In a world of fake news, I fell prey to it yesterday…not only did I buy it, but I transmitted it to thousands. Today, I must apologize.
Perhaps I am asking a deeper ontological question than is warranted for this blog, but I’m wondering this morning why I was the sucker yesterday. Why did I just run with a story instead of digging deeper?
It was more than just sloppiness or a desire for page clicks. It was because it fit into my worldview biases and it seemed like such a nice story. There was some truth to it: we know that Beijing wanted a head to roll. We know that Hogg expressed sympathy toward the protest movement. But it appears the valiant act of defiance I wrote about yesterday did not occur. Rupert Hogg never implicated himself in order to spare his employees.
Now I’m left feeling foolish, but also full of doubt with a good dose of cynicism (and when it comes to current events, I’m already a cynic).
And isn’t that the trouble of fake news? It’s simplistic to say “fake news” is about spreading misinformation. Certainly that is part of it. But that’s only the first level. The deeper and more menacing reality is that fake news is aimed to sow doubt and confusion. Like terrorism, the aim is to cause fear. Fake news does not lead to fear of bodily harm, but it does lead to fear that we simply cannot trust anyone. That undermines the fragile society in which we live.
The good news, if you want to call it that, is that this “correction” does not change my assessment of Hogg as a great candidate to become the next American Airlines CEO.
But I cannot help asking questions. Was this “fake news” an effort by the Taiwanese press to make China look bad? Or was it an effort by the Chinese to sow misinformation they knew would be picked up in Taiwan in order that they could gloat over the fake news and further argue that the reporting on the Hong Kong protests have been biased and misleading in general? Why does the human brain love conspiracy theories?
All I can do is promise that I will continue to learn from errors like this. Fake feel-good stories can be just as pernicious as fake bad news stories. Next time I will ask more questions. We all should…but let’s not give up on the system in the process.