Whenever “fake news” is mentioned, most think of the current US administration’s propagation of “alternative facts” and the spread of anti-immigration propaganda by right-wing groups. But, unfortunate as it may be, it seems most Western media organisations are equally guilty of this charge. With the tendency of English-language media to follow the lead of US-based organisations, there is a growing need to be critical of what you read.
The charge against Western media, though often pushed by Chinese and Russian governments, is more than just a baseless accusation. In an episode of Vox’s popular Borders video series, “journalist” Johnny Harris tried to claim that all news broadcasts in Hong Kong are now conducted in Mandarin and attempted to back this claim up by showing a clip from TVB’s 5.30pm news. As all of us already know, the 5.30pm broadcast has always been in Mandarin – as a supplement to the 24-hour news channel and the 7.30pm news, both of which are in Cantonese. Though the video is unlikely to convince anyone in Hong Kong that Beijing has already erased all traces of Cantonese culture, Western viewers are more likely to be swayed. Combined with the fact that Vox, and similar organisations, are usually not so obviously partisan, their lies are likely to slip pass your average reader.
With this example in mind, we can see just how susceptible foreign audiences are to pro-West media narratives. In the ongoing Venezuelan crisis, international news networks including the BBC republished the lie that Nicolas Maduro’s forces purposefully set fire to humanitarian aid vehicles. Luckily for us, The New York Times published video showing it was actually anti-government protesters who destroyed the trucks.
It is important to note that both the Red Cross and the United Nations have questioned America’s intentions in sending humanitarian aid, and whether the “aid” is in the form of food, or weapons for rebels. Given that US President Donald Trump has been very reluctant to give any aid at all to Puerto Rico, which is a part of the US, it seems unlikely that the US is being sincere in their attempts to help Venezuela, as Western media would suggest.
Western media does not have to be blatantly anti-immigrant or racist to be complicit in spreading fake news; they are naturally disposed to supporting their country. Similarly, you don’t have to be pro-Beijing to hold a critical view of Western media – one’s concern for distinguishing fact from fiction should suffice. It’s about time we all wake up to the “real” source of fake news.