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The Role of Citizens In Fighting Fake News


The Oasis Reporters

December 9, 2018

Nigeria’s Information Minister, Alh. Lai Mohammed.

No form of government facilitates a successful society like the government in which the people rule. This is the dominant belief across the world and the extent to which the people of a country are in control of their affairs have become the bigger yardstick for measuring the humanity and civilization of nations.

There are only two assets by which the people govern themselves: their raw passion and information. Passion is the source of energy by which we do things (by which we work, eat, march, cast vote, protest, fight), while information configures our beliefs about things, the function of which is to regulate and direct the use of passion.

The success of democracy rests largely on how passion is deployed, and how passion is deployed depends entirely on information. Where the people rule by true information, they rule as humans; but where they act and govern themselves based on fake news, they rule as brutes. Therefore, there are two main types of democracy: the government by many humans and the government by many brutes. Information makes the difference. And the people of a country must choose their type of democracy. But we know for certain that the government of brutes is known for bloodletting, pointless and endless conflicts, starvation and rancour.

Ah, it is information age, Hurray! And there seems to be no rosier time for the government of the people than the present age of the computer (alas! the smartphone) and the internet. This age is called the age of knowledge and we all gallivant in the open market of free flowing information jamming from left and right at an unimaginably unbeatable speed.
And this is the great undoing, for nothing can be farther from the truth: the present age is the exact age of ignorance, the age of darkness, an era so benighted.
The age in which people lack the patience that was needed even in an era when information flowed…crawled like a snail and yet world shakers fire barrage of information, news items and research findings for various purposes ranging from genuine curiosity to business and mercantilist interest and to political ambitions and power hunt!

It is the age of fake news and no time is more threatening to the government, security and welfare of nations than this time when the struggle for control of earth’s resources has reached the level of fight-to-finish among a few juggernauts. It is therefore only in the interest of the people to take over the fight against fake news.

Citizens therefore, must make it their responsibility to identify a potential fake news story.
How can one identify a potential fake news item?
Fake news, which means inauthentic news, reports that do not reflect nor represent facts, can come in one of two ways. It can come as a harmless, positive and happy story with the intention to distract the public, win their acceptance or sell newspaper, like the report that Federal government endorsed a particular minimum wage in November, or when a government says the economy is growing when it is not. It can also come as a negative report, for instance of a rise in prices, or death of some individuals or of killings of certain people etc. This is the more worrisome dimension of fake news, most especially for our own environment. So I will say that the general character of a potential fake news story is news that is negative, so much as to cause alarm, to exacerbate worry or to cause an outrage: to take down from the integrity, dignity and public image of another person or group.

We should greet news like this with a bold, ‘is that so?’
We should not be shy to tell our source that we will find out about the matter and its facts. We should not stop there. We should go ahead and do our rigorous findings as if our next moment depends on them. We should seek to be sure. We should not believe when we are not sure, and we should not spread when we don’t believe.

‘Ah this matter is a serious one!’ Anyhow. Stay within the range of the information you can vouch for and avoid basing decision on imagination. Politics, unlike poetry and music, is a critical matter which doesn’t allow for imagination forming basis for belief and action. It is of course very convenient, exciting and fantastic to take a demeaning report about another person or group at face value and become its mouthpiece. But we should equally bear in mind the proverbial squirrel that wags his little bottom while eating banana. He does not know that what is sweet is the same that kills. We are not squirrels after all.

Written by Deji Adesoye

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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