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Hoax, Cry Wolf, Fake News Damage

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 22, 2016 in News & Opinion |

In Aesop’s fairy tale, a young shepherd boy found it amusing to alert local villagers with the claim that his flock of sheep was being attacked by a wolf. The villagers, out of concern for their own livelihoods as much as anything else, would immediately come out to his defense, to drive the wolf away, protecting his flock and their own from attack. There was, however, no wolf, just a series of false alarms which, after a while, annoyed the villagers. Eventually the shepherd boy called them out when his flock was really being attacked by a wolf, and they did not believe him. No one came to his assistance.

Imagine what it would be like if the fire service reacted in this way. Ten false alarms in your area over a day or two, and they do not react to the eleventh. Or the police, the ambulance service and countless others who are constantly being called out with false alarms, wasting their time for no good reason other than the childish prank, or malicious intent, of one person. That any community, be it a Muslim one or otherwise, should be worried by such Cry Wolf actions, by false alarms and fake stories is understandable. They hit the news just as hard as any other story at the moment, but with the downside that, very quickly, someone finds out they are false and the story gets twisted. No one is going to believe that a small boy died in the arms of Santa this coming year, even if it does happen. Likewise, fewer and fewer people are going to believe that Muslims are being attacked, when the revelation of one or two faked attacks precedes them.

Muslim Hoax Fear

Screenshot Source: Twitter / ABC News

We can look on it at a much larger scale: would anyone believe the government ans the CIA if they claimed that a certain dictator had weapons of mass destruction following the lies surrounding the Gulf war? Admittedly the scale is completely different, but it runs from the same idea. Someone cries wolf too many times, and no one comes out when it is real. We’re not in Hollywood here, where a young woman can tell everyone there is a problem with the plane, they disbelieve her and she has to save the world on her own. These fake stories lead the way for real criminals to escape justice, for people to be assaulted and abused without any chance of help. And that cannot be right.

Whether an individual person, or a news organization, those who spread fake news, who fuel the fires which lead to us not reacting when the time comes, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They should not have the option of hiding behind the First Amendment when it comes to putting lives in danger, but be forced to stand up to the responsibilities surrounding their actions.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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