Anytime we read a newspaper or watch the news on television, we often do not realize that every news story is structurally a mystification. In this article we will try to unravel the fictitious component that any published report inevitably contains.
One of the most widespread definitions of Fake News is the following: false reports of events, intentionally or unintentionally spread through the Web, traditional media or social networks, and usually characterized by an apparent plausibility which facilitates their rapid sharing and diffusion.
In this context, we will not try to explain why Fake News exists or why it shows such a strong ability to spread unconditionally.
Instead, we will try to show why the aforementioned definition of “Fake News” can fit perfectly within the broader definition of “News”.
In the term “Fake News”, there are two components: the “Fake” one and the “News” one. But which is the most prominent?
In the absence of which one would the definition of Fake News be lost?
Doubtless, every Fake News is – first of all – news.
Although recognized as fake, it is presented in the form of news. This means that in the essence of “being news”, in the structure that models news, loyalty to the truth is not necessarily implied. In other words: in order to be perceived as genuine, the content of news does not have to adhere to the thing it claims to report. Or better yet, we should say that it never can.
In making these statements, we are not referring to the reporter’s intention of being loyal or disloyal: when we affirm that the news does not substitute the pure object of its content, we are beyond the scope of human intentions.
Every piece of news – regardless of the fake or genuine nature we may search for in it – is limited to a representation of the original event: it is always a projection.
What makes some pieces of news more credible than others is their capability to fully mimic the real thing, in order to better persuade the public about their authenticity. In this sense, every piece of news – by definition – is fake, where fake means “a representation – a shadow – of the real thing, which is structurally absent in the news, because the reader, the listener or the viewer cannot experience it”.
But what do we mean with the claim that we cannot experience the real thing?
Let us come to a practical example. When we are told “The coal hole is empty”*, what exactly are we learning from this news? Are we experiencing the vision of a real, tangible coal hole? Of course not. Are we experiencing a state of emptiness? Not even that. All this news does, is deliver a finite product, which carries the following clear information: “Since the coal hole is empty, we need to fill it up again.” Indeed, the recipient welcomes pre-constituted information, a specific message that is entirely different from what it pretends to stand for. The recipient gets a package, which is home-delivered in the form of a prejudice. It is undeniable that when the information comes, it is never the bare and unadorned reality to reflect on, but instead a ready-to-use product.
Overall, the prominent issue with Fake News is not really its nature of being Fake, but its nature of being News. All news carries a certain degree of fakeness, because “being fake” is a founding part of its existence.
There are several negative effects when the information is home-delivered (for example, anytime we turn on our smartphones, laptops or televisions).
First of all, we never encounter the original content of the news, because the content is simply a production representing the real thing, and not the real thing itself. This production is an artefact, in the sense that it pretends to be the real thing and persuades the public of its presumptive authenticity, while it is clearly something else. Because the news pretends to coincide with the truth – to be equal to the thing it is reporting – intrinsically, the news is always a mystification.
For all these reasons, every news is fake.
On this basis, we also have to consider some of the inevitable implications.
Given that the news is a home-delivered product, it in essence tells us whatever is meant to be known about the real thing, presenting itself as a judgement of reality. Given its nature of elaboration of the world, it plays our entire intellectual job for us. It prevents us from making any effort to draw out any personal conclusions from the whole matter. In fact, any conclusion we may think of is already enclosed in the package. Therefore, anytime we welcome the product to our mental houses, the freedom of comprehensive perception is lost: the news elides every aspect of reality that is considered irrelevant.
Moving back to our practical example: we do not experience the “coal hole” in its entirety, but rather we are simply informed that “it is empty”.
In light of these considerations, we should realize that the relationship between the public and the news is always unbalanced. Even when the original intention is truly honest, the packed content of the delivered information is far away from the truth.
As a consequence, suspicion should be our first and prompt reaction, right?
However, we cannot perceive this innate mystification of the news. Why is that?
The reason is that every piece of news is presented as coincident to the truth. In other words, the recipient does not recognize the difference between the real thing and its presented shadow, since such difference is untold.
Nevertheless, it is also crucial to notice that the news cannot live without its fakeness. In any case, the news will never be able to adhere to the real thing: it will always be something else.
Perhaps, to amplify our ability to perceive the inauthenticity carried by written or transmitted reports, we should adopt more cautious and careful behaviours.
We must always try to interact with different reports describing the same information: this kind of approach should help unravel the amount of structural fiction carried by the news.
If possible, we should sometimes try to visit “the theatre of narrated events”, to experience ourselves the genuineness of the facts.
We must also always be open to discussion. As the unbalanced relationship between the news and the public is usually experienced in solitude – “in silence” – by the public, sharing opinions freely and publicly should help to broaden our horizons on the matter.
And please: try unceasingly to keep your mental attitudes alive and active. With the current shift towards the world as representation, the intellectual effort we are asked to invest to understand reality is decreasing tremendously from day to day.
* The mentioned example is taken from Anders, G., “The Outdatedness of Human Beings 1. On the soul in the Era of the Second Industrial Revolution”, 1956.
Received: 09.01.19, Ready: 25.01.19, Editors: CV, AFB.