Fake ‘News’ and False Quotations
By Someswar Bhagwat
Fake? Superimposed soundtrack?That was the viral video of children of a London school, reciting a Sanskrit sloka as the prayer at the morning gathering. It is a very inspiring sloka for peace in the world. A morning gathering of all students and a prayer are common. Very often in India it is an all-religion ‘secular’ prayer L even if the school dies not have a single Muslim or Sikh student. A prayer with a Sanskrit sloka invoking the Almighty for the well-being of the entire universe calling it one family (sarve-jana sukhino bhavantu and vasudhaiva kutumbakam) can be heard only outside India. They do not face the problem of fake ‘seculars’ and liberals opposing ‘communalism’ only of the Hindus, that has become a fashion in India.
On the other hand there are some who widely circulate on the digital
social media video clips like the one mentioned above. There were clios showing Parliament session in New Zealand (or Australia?) starting with Sanskrit invocation, or the head of a European nation receiving Hindu blessings or a Belgian ir German reading Geeta or the Vedas.
When forwarded (never original, always a forward), a sickular took the trouble if checking its veracity and declaring that it was an imposter. And he may be true as several websites now offer the facility of checking if the video clips were ‘doctored’ or the news. a ‘fake’. There was recently an announcement of the Kanchi math starting an MBA academy to provide free education for Brahmin girls. even giving the name and mobile number to contact. Within minutes came a message that it was a fake.
There are several social media posts of quotes from several celebrities like Albert Einstein or President APJ Abdul Kalam or stories about their actions. There was even a quote from Einstein that many pithy sayings that were attributed to him were never uttered by him. A footnote in small print (as footnotes generally are) said this itself was a false quote.. He had never said he was falsely quoted! Morphing, Artificial Intelligence and photoshopping have made it possible today to show a celebrity deliver a speech he/she never did. So a video clip of some act or speech is no more a proof. The fake news and paid news phenomena have robbed mass media of their main requirement — credibility.
Whi makes up these fake news or false quotes? A clip of a party leader favouring a section may be -“produced by the IT cell” of a rival or you can say atrocious things on camera and blame a rival for it. Decades ago in the book ‘The Ugly American‘ Lederer and Burdik have talked of °card stacking’ — creating ugly rumours against yourself and then go on to deny them. It serves the dual goal of being in the news and also of getting sympathy for being maligned. The film industry found that being in the news means letting people know you still exist and that publicity need not be a positive news always. It is known that ‘bad news is good news’ today.
But who gains from Kanchi math being praised for starting a new academy and Einstein saying his quotes are false? Who creates them?