SPECIAL presidential assistant Bong Go, testifying last Feb. 19 before the Senate committee, dramatized the erroneous concept of “fake news.”
“Fake news,” a.k.a. “false news” is fabricated content, something concocted, a piece of fiction, falsehood wrapped in some shred of fact.
Go said Rappler, the digital news site, and Inquirer, the print broadsheet, reported his alleged intervention in the choice of systems for the navy’s frigates -- and, he stressed, they were fake news.
His major complaint was that it was made an issue only because of the two media outlets’ report. Rappler and Inquirer based their story on a “white paper” that Go sent to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Was it fake news? Go thinks it was. Maybe, the report led to a wrong conclusion, the “intervention” wasn’t actually one, but editors of the two media groups thought there was enough basis for a story.
It was, by most definitions, not fake news. Bong Go just didn’t like the bad news, the focus on the potential corruption. It was a complaint that many presidents and other public officials before also made. Remember Erap Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino public railed against media focusing on bad things and ignoring or obscuring their achievements?
Misuse of term
Go was different only that he’s not the president (he just manages to get into most of President Duterte’s photos) though he must think he almost has the influence of one. And this: he uses the faddish, but erroneous, term: fake news.
What Rappler and Inquirer produced was far from being fake news. It was based on verified facts. Go didn’t deny he endorsed a specific brand. He just denied it was meddling; he said he just did what he routinely would do, refer comments and complaints to the right office or agency.
Go cited “another example” of fake news: the story that the AFP, DND chiefs assured Robredo that the armed forces wouldn’t support a revolutionary government.
Based on the summary of the briefing the two officials gave Vice President Leni Robredo, the story didn’t come from thin air. The event happened, the words were said. If there was any inaccuracy, it could’ve been quickly corrected by the quoted sources.
But Go branded it as fake news, another distortion of meaning.
Apparently, Go’s complaints against media may be summed up thus:
Carrying bad news, stories that cast unfavorable light on Duterte and his administration or pit public officials against one another;
Highlighting the damage on reputation. He complained against he headline, daring Rappler and Inquirer to carry this story title the next day: “Bongo innocent and did not intervene.”
Go is no different from many other public officials who don’t understand what media’s job is: as watchdog of government, which more often than not, makes it a purveyor of bad news.
Go as SPA is reputed to be a whiz on anticipating and filling the president’s every need. Clearly, he wouldn’t be as efficient, however, in lecturing Rappler and Inquirer on how to do their job better.
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2 major reasons ‘fake news’ must be clearly defined
1. Errors or lapses in reporting and editing, which despite diligence and good faith can still occur even in the most reputable media, may be confused as fake news. Bong Go did so in the Senate, on national television.
2. Public officials may use the charge of “fake news” to respond to any story they don’t like or any accusation they don’t want to explain in public. Trump and his surrogates frequently do so.