In this day and age, the truth is relative
Oswald Spengler, in his book Decline of the West, said that capitalism created the media to promote its universal political ideology of liberal democracy. Capitalism is what political governments are promoting globally, and the media largely remains the ally of the political government in this regard.
The collaboration of the media and the government to pursue the same objective goes back a long time. England, in the 18th century, managed both the parliamentary election and the elected commons through money, and the press worked as the catalyst.
The claim that the media is free and seeks the truth is now under question. It is believed that the media no longer generates free opinion, rather, it manipulates news. The idea of a free press is not a fact but an abstraction, and it serves those who own it.
Today, companies like ABC, CBS, and NBC and print media like The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times are all owned by major media powerhouses.
In the 21st century, the power of the press lies not in the hand of the viewers and readers but in the hands of those who provide the most commercials, the oxygen of the press. Spangler said: “Press is today an army with carefully organized arms and branches, with journalists as officers and readers as soldiers. In this army, soldiers obey blindly, and operation plans and war aims change without knowledge. The reader neither knows nor is allowed to know the purpose for which he is used, nor the role he has to play.”
This implication is clear: Media reports are not benign, always carrying some agenda beneath the news. The news it publishes can bear the truth on the surface but there are who knows what lies underneath? The views the press covers are not the views of a tiny few but the views of the many.
But what choice do readers have in this regard?
If that was the backdrop on the foreground of which the mainstream media was founded, how can it generate news based on truth? The history of so-called “fake news” can be traced right back to the foundations of mainstream media.
Whatever is happening right now in this post-Trump landscape, is not new. Both the media and the governments are working in tandem for a common objective: To control the public’s mind and distract them when necessary.
They take it for granted that only they possess the licence to furnish truth or lies as part of protecting the capitalistic political order. Any other ideologies or views are rejected.
The fight about truth and lies is a fight between the mighty political machinery and the mainstream media and people on social media. The current concerns of fake news largely stem from the rise of social media, which can be barely controlled.
It is difficult to find a media company or group which isn’t biased towards some political or business ideology or objective.
Who does the media serve by duping its audience? At the end of the day, they serve capitalism -- in other words, the free market economy, the multi-national business houses, and the elite population class rather than the general masses.
When the government and their media partners collaborate to project information with bias under the veil of some hidden objective, it doesn’t turn out to be the truth.
As such, the information published on social media is often deemed to be being fake since the that is the platform on which these various powerhouses are attacked.
What is present in social media is not all fake. Rather, there, one can find many truths.
The digital space in the 21st century is flooded with enormous amounts of information. The current generation of youth, having unlimited access to this digital space, does not deem truth to be what is determined by any conventional authority.
The youth defines truth as what transpires from independent search or based on what their allies say on Facebook or Twitter.
To the youth, the truth is Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but to the government and the mainstream media, truth is what they believe and project with or without bias.
What Trump says is not always fake -- it is often deemed to be so by CNN or BBC, the bearers of truth being attacked by Trump.
In this day and age, what is truth and what isn’t has become relative. The fight between them can end only when the mainstream media can cross all ideological barriers and publish or broadcast anything they feel right, unbound by the conditions of capitalism.
Brig Gen AF Jaglul Ahmed is a regular contributor to the Dhaka Tribune.