“Truthiness (Stephen Colbert, 2005) comes from the gut,” not from facts—“the truth we want to exist,” that feels right. Truthiness is alternative facts, fake news.
“Pizzagate,” was such a fake news story about a D.C. restaurant that supposedly housed a pedophilia ring. The ring seemed to include Satanic rituals and members of the Clinton campaign. A North Carolina man decided to investigate the pedophilia ring himself, bringing an assault rifle that he fired in the restaurant. No facts were found to support any of the stories.
A much more dangerous incident developed in Pakistan. On 26 December 2016, newspapers were breaking news with huge headlines,
“Pakistan Threatens Israel With Nuclear War Because of Fake News Article” and,
Pakistan delivered a not-so-veiled nuclear threat after a fake news site quoted Israel’s (former) defense minister as threatening to destroy Pakistan if it joined the war on ISIS
Politicians often manipulate journalists with “access journalism.” Journalists are forced to make compromises to have access to sources and places that would otherwise be denied to them. It often results in self-censorship, in truthiness to please their hosts.
Truthiness, alternative facts, and fake-news did not just appear on the scene, kind of, out-of-nothing, with the Trump administration. For years, we witnessed the forerunner of today’s alternative facts with the rise of Evangelicals, or Christian fundamentalists.
On their tireless insistence, evolution was replaced by creationism in a lot of schools. Evangelicals also rejected all biblical scholarship; literalism was the only way to read and understand the Scripture. No matter how undeniably scholarship demonstrated other realities with unchangeable historical facts, growing numbers of born-again Christians insisted on their literalist fake interpretations.
Literalism to extremes was always present in Islam and is presently acted out, in grotesque fashion, on the Middle East-ISIS stage.
Our society became numb from the barrage of religious, alternative facts. No matter how often Jehova-witnesses knock on our doors, we no longer hear their bizarre proselyting claims and stories, unless it is the truth you want to hear.
The use of alternative facts in politics is far more dangerous. But we are warned and alert. The reason to exists for Journalism is accountability. No matter how enticing the offers, it should stay away from any form of corruption.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle