It’s a bad time for media, but we in Tanzania have a natural immunity to fake news

Thursday November 16 2017

fake news

Fake News is here for real. Discerning between fact and propaganda is best left to professional newsrooms, activists and connected chinwags at the local bar. 

By ELSIE EYAKUZE
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When all is said and done, Donald Trump will be remembered by the journalistic community for his embrace and promotion of the idea of Fake News.

I commend him, since as the saying goes: If you can’t be an example, at least be a cautionary tale. There are many ways to scratch your name onto the wall of remembered human history, after all.

He’s right; though; Fake News is here for real. With every passing week we get to learn more and more about how the Russian trickster brigade has been manipulating the thoughts and minds of people in the Western hemisphere.

You all know how the social sciences have always been looked down upon in our societies because everybody thinks that their kid should be a doctor/lawyer/engineer? Haha, losers. Enjoy the dark triumph of sociology and psychology: using technology as a tool of social engineering.

There was a time when facts were facts; remember that mathematics mostly works on that principle as does physics and, thank goodness because air travel, clean water in urban areas and a whole bunch of things we need to get through the day these days depend on that formula.

The only thing that has ever been a matter of opinion is what one does with fact. As an opinion writer, let me openly support this perspective: Facts are facts and opinions are what we want to do about them, and in no way are the two interchangeable.

So as we have been lamenting the demise of traditional media and the rise of social media, let me just point out to the way we have all contributed to this mess. It is all wrapped up in our online consuming styles?

A smug older person who thinks that Facebook is a wonderful way to spread the gospel of their religion (especially by denigrating other religions) is part of the problem. A health nut who doesn’t know that gluten is an allergen for people suffering from celiac disease and so encourages their circle to cut carbs from their diet? Part of the problem.

A nationalistic brigade with a hashtag online that prides itself on bullying anyone and everyone who ever says anything about their African country that they don’t like? Part of the problem.

But mostly, anytime we consumers believe anything that isn’t offered by a professional outfit and triangulated with at least three or four other professional outfits, deserve to reap the rewards of our idiocy.

Here’s the thing: We still have a natural immunity to fake news in East Africa, certainly in Tanzania. Yes, yes, it is a terrible time for media what with the heavy-handed government censoring et cetera. But the lack of centralisation of news has served us well, and on top of that we are a gossiping society.

With little or no access to the stupidities of online trolling because English isn’t, and may it never be, our first language. Ah, the sweet advantages of leapfrogging – when you get left behind sometimes it is exactly the right place to be.

So I look at these problems of 2017 fake news with a wry smile. Let Americans do themselves in, they’ve already got Trump and lord knows that anyone who believes him needs to see a guru or a shrink.

We should just push back on that term getting thrown around locally. We know better: There is fact, then there is propaganda. Discerning the difference between the two is best left to our professional newsrooms, knowledgeable activists, superbly connected chinwags at the local bars, and the ever dependable grapevine.

The trick is not to be an actual Member of Parliament or government employee if you need to tell things as they are.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]