Rumour and gossip have always been a characteristic of human society and what one reads in the newspapers does often have to be taken with a pinch of salt - especially some newspapers. However, this whole problem seems to have got a great deal worse and more dangerous recently.

We all know about gross cases in the USA during the election and about distortions of information during the Brexit campaign. Here is one from Germany. Apparently, police investigations have concluded that mass sexual assaults by refugees in Frankfurt reported in the magaz....

This osrt of thing can easily tip elections and probably has done. It makes a mockery of democracy. Choosing governments by lottery would be relatively safer. A random government would be better than a guaranteed dishonest one.

Of course, people who live/lived in autocracies get used the distortion of news, but since it is always in the same direction, one can make some allowances and still guess what might actually be the case. The spate of misinformation that is around at the moment, though, renders sensible political process extremely difficult.

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Yes it is true, one has to be careful and check the news, but sometimes the real ones are hidden. That create a lot of suffering. 

That's very interesting. I remember this report well, and would be really interested to hear more confirmation of what's said here.

With respect to internet-based 'false news', I had an interesting example last week. A film shared online about a group of Islamic women campaigning to oppose the denigration and abuse of women, especially with regard to FGM, in Muslim cultures.

The women seemed clearly genuine, courageous, intelligent - and their project seems entirely laudable. But there was something about the tone of the film that left a bad taste - its one-sided depiction of Islamic culture, maybe.

So I looked up the film-makers (Israel Video Network), and found their web-page brisling with Fox News\ Pro-Trump \ anti Muslim propaganda.

So it seems its not simply 'false' news that we have to be wary of, but hidden agendas behind the selection and framing of news.

In which  respect, on the whole, I still celebrate the internet as doing more doing good by side-stepping the agenda-laden selection and framing of priorities offered by television news, than the harm it does by adding greater untruths to the mix.

This report being a case in point,  suppose, if it turns out to be true. Many thanks for flagging it.

It leaves one wary. I agree that one can sometimes "smell" the bias and get suspicious, but there is now so much stuff floating around out there that it is difficult to be sure of anything, and when information emenating from leading government sources is also suspect... very difficult. One has to ferret around to check information, but the general public are unlikely to do so.

To cross threads, I've just finished Adam Curtis' The Century of the Self.

As a way of backing-up to get a clearer view of the past year, I found it invaluable - more later.

Adam Cutis and others have spoken about how the lying being deployed now may be of a different order to that we are perhaps used to - a case in point, the inauguration day crowd-size fiasco.

As with so much at the moment, the initial appearance of foolishly vain - silliness? - may in fact conceal a much more focussed and deliberate strategy to confuse and disorientate any opposition, to confound people with the sheer speed and scale of the deceptions that pour out of (now) government itself.

The fundamental problem of democracy which it is very difficult to avoid is that in order to get things done public opinion has to be manipulated. This is a very slippery business. I was talking to somebody a while back about the constitution of California where it is relatively easy to get a referendum set up. Isn't that more democratic? I asked. Yes, came the reply, in principle it is but as soon as a group of citizens gets such a ball rolling huge meneyed interests come in on the game with access to funds, spin and advertising etc and the whole thing can go off the rails very quickly. Difficult. Also, manipulation is a competitive game. If one side becomes more extreme, the other has to back down or up the stakes. Then in the US it is further complicated by the readiness to take everything to court.

Last Night in Sweden

So in the past day or so we have had President Trump talking about a non-existent terrorist attack in Sweden and Vice President Pence telling EU leaders that his boss does not mean what he says. Perhaps the best policy is to ignore what is said and see what they actually do.

Perhaps the best policy is to ignore what is said and see what they actually do.

Indeed - true of Trump, as of all of us to an extent, I suppose!

Said before, but I keep wondering if all this 'loose cannon' stuff is quite as unthinking as it seems.

I take both Trump and his team to be fairly savvy manipulators of (or through) mass media, whatever else they are.

Well there seem to be two different factions - the Trump believers and the traditional Republicans - and these point in quite different directions. Maybe Trump will end up as merely an entertaining front man, but you never know and the uncertainty itself is bound to have an effect. The bank HSBC report on its lower profit makes some guarded but to the point comments about all this - basically that the situation at the moment is worrying because if it goes much further in the direction of protectionism, etc, the existing system of trade, alliances and so on will not cope.

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