In President Trump’s recent visit to Japan, he joined the Japanese prime minister to feed the koi at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. But some news outlets, which seem to have an agenda to ruin the president’s reputation at every turn, have spread deliberately cropped footage, and falsified reports of the occasion.
Earlier this week, a video showing Trump feeding koi with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo’s Akasaka Palace was posted on the internet. The edited footage shows Trump dumping a box of fish food into the pond.
Moreover, the edited footage fails to depict the full picture of what actually happened before Trump dumped the fish food into the pond. In fact, the Japanese prime minister was the first to dump the contents of his box into the pond, and Trump merely followed suit.
The edited video was not the only misleading news piece that went haywire this week. There have even been claims that the suspect involved in Sunday’s Texas church shooting was linked to anti-fascist and leftwing movements, even before authorities determined the shooter’s motives.
Speaking on why such reports were able to spread so widely, Gordon Pennycook, a researcher at Yale University, told NewStatesman: “Fake news stories have to appeal to people. Just like tabloids and celebrity gossip, successful fake news stories often latch on to something that many people want to hear.”
“The people who fall for political fake news are not necessarily the most partisan. Our research indicates that an overreliance on intuition and a lack of reflective or critical thinking plays an important role in people’s ability to discern fake and real news,” he added.
Pennycook also explained how humans look and judge fake news.
“It’s important to note that our perceptions of fake news accuracy are influenced by the mere exposure to these headlines,” he said.
In a study in April, he had demonstrated how the repeat exposure to fake news would make it more likely for people to believe in such erroneous reports.
“This occurs because humans use familiarity as a way to judge accuracy,” he said.
Using the same logic, it’s easy to understand how misinformation can cause biases in today’s world, and manipulate public opinion on certain individuals, groups, and issues.
Take the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong as an example. In order to turn public opinion against Falun Gong—which is a peaceful meditation practice that grew very popular in the 1990s—the communist regime employed the whole nation’s media apparatus to inundate some 1.3 billion people with slanderous misinformation. State-controlled “official” reports broadcast on TV, in newspapers, radio, the internet, and so on, were constantly churning out hateful propaganda. And, you can guess what kind of effect that had on the population. Now, you’d have to be very brave to mention “Falun Gong” and its main principles, “Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance,” in public.
Whilst we know how instrumental the media is to a dictatorship in controlling a population—call it brainwashing in short—could the same phenomena be slowly manifesting itself now outside such dictatorships? When journalistic ethics are thrown out, the long-term consequences are drastic.