Is 2020’s chaos allowing for greater possibility of fake news?

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Let’s be honest. This year has been a pretty shambolic display of events. Back in 2012, the Maya ‘Doomsday’ Calendar prophesised we were all going to perish as God ‘re-started’ the universe. But, despite these warnings, we all lived to tell the tale. While the Afghanistan War persisted, and there was turmoil in Syria and Egypt, there was the London 2012 Olympics, successfully bringing countries together. It was a great success for the UK. It wasn’t too bad a year in the grand scheme of things. I reckon 2012, and that Maya Calendar, would be laughing if they saw us all now…

We started the year with World War 3 fears, as tensions between the US and Iran rocketed, quite literally. Then, we witnessed bushfires in Australia that wiped out more than 46 million acres of land. Don’t even get me started on Brexit, the release of the UK’s largest rape case, and then of course, Covid-19. But the fun doesn’t stop there, with claimed UFO sightings, and the murder of George Floyd kickstarting the Black Lives Matter protesting.

To put it lightly, it’s been a tad chaotic.

What will come next? Flying pigs? Killer bunnies as well as murder hornets? Perhaps a blue moon? I mean if monkeys can steal Covid-19 test samples in India, will our dogs start stealing our money?

[blockquote author=”” ]When more and more traumatic events happen, it seems more believable that other surreal things will occur[/blockquote]

I think it’s safe to say we’re all waiting for the next dramatic event to happen, as we try to keep our selves busy in our houses – trying a hand at baking, painting, sewing, or dying our hair a new colour for that ‘fresh quarantine trim’ – or letting our ‘luscious’ locks grow out like Boris Johnson’s. While we all work together, trying to make light of this year, laughing at how surreal it all feels, and how unnaturally coincidental it is that all these strange shenanigans have happened in only 6 months, we all feel the helplessness and the anxiety.

However, living in this fear is something that can be taken advantage of. When more and more traumatic events happen, it seems more believable that other surreal things will occur, giving fake news the opportunity to flourish.

Take the UFO sightings for example. Ever since 1947, when a farmer saw the debris from a “flying disk” kickstarting the UFO phenomenon, there have been doubts and questions raised about whether we share the universe with extra-terrestrial life. But why is it that the sightings seen in April 2020 are actually the ‘real thing’? What truly makes these sightings different to all those before?

In March 2020, academic David Clarke argued that the longer this phenomenon carries on the more the “mystery has ‘legend’ status like the Loch Ness Monster or King Arthur”. So, alien sightings were put down as “the creation of a modern myth”, and this was something people were happy to accept.

But this all changed in April 2020. After the release of the videos showing a flying triangle in the sky, the Pentagon said it was shown to “clear up any misconceptions” that the sightings weren’t real. Despite this only being a month apart from the phenomenon being pronounced a “myth”, people have rapidly believed these sightings to be true, and it begs the question: why? People are being quicker to accept fearful news stories, and stories that seem less realistic then before, because one more mind-blowing event happening doesn’t seem so far from reality. Even though the released video seems, to me at least, nothing more concerning than many other previous sightings, yet somehow the news presents this as the ‘real thing’.

[blockquote author=”” ]People no longer have the same control over their daily lives, and life seems unpredictable and fragile[/blockquote]

This seems to tie alongside the time when people, in the UK, were first forced to stay in their homes, while the global pandemic spun out of control. This is a time when people no longer have the same control over their daily lives, and life seems unpredictable and fragile. People live in fear. This makes them more likely to believe that there are more things outside of their control: like the possibly of extra-terrestrial life.

It has been shown in psychological studies that hardship makes people more gullible. Granted, it would take more information to make someone believe something they don’t want to believe, than something they do. But when people have been forced to accept a reality far from what they ever wished to be true, other factors that add to the surrealism of life, seem true, even if people wouldn’t have believed it when life was more normal. Therefore, even the news presenters themselves would be more likely to believe these sightings as they too also feel that one more unrealistic event happening this year would actually be realistic.

So, it begs the question: how much of what we see in the news can we believe at the moment? How can we be sure that things like UFO sightings just seem more believable because we no longer have the same control of our lives, so things outside of our control seem more real?

What I’m asking is, while all this strangely real drama goes on, how much of it is actually real? How do we know that fake news isn’t just having a field day, and playing on our doubts and fears, while we are all uncertain?

I’ll leave you with that thought, because, for all you know, I could be writing utter nonsense as well.

That’s for you to decide.

Image: Stuart Rankin via Flickr

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