In the wake of Donald Trump’s rise to the American presidency, fake news has become a trending topic and media bias is the hot issue of the day.
As Trump himself declared recently, “A lot of the media is actually the opposition party — they’re so biased.” He could easily have added his favourite word: “Sad.”
The range of alternative news sites on the internet has complicated matters for most. Russian dissident Garry Kasparov pointed out that, “it can take a high level of education to separate fact from fiction in the dense information jungle we face online.”
And conservative American talk show host Charlie Sykes acknowledged that fake news during the US election had “polluted political discourse and clogged social media timelines…helping spread conspiracy theories and indulging the paranoia of the fever swamps.”
Sykes’ unfortunate conclusion is that any news deemed to be biased, embarrassing, annoying or negative can now simply be dismissed as fake.
As a journalist who trained in the early 1970s at the height of the profession’s prestige and influence, this is all deeply troubling. Widespread distrust of the professional media has serious consequences for democracy and public accountability.
We know all too well here, that when our political leaders feel threatened by mass communication they do not control, the first thing they do is attack the messenger.
But if citizens are ever to hold those in power accountable, we have to rely on the press for information that we can use to judge their policies and behaviours.
As we head into the second month of 2017, the political battle lines for the upcoming general election are becoming clearer.
The old guard of the PLP (and by old we mean geriatric) confirmed their mafia-like grip on the party at the first convention allowed to to be held in seven years. They are doubling down on promises and threats as the campaign begins.
The Minnis wing of the FNM bumbles along with business as usual, and no apparent strategy or plan, confident in their faith that the government will simply fall into their hands no matter what they do or don't do.
And those seven FNM parliamentarians who believed Minnis lacks political skills are now on an exposed ledge, figuring out how to move forward.
Meanwhile, the power-hungry DNA jackals are nipping at the heels of both legacy parties, even as ‘We March’ activists seek to concentrate popular outrage at the status quo.
Added to this complex pot are untried groupings like the United Peoples Movement, formed by ex-PLP MP Greg Moss and labour leader John Pinder.