Fake News!

East London Humanists reflect on how Trump’s values are diametrically opposed to ours.  (Opinion piece Barking and Dagenham Post & Newham Recorder May 2018).

So the man synonymous with ‘fake news’ is coming to London. President Trump’s favourite expression plays on a general worry. How can we be sure what is true? His visit in July will no doubt generate plenty of ‘alternative facts.’ How should we react to him and his rhetoric?

There is nothing new about ‘fake news.’ The state, media moguls, and religious leaders, have always had the power to influence the information we receive. This is used generally to reflect their own views and interests. The internet, with its speed and reach, adds a new dimension. But this is not unprecedented. The printing press, radio and TV also revolutionised the ability to disseminate propaganda and lies.

The rational way to work out what to believe is to look for evidence we can weigh up, to take into account the views of experts who may know more than us, and to engage in reasoned discussion with people of different views.

Trump does the opposite. He uses the accusation of ‘fake news’ to bludgeon any opposing view and avoid debate. He derides experts on complex issues like climate change and recklessly dismisses their evidence. His vicious and divisive rhetoric drives people into camps where they are less likely to engage in dialogue with anyone outside their own ‘echo chamber.’  In an increasingly fragile world, awash with conflicting information and views, Trump’s approach is downright dangerous. We must show Trump that his kind of politics are not welcome here.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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