BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
Well Fake News is certainly making the, erm, news lately, isn’t it?
In an extraordinary press conference last week (a conference which, if nothing else, showed that the next four years will certainly not be devoid of amusement), US President Elect Donald Trump didn’t just level the charge at Buzzfeed (I don’t know them either), he also called into question the veracity of the output of such firmly established and (allegedly) respected organisations as CNN and the BBC. In doing so he elevated the Fake News term, lifting it out of its natural habitat, Twitter.
Shorn of its hashtag, Fake News was stolen away from those gladiatorial heroes who each day strap on their armour and venture bravely into the cyber arena in defence of offended sensibilities. It went viral, only this time it did so in the real world.
By coincidence, a Facebook ‘reminder’ popped up on my page this morning, letting me know what I had been ranting about four years ago. Funnily enough, it was tenuously relevant to the whole fake news thing. My long-forgotten internet moan had been all about shoddy reporting – the BBC’s evident indifference to factual accuracy.
It seems I had been watching a story on the Six O’clock News about the success of our motor industry exports. By way of illustration, their footage showed row upon row of bright, shiny new cars lined up along a dockside. Infiniti cars. Though Nissan’s roaring Sunderland facility is now producing these fine automobiles, at the time Infiniti cars were made in either Japan or the USA. The cars on the docks were imports.
The Beeb had also been telling us about a helicopter crash in London. The unfortunate machine, we were advised, was an ‘Augusta’. There is, to my knowledge, no such thing. The aircraft in question was manufactured by Agusta Westland; Augusta, I am led to believe, is a golf course.
Another reporter mentioned the iconic MI-5 building at Vauxhall Cross – even the Bond films get that one right. By the time someone informed us that the Boeing 787 has batteries ‘made out of lithium irons’ I was ready to put a brick through the screen.
The BBC, one would have thought, should be something of a beacon of journalistic excellence. Yet we are frequently treated to such delights as “restauranteur” or “indicktment”, and the last person I heard using the word ‘myriad’ correctly was an American guest on Newsnight.
At this point readers might begin, understandably, to question my motives here. Sour grapes? Pedantry?
The answers, I readily admit, are unequivocally yes and yes. I wouldn’t mind getting paid a fraction of what BBC journalists make (are you reading, Mr Editor?), and if I were paid as much as that, I’d be a bit more careful not to make an arse of myself in the process.
With regards to being pedantic, it doesn’t really matter if a story about RAF Typhoons over the English Channel is accompanied with footage of Dassault Rafales of the French Armee de l’air, does it? I mean, they look superficially similar and they are often both painted grey.
Of course, none of this could really be considered Fake News, but it opens them right up to allegations of inaccuracy. After all, if they consistently get the small things wrong, who is to say they can be trusted with important stuff. Stuff like, ooh, I don’t know… What about Global Warming? Or Brexit? Or even the American Elections?
NOTE: And so I hand this piece to Mr Editor, understanding he will commit it to the internet, where it will be subject to the exacting scrutiny of those far more grammatically adept than I.
Let the abuse begin!
Matthew Corrigan is a Country Squire Guest Writer and a superb author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here