Guest Post: Where Fake News Began by Jerry Amernic
George Orwell and his epic novel 1984 are making a comeback. His character Winston Smith existed in a world where freedom and privacy have disappeared. Some think this is happening today.
But Wells also wrote War of the Worlds and because of that we can thank him for introducing us to ‘fake news,’ courtesy of a young radio broadcaster named Orson who had almost the same last name. In this case, Welles. In 1938, on the day before Halloween, Orson Welles convinced America that earth was under attack by Martians.
Sound crazy? Well, millions of listeners believed it. The next day The New York Times reported that in one community 20 families rushed out of their houses with wet towels on their faces to protect them from Martian gas. People hid in cellars, hit the road and packed their guns.
We can laugh at this today, but go back to October 30, 1938 and the world was on edge with the rise of Nazi Germany; World War II would begin less than a year later when Germany invaded Poland.
Orson Welles began his radio broadcast by saying it was based on the H. G. Wells novel War of the Worlds, but hey, humans are a strange breed in that we believe what we want to believe.
Which explains why the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a fictional blueprint for Jewish domination of the world – still carries weight. It was published in Russia in 1903, translated into other languages and eventually went ‘viral.’ American industrialist Henry Ford, a noted anti-Semite, printed half a million copies in the U.S. alone. The Nazi propaganda machine wasted no time stirring up the masses and the Protocols found their way into German schools.
Now it’s 2017. No one trusts the media. What’s more, we don’t even know what constitutes the media and anyone can be the media. This means they can ‘broadcast’ whatever they want – whether it’s based on fact or not.
What with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the line between fact and fiction is no longer the blur that it once was. Today the blur doesn’t exist because everything is fact and fiction.
There’s an old joke in journalism that you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story. This notion is running rampant now and it’s not a good thing. It is a dangerous thing. Why?
Because we humans are a strange breed.
Jerry Amernic is a Canadian writer of fiction and non-fiction books. He is the author of the Holocaust-related novel 'The Last Witness'.