Whenever I come across what looks like ‘fake news’, the thought that crosses my mind is that the fakers must be bored, lonely people with time on their hands, and desperate for something to do.
Or, they are people so full of anger, or bitterness, or political malice that they invent the most bizarre narratives and circulate it as ‘news’. Evidently the disinformation is meant to cause maximum, disaffection for their opponents.
But it could also be simply a matter of sick minds.
They are doubtless proud of their lying expertise. And with social media at their command, what can’t they do? Their malicious messages go viral in seconds, and even if denials are issued, sometimes the poison still lingers.
Thus ‘fake news’ is no news and should never be tolerated.
Last week, the destructive phenomenon made waves again on the political front. On July 7 a voice in a video, allegedly that of a stalwart of the ruling New Patriotic Party, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, was heard roundly condemning Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and Finance Minister Mr Ken Ofori-Atta for poor handling of the economy.
Supposedly taped at an NPP meeting, its heading was “Leaked Tape: Akoto-Osei Blasts Bawumiah and Ofori-Atta on NPP WhatsApp Platform”.
Among other things, the voice in the video, apparently sourced from “@NDCnet states: “We’re going to go (into) opposition! So brace yourselves and stop lying to your selves!
“Ofori-Atta has not done a good job. The head of the Economic Management Team, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, is also as worse (sic) as Ofori-Atta!
“Ofori-Atta and Bawumia are as worse (sic) as each other! We have mismanaged our economy. We said the same thing about the NDC; we have done same. We have disappointed Ghanaians.” And, “We make Mahama look like a saint!”
Not surprisingly, swift reactions came in support of Dr Akoto Osei:
(1) “If you listen carefully and you know the man Akoto Osei, you will not subscribe to this diatribe, and wise up and not be hoodwinked.”
(2) “This is not Akoto. I know him very well and that is not the way he talks. He also stammers. It’s just a smear campaign against him.”
(3) A third stated: “I don’t believe that is Akoto Osei because he’s been very ill and mostly confined to intensive care for several months now.
Although it sounds like him, he definitely hasn’t got the vitality now to speak in such a firm voice; it’s not him. “
(4) Another was equally definite: “It’s just propaganda.”
(5) A fifth was just as certain: “Must be fake. Why would Akoto Osei say ‘as worse as’?”
Dr Akoto Osei himself immediately issued a vehement rebuttal:
“I wish to categorically deny making these unfounded statements either in an interview or in an engagement with anybody.
“The voice in the leaked tape is emphatically not mine. Neither do I subscribe to the alleged comments …I demand a retraction and apology from Ghanaweb.”
Signed: “HON. DR. ANTHONY AKOTO OSEI
PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR ON THE ECONOMY.”
Regrettably, no matter how absurd such fabrications are, and despite strenuous repudiation, inevitably some of the mud sticks. And, of course that is the obvious, sadistic objective.
In another example, some weeks ago, a document surfaced online about former President Nkrumah and former Prime Minister Dr Busia.
The post claimed it was a letter written by Dr Kwame Nkrumah to Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia shortly after Busia’s overthrow.
Under the heading, “A LETTER FROM OSAGYEFO TO DR KOFI ABREFA BUSIA”, it began thus: “My Dear Kofi:
“I have just heard on the air that your government which came to power barely three years ago has been toppled by the Ghana Army. It is rather significant that most of the evils of which my government and I were accused and which were the main reasons for the overthrow of my administration were apparently the same reasons that motivated the army takeover of your regime.”
But “the letter” was dismissed outright by a well-informed source, Mr Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a “Pan-Africanist who studied at the feet of June Milne, the Literary Executrix of Dr Nkrumah’s will”. The following was his comment:
“This is fake. Moreover, Dr Nkrumah, by 13 January, 1972 (when the Busia government was overthrown), was in quite poor health and was dying.”
One harrowing aspect of fake ‘news’ is that in some cases, people are not only deceived, they even offer their own, seemingly authoritative interpretation, or linkages to other events.
Earlier this year a video was circulated purporting to portray a ‘black’ woman being subjected to the most dehumanising treatment by some whites. It showed a crowd gathered and watching a ‘black’ woman crouched on the ground, being urinated upon, in succession, by two white men and then a white woman!
Unfortunately, there was no caption to explain the highly disturbing scene.
Not surprisingly, the video generated some extremely horrified, indignant reactions, as well as this instant interpretation by someone who claimed that it depicted “a group of French citizens caught on camera urinating on a Malian citizen in her village ….
“Imagine those …. atrocities being committed against Malians in Mali by the government of France in this day and age, kai!! Africa don suffer!!,” he wrote.
However, the reality, what the video was about, was astonishingly different. In fact, it wasn’t even an incident in Africa! Neither was it about the French, or Mali or French and Malians! The ‘black’ woman was a Caucasian artist who had painted herself black!
It was an artistic performance, Piedra, being staged by Regina José Galindo, a famous Guatemalan performance artist “who specialises in body art” doing a show in Brazil! (“Performance art is an artwork created through actions executed by the artist or other participants.”)
THIS IS HOW ONE COMMENTATOR EXPLAINS THE AIM OF GALINDO’S PERFORMANCE: “Piedra's simple yet poignant actions capture both a local and global crisis: the detrimental effects of coal mining on the environment, the predicament of exploited female labourers, and the pervasive structural violence against women that economic exploitation perpetuates.”
Yet, somebody was misled to interpret, without a shred of evidence, a Brazil staging as a racist incident in Mali!
It has always been my belief that conflicts are usually generated by a misunderstanding or misleading information. Now I’m beginning to think that if there should be a third world war – touch wood! - it could easily be because of a fake ‘news’ report – with social media as the vehicle.