No, the issue is not or must not be fake news. The predatory men who have lately been spreading this canard need to be stopped in their tracks, to be told to their faces that it is fake politics which has been upsetting the global social order in these unsettling times. Then again, fake politics has always been there, especially since the decade of the 1960s.
In the United States, where a political arriviste named Donald Trump has been peddling this falsehood of an idea he calls fake news, the truth is that these rich men who are the government in Washington these days are guilty of practising fake politics. And how do we define fake politics? We can look at it in either of two ways. In the first place, fake politics is politics of pretence, practised by men and women who understand little of the higher calling of politics. In the second, fake politics is politics when it passes into the hands of the ignorant or the arrogant or both, people who do not understand the way the world operates and have precious little idea of the workings of the universe.
Think again on Donald Trump. Throughout the campaign for the presidency, he remained in abusive mode toward his Republican rivals for the nomination and then toward Hillary Clinton. Chants at his rallies of ‘Lock Her Up!’ and ‘Crooked Hillary’ were a remarkable instance of fake politics, for they were a sign that Trump was mistaking imbecilic badmouthing for politics. When his friends in Moscow decided to infiltrate the US election, they were simply demonstrating their own brand of fake politics. It was fake because it sought to undermine Trump’s rival through tampering with e-mails and the votes of the American electorate.
Nearer home in Bangladesh, in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has been busy in her own practice of fake politics. She has had nothing to say on the plight of the Rohingyas. She holds power without responsibility and actually has come to believe that looking away from reality is good politics and things will work themselves out in good time. It is politics of a kind, yes. But it is fake politics, nothing remotely like the politics of idealism she pursued through her years of suffering in incarceration.
Observe Brazil, where fake politics has been at work for the past couple of years. The country’s parliament has successfully dumped Dilma Rousseff as president. The entire process of Rousseff’s impeachment was based on fake politics because it was conducted by lawmakers who are themselves in trouble with the law owing to their own corrupt reputations. Michel Temer, the man who has replaced her, is corrupt to the core. When corrupt men ascend to the heights, it is the sanctity of politics that gets smeared. Fake politics takes over, to a society’s detriment.
Fake politics slithers in when individuals like Marine Le Pen begin to believe that the solution to the many problems faced by their countries can be arrived at easily — through zeroing in on scapegoats and through closing the door to immigrants and through subjecting those already inside to rigorous examination. Donald Trump of course has had his fake politics rear its ugly head through calling for a wall between the United States and Mexico. Real politics is about breaking down walls. Fake politics puts up walls and barbed wires between states.
There are other instances of fake politics before us, those the media need to focus on more relentlessly than ever before. Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove demonstrated to everyone’s horror the falsehood that can sometimes be resorted to in the task of achieving cheap political goals without anything as a reserve, as a follow-up. They peddled untruths about the many ways in which Britons would suffer if they stayed within the European Union. Once they and their kind won the referendum, barely, they had no idea what to do next. Fake politics was at work and truth was the casualty. Fake politics does not go beyond the lie. Proper politics is a continuum, with strategies to deal with the many likely situations that may arise from time to time in place.
In the Philippines, fake politics has almost become a part of life for its people. Real politics propelled Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, sure. But since that triumphant moment, he has proved to be fake in every way. The presidentially provoked shootings that have led to the deaths of thousands on the crude assumption that these dead were drug dealers and were therefore deserving of wild justice are a blight on politics. That blight is fake politics because it pretends to be politics when it is anything but politics.
And where else do we spot fake politics? Every military regime which at some point dons civilian clothes is an instance of fake politics at work. In our times, a clear example of such fake politics is the rule of the Abdel Fattah al Sisi junta in Egypt. Politics fled into the woods when the elected government of Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by Sisi. Fake politics has pushed Egyptians into a widening area of darkness.
At the beginning of this century, George W. Bush and Tony Blair used fake politics to destroy Iraq and send it hurtling into chaos. Their arguments about Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMDs was fake and they knew it and yet they tried to dupe the world into believing they were ‘doing the right thing’ (Blair’s cliché). In the mid-1960s, US President Lyndon Johnson invented the Gulf of Tonkin story and then went ahead with a pursuit of fake politics by having Congress confer on him unlimited authority to wage war abroad. Tonkin was fake politics. It led to the disaster in Vietnam.
Fake politics is what media practitioners must locate and shoot down, on their home ground and in the world at large. This whole sinister concept of fake news is a ploy by fake politicians to keep themselves from being outed or exposed for the little men, in terms of limited intellectual capacity or plain villainy, that they are.
The media will be guilty of manufacturing or upholding fake news if they do not speak out on all the fake politics swirling rudely around us. They need to strip all these fake politicians of their garish raiment and expose the naked, odorous truth underneath.