• Español
  • English
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Português

Fake News

-A +A

The mass media are a relatively recent phenomenon. With the invention of the telegram, a first step was taken towards informing the masses (groups without distinction of their position or social class) on events that happen in the world. We should qualify the term “world”: it is a question of the world in which we live and move. It is the space that we know and that culturally is close to us.


More than half of the population of the Earth still live in a small world, formed by their family and community. But a growing mass – since the mid XIX century – live in a world in permanent expansion: the province, the nation, the international market and, finally, the world market. This mass is the consumer of the mass media. They are billions of people on all continents, crossing borders, who receive daily information of the most diverse nature.


It is information processed, diagnosed and directed in a few minutes, by highly trained communication professionals, which is sent to every corner of the planet thanks to virtual, electronic computing networks. The information can be seen live from any point of the planet. We can also expect it to appear in the nightly star newscast. A great part of the information is predictable since those concerned announce it in advance: the press conference of some personality, a decisive sporting event or a political election that may determine who will govern a country.


When something unexpected occurs – an earthquake, a high profile assassination or a fire – there are protocols to give it the corresponding treatment. For example, in the case of fatal attacks that have as an object to create insecurity and terrorism, they receive greater coverage if the victims are from a determined region or country. In the contrary case, they hardly appear on the screens or in the newspapers (this is the case, among others, of the massacres of Palestinians, dispossession of the Sahrawi or of the indigenous peoples of all of America, whether the North, Centre or South).


The distinction between what is news and what is not has seen a certain increase in the major mass media since the election of President Trump in the US. There is talk of “fake news” as a supposedly new phenomenon. In reality, it has always existed: in Antiquity, in the colony and in more recent years. An emblematic case – that changed the course of history in Central America –was the postage stamp that circulated in the North American Congress in 1902 that showed the eruption of the Momotombo volcano in Nicaragua, where the US hoped to build an interoceanic canal. The Senators thought again and chose to finance the route that crossed the isthmus of Panama. An organic intellectual of Wall Street, Walter Lipmann, wrote a book in the 1920s entitled Public Opinion where he presented the art of “fake news” as a political tool to dominate the emerging middle and working classes. It is said that the book Public Opinion occupied an important place on the bedside table of German ideologue Joseph Goebbels.


Volcano of Momotombo, Nicaragua


With the appearance of virtual networks, fake news has become generalized. Neighborhood “gossip” has become massified through electronic media, with mobiles in the hands of five-year-old children to people aged 90. But it is still the major mass media – principally the television channels and newspaper chains – that control fake news. For example, the face-off of the US with Venezuela, Syria, or Beijing in the South China sea – among others – are news to the extent that the media controlled by the monopolies concentrated in New York want them to be. They shape information according to the interests of the big corporations and circulate them massively through the national, local and even virtual media.


With the arrival of Trump to the White House, a division was produced in the heart of the big monopolies. The media that support “nationalist” positions support the unconventional president and those who support globalization attack him. The former count on the support of Fox News, while the supporters of globalization have CNN (as well as the New York Times and the news agencies that feed the media in Europe, Latin America and other regions).


The division is very clear in reference to internal politics. Daily fake news is invented on both sides about the border wall between the US and Mexico, about climate change, the collapse of industrial and agro-industrial employment and many other issues. On foreign policy, fake news tend to divide the US monopolies on two fronts. On the one hand, the Middle East war and on the other, Russia and China. As for the places that the monopolies consider their “back yard”, in other words, Latin America, there are no great differences. The daily ration of fake news extols the regimes of the extreme right and demonizes the democratic governments of the left. Through fake news, they all promote coups d’états, political persecutions and even military invasions.


There will always be fake news. In our times, it is the product of the interests of the big monopolies that seek to dominate world markets and consumers on a global scale. We should learn how to read and discriminate among the news. Everything indicates that we will have fake news for a long time to come.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


February 21, 2019


– Marco A. Gandásegui, Jr., Professor of Sociology with the University of Panama and Associate Researcher of the Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Justo Arosemena (CELA)








Clasificado en