That term ‘fake news’ has been used so often recently that many of us may soon become totally adrift and unable to distinguish between the fake and the genuine.
That old nursery tale about the person who kept calling wolf, wolf when there was none, has some bearing on this weird situation because, inevitably, that earlier cry ‘wolf’ was disregarded by everyone who realized that there was no wolf. Alas! Whilst it is just my view, I much doubt that the Guinness Book of Records will accept President Trump’s claim that ‘fake news’; was invented recently in the U.S. or indeed that its appearance coincided with the first mass produced newssheets and tracts.
The probability must surely be that a great many actors, including governments, have long been adept at milking the fake news game for all it was worth. The ancient Greeks were on the ball in respect of almost everything so it maybe that they should be given the credit. On the other hand, the Romans quickly made good what the Greeks may have overlooked.
But again, it is safe to assume that all countries at war throughout history have been playing the fake news game. But let’s come to more recent history and note the tremendous efforts both by the Germans and the Allies to deceive each other with false, misleading information. The historically noted master of this dark skill was Hitler’s propaganda Minister, Goebbels. But then again, misinformation was what Enigma and Ultra were all about as were the enormous efforts, by fake information - eventually successful – to convince Hitler that the cross Channel Allied invasion would target Calais. But let’s make the shift from war to peace and work out if the fake is solely a feature of war or if it overlaps into peace, or semi-peace which may accurately describe the parlous situation in which the world finds itself today.
The average individual, that is you and me, is daily confronted not just by fake news but a great many other items which are fake. Take the endless provision of statistics about every day life which are thrown at us day in and day out.
Take the more specialist statistics routinely presented as fact by the economists. Believe them all, do you? But then again there are the con men who regularly feature on the police programme on BTV, the get rich quick con men, the religious instant cure men and those who guarantee success in love, health, political power and
Fake newsvendors are around every corner. The ever-vulnerable consumer – again, you and me – is forever taken in by testified claims that the fake is in fact genuine. Many of us have fallen victim to one or another con trick. Buying an expensive ticket that proved to be worthless, the purchase of property that does not exist, or the acceptance, for a down payment, of an entirely mythical dream holiday in Japan or Peru. But then again, there are some of the more famous ‘fakes’ such as Hitler’s dairies and the famous paleoantholopogical hoax in England, the Piltdown skull. Getting tired? Then think about fake money, fake art and fake antiques.
And you worry about ‘fake news’! But this is all a bit of a digression from what I had intended to be my main topic – the discovery of an arms cache in the Kgatleng. Both the original report by the Sunday Standard and the follow up report by the Botswana Gazette (17 May) demonstrated an astonishing lack of curiosity. Both reports described the weapons in some detail but were either unable to unwilling to state the precise location where they were found, the name of the owner of the tshimo, if such it was, the circumstances which brought the cache to light now rather than many years ago, a rough dating of the weapons within say ten years which might have indicated when the cache was hidden.
The Gazette report stated that the cache was found on a government farm which surely adds to the confusion – I had not known that one even existed in the Kgatleng. It also reported that the police were still trying to discover the owner of the weapons which is a little odd if this was indeed an ANC arms cache, as would appear to be almost certain.
Weaponry is heavy and needs to be transported by truck and by more than one man. But why was it transported to this particular place and from where was it transported? How was it possible that the owner of the tshimo knew nothing? Or was the cache found in an area which had no owner? Maybe one or other of our newspapers could be a bit more forthcoming about all this because the discovery could be historically important.