The answer to the problem of fake news is definitely not censorship

The Syria Campaign, an anti-Assad political organization, has issued a report titled “Killing The Truth: How Russia is fueling a disinformation campaign to cover up war crimes in Syria.” It’s not really a comprehensive report but it elaborates on the charges made in the Guardian exposé by Olivia Solon titled “How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine.” It’s another nail in the coffin for Assad propagandists, guaranteeing them a place in the anals (no, that is not a misspelling) of history.

The great big giant problem in the Syria Campaign report is that it calls for censorship of “suspicious” accounts on social media along with a snitch system to control the circulation of fake news. Who the hell will decide what is “suspicious”? There could not be a more wrong-headed, actually rightwing proposal when the real issue on social media is government censorship, especially of Kashmiris, Palestinians, Rohingya activists trying to educate about their freedom struggles. Can you imagine the chaos generated when people are encouraged to finger those they disagree with as “suspicious”? Not just agents of Modi, Netanyahu, & Trump breathing down our necks but vigilantes monitoring our posts.

The problem of fake news isn’t just that people don’t know how to evaluate conflicting news sources. The problem is just as much, if not more, the rubbish that too many people believe. If you’re an Islamophobe, you’ll be attracted to sources that confirm that prejudice. If you’re fundamentally misanthropic, paranoid, & anti-intellectual, you’ll find yourself agreeing with rightwing, even fascist news sources when you think yourself a progressive. If your approach to politics is factional or based on political gossip, there’s a whole slew of commentators you’ll follow for the latest dirt. You’ll search out the news sources that reflect your world view. The solution to that isn’t censorship. If you care about politics you want to know what your adversaries say.

Nothing illustrates that better than Syria. So many took umbrage at my views about Syria, arguing that it was too complicated to understand, that it wasn’t possible to know the real story. But that didn’t stop the same people from posting the crap pumped out by Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Pepe Escobar, Tim Anderson, & all of Russian media–which they called “alternative media” as opposed to their bête noire “MSM.” Syria is complicated. Most politics are. Acknowledging that about Syria & searching skeptically for explanations is one thing. Hopping on the Islamophobic & anti-Semitic bandwagon is quite another because it isn’t just the Russia connection that matters but the links of Assad propagandists to the fascist movement.

Syria Campaign report: