Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Fake news": nothing new

As is so often the way with these things, it turns out that despite the intense debate, anger and despair that "fake news" has prompted recently (what with Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" and the naming of "post-truth" as the Oxford Dictionaries' choice for the 2016 Word Of The Year), the phenomenon is actually nothing new.

Robert Darnton of the New York Review of Books has helpfully traced its history, through eighteenth-century Paris and London and all the way back to sixth-century Byzantium. Such "news" has regularly been produced for the purpose of mere titillation - but often, as now, there's been a more significant political dimension, with false titbits thrown out to discredit beliefs and poison minds against particular individuals.

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