A year ago, few knew what fake news was. Now, everyone’s talking about it.
What is it? Fake news is a false story that is disseminated intentionally. It is meant to manipulate and disrupt public opinion.
Deployed in digital media, its reach is amplified considerably.
The real question – which remains unanswered – is how much fake, or any news, for that matter – influences readers.
With Internet access, each person functions as their own editor – filtering information from a range of sources previously unimaginable. The democratization of access to information has reduced significantly our deference to traditionally respected opinion elites like journalists, business and political leaders. That’s old-world.
Today, people are more empowered and autonomous, deciding independently what information is credible and what is not. And it seems that many people, in America and elsewhere, reject the crafty communications spin of the current White House.
This is where it gets really interesting; when we consider the difference between fake news and good, old-fashioned “spin.”
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Spin, in politics, is the art of manipulating truth to convey a biased message.
A fine case study: the conduct of the White House in the lead-up to and aftermath of its recent betrayal of Israel, the infamous “abstention” on the UN Security Council vote on Resolution 2334, which declares any Israeli settlement beyond the ’67 lines to be in breach of international law.
Officially, the White House explained its abstention (de facto support) on the 2334 vote as a painful decision taken at the eleventh hour to ensure that peace remains achievable.
Was this spin or fake news? If we accept the White House version of events, we believe the following:
1) The Obama administration had no involvement in the planning or drafting of 2334;
2) That when Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and senior Palestinian officials met in mid December, they did not discuss or strategize regarding 2334;
3) That the leaked transcript purporting to document a discussion between said American and Palestinian officials is a fraud;
4) That when Egypt reneged on its intention to introduce 2334, the Obama White House was unruffled;
5) That the White House did not engage in a furious scramble in the ensuing two days to wrangle New Zealand and Senegal to introduce the resolution;
6) That the diplomatic powerhouses of Senegal and New Zealand acted on their own, joint initiative, poring over and finessing the wording of 2334 in less than 48 hours;
7) That the United States of America, represented at the UNSC by its ambassador, the peerless anti-genocide activist, Samantha Power, had no foreknowledge of the fact that Resolution 2334 would come to the floor and, furthermore, that the US had given no advance consideration as to how it would vote;
8) That, as Power sat there, listening to the various delegations vilify Israel, attributing every failure in the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict to the construction of “settlements,” the US had still not formulated a position on this issue;
9) That, as genocide raged in Aleppo (along with the ongoing Yazidi horror), Power “abstained” in the 2334 vote out of a paramount and compelling concern for Israel and a belief that if the settlement issue is resolved, the lion will lie with the lamb; and
10) That in doing so, the White House did not act from pique – personal or other – but from a deep and abiding concern for the ongoing security and democratic health of Israel.
The Obama White House has demonstrated its proficiency at spreading information that has a tenuous nexus with reality. To wit: White House protestations for almost a year that it was not negotiating a “deal” with Iran.
Once the ongoing negotiations were exposed, the White House and State Department churned out semantic contortions regarding what, exactly, constitutes a “negotiation.” It all hearkens back to the agonized parsing by president Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the Lewinsky scandal over the definition of... oh, never mind. You get the point.
And then there was the pathetic spectacle of Secretary Kerry’s panicked, rambling remarks a week ago, in which he presented US treachery as an expression of anguished, high-minded policy and support for Israel.
Here are some of the top fake news headlines of 2016: “Obama Signs Executive Order Banning Pledge of Allegiance in Schools.”
“Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump for President.”
“WikiLeaks Confirms Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS.”
I’d add one more: “President Obama Has Israel’s Back.”
The author was the ambassador of Canada to Israel until June 2016. She resides in Tel Aviv.
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