Fake news is the theme of the year. The worst, of course, is that with an element of truth, but which is deliberately massaged to give a different meaning. As an example, this week Israel launched attacks on Iranian positions in Syria and announced this was in response to an unprovoked missile attack by said Iranians. There was, apparently, such an attack, although not a very effective one. Twenty missiles were launched, and 16, (80%) never even made it to the Israeli border, and the remaining four were shot down by Israeli defences. What the Israelis did not mention was that these missiles would presumably be launched in response to “unprovoked attacks on Iranian positions previously”. But previously, the Israelis would have said those raids were because the Iranians had done . . . Get the picture. The truth is there had been a festering problem for some time. Not that knowing that would make much difference.
There had been previous examples that I have posted about. The assertion that only Russia could have made Novichoks was a lie. The chemistry is very clear and would be reasonably easy for a skilled organic chemist to make, with the right equipment. There were the alleged “chemical attacks” in Syria that needed cruise missile attacks, but there has never been any evidence of the victims. The interesting thing is that very few have questioned any of this.
All of which was exacerbated by Trump pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal. Interestingly, there was no claim that Iran had violated its side of the deal. That was because it was reasonably clear it had not.
There seems to be a belief among many that their leaders know the truth, and are honourable people. Consider this extract from Wikipedia from an interview with Hermann Göring, a little before his suicide at Nürnberg:
Göring: It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Gustave Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
That seems to be unfortunately true. How much real say has Congress had in the US military interventions recently?
Of course, it is not just the military that gets afflicted with fake news. In recent newspaper articles here, President Trump has accused a number of countries for being “free-loaders” and “extortionists” at the expense of the poor US pharmaceutical companies, through not paying properly for the costs of research needed to develop these drugs. There were two articles as examples. One had a company supplying a new anti-ebola vaccine to the Congo to deal with a further outbreak and gave the impression that this was essentially charity in that the company had developed this and would never recover its research costs. The other article said that the company had charged an “extortionate” $5 million for 300,000 vials of the vaccines, and that the company had never developed it; they had purchased the develop vaccine rights from a Canadian national laboratory. See the problem? Real fibs here. Also, note the massaging, by accusing the company of ripping off the purchasers. The cost is $16.66 per vial, and given that the vials have to be very carefully stored and handled, and of course there are significant manufacturing costs because somewhere along the lines they had to handle real ebola, maybe that is quite a fair price.
I recently saw a TV program where an old reporter was complaining that the standard of reporting had been shot to pieces. Yes, the old often find fault with the young, but maybe he has a real point.