposal. The recent trend is to lecture the individual on waste management and forget the entire question of waste disposal mechanisms. I am not arguing that the individual has no responsibility, on the contrary what I am trying to portray is a society that is slowly being lead to a state where they don’t look at the core of an issue, or other perspectives of the same.
No issue or question has a singular answer in our world because of the very reason that the issue in itself is a combination of complex factors. To build on the previous example, it is true that the individual plays an important role in waste management but if there are no mechanisms to support the same, it is of no use. A progressive society survives on the analysis of underlying problems and finding solutions for the same. This attitude of society can be seen in all aspects from joblessness to anxiety to education.
It is an absolute joke that a child who faces extreme pressure from the ultra competitive entrance madness is taken to an anxiety reduction center instead of questioning the entire entrance madness system. See the pattern as it emerges: the child is portrayed as weak minded thus we spare the system, which made the child go through it in the first place. Again, I am not forgetting the individual’s responsibility, but making an argument that responsibility is not only of the individual.
Where does all this get connected to the mass false information campaigns that are going around? Well, as I mentioned in the introduction, these campaigns don’t exist in a different universe, they are existing as a part of the society which has slowly lost the idea of critical examination of issues. Thus, these one sided WhatsApp messages are taken as serious historical facts and there is no question of analyzing their underlying politics or search for truth. In essence, the argument is that we live in an era of ‘politics of distortion’. To make matters worse, over a period of time the social consciousness has started to believe in an oversimplified picture of a complicated world.
What’s At the Core of the Problem?
What is the reason for the wide scale acceptance of these campaigns? In my personal analysis, I believe they can be divided into the following two major categories:
1) The busy middle class life and lack of social understanding.
2) The concept of half truth.
Let us take a deeper look at these two categories: The first one is related to our previous analysis of a society that does’t get into the specifics, combined with a busy life. This is the most common category and is of less danger in comparison to the second.
The second category is complex and is the real elephant in the room! I named it as the concept of half truth for that exact reason. The problems here are multiple in nature, these people honestly believe in what they do and hear. Now why do they do that? Here comes the tricky part, the wise usage of half truths is what drives them to the wrong side. To better understand this, let us see a common trend in most false campaigns that have happened around the world. The one similarity is the brilliant usage of the common man’s anger against the establishment.
This is a classic example of half truth, it is true that the establishment has shortcomings, but that is no way supporting the illogical arguments of whoever carries out these campaigns. Wrong claim towards something just because someone else disowned it is in no way justifiable. But the half truth used is the fact that someone else disowned it! (I am not pointing at any specific instances but if you connect it to something, maybe it’s an example of the above). The bigger challenge is in convincing the second category in comparison to the first.
The Politics of Change
The antidote to politics of distortion is the politics of change. Now, it is important for each one of us to ask ourselves the fundamental question as to what kind of society do we need tomorrow. There are no easy answers or running away from this question for someone who considers themselves as responsible citizens. There are many people who are experts in criticizing and writing off any system. The classic example again is of the people who complain about justice system in the country and its speed. The sad part is that they never raise a slogan for more courts or judicial appointments. The politics of change revolves around constant identification of problems in a society and the search for their solutions.
To keep this short, it is better to conclude here and if needed, I shall write another blog looking deeper into each issue. But as you end reading this, ask yourself about the society you want for tomorrow, is it one dominated by age old beliefs, discrimination, poverty, droughts, etc. or do you want a society which is based on egalitarian ideals and a green outlook? Hoping for the politics of change to build a better tomorrow.