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Not the Nine O Clock News

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics

It may be a reaction to the barrage of news/not news that’s coming through at the moment but I’m finding myself feeling slightly nostalgic for the days when Twitter was chock full of pictures of what people ate for lunch and how long they’d been stuck in a queue at Sainsburys.

Now though, you have to be careful what you read, what you believe and, crucially, pass onto others, as there is so much rubbish out there. Back in the good old days, ‘fake news’ was what we called good old fashioned ‘spoof’ (or satire when it gets clever). Facebook is full of pages purportedly online news but which are clearly spoof once you get beyond the headlines.

In the hands of Donald Trump though, ‘fake news’ has come to mean ‘stuff that Trump wishes wasn’t true’. There really is something quite laughable about some of his tweets slagging off the media for making stuff up. Especially so when his former national security advisor has been found to have been, as the saying goes, somewhat economical with the truth.

Rather more sinisterly, the Daily Mail is so wedded to being able to sell advertising on the back of increased online clicks that it doesn’t seem to care how accurate the reports are, as long as the clicks are there. After all, the joy of online is that mistakes can be rectified (as we on BMJ know only too well!)

It’s got to the stage where even hard-bitten hacks like myself wonder occasionally if we can be bothered to sift through it all to find the real news and that runs counter to everything we hold dear.  

There’s a line from Back to the Future where Marty McFly, having travelled back to 1955, tells an incredulous Doc Brown who the current president of the United States is. Truth really can be stranger than fiction, assuming we can still tell the difference.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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