Jonathan Soble Japan Correspondent New York Times
Ross Rowbury President & CEO Edelman Japan
When: July 26 12-1.45pm
Where: Andaz Hotel private room
Cost: 7,000 Yen (cash please).
This DN Salon seeks to identify why fake news is such a big issue today, and how we can ensure we get the information we need to ensure better decision-making.
What is Fake News”? Donald Trump first used the words against CNN during the 2016 election campaign, in the sense of “left wing lies to make sure he was never elected”. He is still using the term now to attack stories he disagrees with.
More broadly, people now use the term to mean maliciously distorted news by governments (eg Russia, China) or by individuals or think tanks for ideological purposes. In a milder sense, it covers for-profit hoax news , articles by amateurs which are simply wrong, and indeed articles written by professionals who got it wrong.
Especially sinister is the conflation of news and advertising (companies generating their own content instead of using traditional ads, or sponsored articles mixed up with real news) or advertising-like techniques used to convey the news, such as celebrity newscasters to add persuasiveness.
People fear (or love!) Fake News because it spreads so easily and is believed so frequently. Social media (people instinctively trust stuff posted by their friends), the emotional impact of videos and photos, and anonymity, all play into this.
Just as these new factors arise, the Old Guard is endangered. The Financial Crisis of 2008 did not help the reputation of the elite media, who seemed unprepared. Loss of trust had lead to the search for alternatives. And even as the world grew ever harder to understand, the media fired its best reporters or was taken over by billionaires, such as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
The crisis in traditional standards of accuracy is heightened by Trump’s strategy of creating a mood of defiance and anger. This mood has carried over to his dealing with the press, leading to an over-heated debate.
Ironically, the term Fake News itself has now become fake news (unreliable), with people using it to refute valid news articles which they happen to disagree with.
The greatest writer on totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, warned us about tyrants who lie – all the more so when their lies are absurd. Indeed, it is the absurdity of their lies which demonstrates their contempt for their supporters as much as for their opponents. Their arrogance shows the malleability of “reality” once a certain atmosphere arises, and the ease with which “objective” standards disappear.
To guide us through these complex issues, we are delighted to welcome Jonathan Soble of the New York Times Tokyo bureau and Ross Rowbury President & CEO of PR firm Edelman in Japan. Both are top media professionals, in the thick of the debate about fake news.