Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


The creators of fake news are winning

  • 30 July 2019


The phrase 'fake news' is now part of the political lexicon, so commonly used as to have become almost meaningless. There is nothing new, of course, about fake news, it is as old as propaganda itself. But the business of creating fake news is now on a scale that is very new. The media is now completely outgunned by a massive industry of fakery whose role is to create lies that shape public perception.

Consider some relativities. There are about 30,000 newspaper journalists in America and about half that number in Britain, where numbers have declined by over a quarter in ten years. By comparison, the Pentagon reportedly employs more than 27,000 PR specialists, with a budget of nearly $US5 billion a year, whose job is to manipulate the media and circulate 'targeted manipulations'. This provides a glimpse of just how large fake news production is.

The Pentagon's army of spin doctors greatly exceeds the staff of the three global news agencies: American Associated Press, Agence-France Presse and Thomson Reuters. They employ only about 11,000 journalists, yet are the main sources of international information and images for newspapers and television news programs. They have virtually no investigative operations, and are deeply influenced by and dependent on what is fed to them by those in the business of creating fake news.

The CIA is also a big player. Nick Davies, in his book Flat Earth News, says that the CIA is so influential it has become like a fourth news agency. With the assistance of Cardiff university researchers he found that, in the newsrooms he studied, only 12 per cent of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. Four fifths of the stories were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry.

Those ratios may be questioned to some extent, but what is not in dispute is that most of what people see and read in newspapers and television is brought to them by the fake news industry. News organisations rarely can afford foreign bureaus, so intelligence and military organisations are easily able to shape international news to their ends, turning it into little more than propaganda. We've seen this at play in the recent evidence-free anti-Russia nonsense, or, previously, the false claims that led to the war in Iraq and the subsequent anti-Islam frenzy.

The far greater fake news push however comes from