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Why it is so Important to Debunk the Phonies

Now, more than ever, the public needs people with the right expertise to call out the lies, half-truths, and downright fraudulent claims of people in positions of power. Getting the correct information is absolutely vital in a world where there is a plethora of 24/7 news channels, online news and information outlets, social media sites, and traditional newspaper/magazine stalls. Anyone can publish anything as long as there is no inciting of violence, speech hate (racism, sexism, misogyny), libeling, and such. People can broadcast opinions and cite opinions as facts with just a click of a button. Scary! Twitter and Facebook have made an effort to crack down upon misinformation, however, trying to stop misinformation from spreading like wildfire, is a tall order but it is something that needs addressing swiftly. The big media companies have a duty to police what is published or/and broadcast.

The frightening thing about misinformation is that it can heighten tensions within communities. For example, in 1998 there was this myth that grew and grew that, Birmingham City Council had banned Christmas. This was because the council had changed the name of the Christmas festival to ’Winterval’ - a portmanteau of 'winter' and 'festival'. The myth was often perpetuated by people that were against Muslims and repeated the lie that Muslims were offended at the idea that the Christmas festival left them feeling marginalized. The same people frequently voiced the tired and boring phrase, “It’s political correctness gone mad!”. In actual fact, Winterval is an inclusive and celebratory festival of all religious/winter celebrations. It includes Christmas, Diwali, the Frankfurt Christmas Market, Children in Need, the outdoor ice rink, New Year's Eve, and various other city-wide celebrations. Chris Allen - Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the University of Leicester, and writer for the Huffington Post, observed that the Guardian reported a few years ago that between the Times and Sunday Times the Winterval myth has been repeated 40 times since 1998, surpassed only by the Daily Mail repeated on 44 separate occasions. Elsewhere, the Sun has repeated it 31 times, the Daily Telegraph 22 and the Express 26. Tellingly, the Guardian has mentioned it just six times (a number of which seek to debunk the myth), the Daily Mirror just four.

The dangers of fake medical news. (n.d.). [ILLUSTRATION]. The Dangers of Fake Medical News.

Politicians have always lied. It is not in the least surprising thing that they do, however, what is interesting is that if a politician was exposed as a liar and a fraud twenty-odd years ago, they would face the ignominy of having to step down and make way for the next person in line. Nowadays, politicians, once exposed as a liar will double-down on the lies that they tell. It is incredible. And incredibly frustrating. The King of fake news (being the same person who accused the reliable sources of being “fake news”) the ex-President of the United States, Donald Trump is arguably the person responsible for perceiving these tensions in society and exploiting them to the fullest for political gain. The Washington Post's fact-checker team reported that there were 492 suspect claims in the first 100 days of his presidency. On Nov. 2 alone, the day before the 2020 vote, Trump made 503 false or misleading claims as he barnstormed across the country in a desperate effort to win reelection. (Jan 2021)

Prominent Conservatives Share Fake AOC Tweet. (n.d.). [PHOTOGRAPH]. Prominent Conservatives Share Fake AOC Tweet.

Long before Boris Johnson became the Prime Minister of the UK, he was sacked as a reporter when he worked at The Times of London, "for making up a quote about Edward II's catamite lover and attributing it to his godfather, the Oxford historian Colin Lucas." - (Independent). When he leaves office, he will be remembered for several blunders and erroneous mishaps, and somewhere at the top of the list will be his infamous lie about the false promise to the NHS that they would get an extra £350 million pounds a week if the country exited the European Union. Needless to say, this did not materialize. The really worrying thing about all this is that even though people like Trump and Johnson have shown themselves to be self-aggrandizing, master manipulators, there are huge swathes of people who do not seem to care. It is strange to think that there are people who will vote for politicians that they know have a track record for lying. Do not get me wrong, I am not overly political in any way, shape, or form, however, I believe this insidious behavior from these men is creeping into society more and more. As pointed out earlier, the behavior was there before, but politicians like Trump and Johnson have accelerated and manipulated the situation. We must value the truth otherwise, what is the point?

Allen, C. (2013, December 19). Winterval Is Coming: Busting the Myths About Banning Christmas. Www.Huffingtonpost.Co.Uk.

Booth, K. (2019, July 22). Former colleagues of Boris Johnson as a journalist warn he is ‘not fit for national office’. Independent.Co.Uk.

Peck, T. (2019, November 15). Boris Johnson Brexit Bus Election Vote Leave Campaign. Independent.Co.Uk.

The Washington Post. (2021, January 24). Trump’s false or misleading claims total 30,573 over 4 years. Washingtonpost.Com.


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Peter Terrence

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