❝ It is an odd quirk in the history of logic that the blameless Cretans should have given their name to the famous “liar paradox.” The Cretan Epimenides is supposed to have said: “All Cretans are liars.” If Epimenides was lying, he was telling the truth – and thus was lying.
❝ Something similar can be said of US President Donald Trump: Even when he’s telling the truth, many assume he is lying – and thus being true to himself. His trolling is notorious. For years, he claimed, with no evidence other than unnamed sources that he called “extremely credible,” that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent. During the Republican primary, he linked his opponent Senator Ted Cruz’s father to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He has promoted the quack idea that vaccines cause autism, and has masterfully deployed the suggestio falsi – for example, his insinuation that climate change is a Chinese hoax designed to cripple the American economy.
❝ There has always been a thriving market for fake information, forgeries, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories. “History is a distillation of rumor,” wrote Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century…Modern history provides us with some famous examples. The Zinoviev letter, a forgery implicating Britain’s Labour Party in Kremlin-led Communist sedition, was published by the Daily Mail four days before the United Kingdom’s general election in 1924, dashing Labour’s chances.
Perhaps the most famous such forgery was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Possibly manufactured for money, The Protocols purported to be evidence of a Jewish plan for world domination…it became the foundation of the anti-Semitic literature of the first half of the twentieth century, with horrendous consequences.
❝ So what is new? The attention being paid to fake information today arises from the hugely expanded speed with which digitally manufactured information travels around the world. In the past, one had to be able to hoodwink more or less reputable news outlets to plant fake stories. Now misinformation can go viral through social media, like a modern Black Death.
The important question is how this will affect democracy. Will the unprecedented ease of access to information liberate people from thought control, or will it strengthen it to such an extent that democracy simply drowns in a sea of manipulation?
Skidelky has no conclusive answer, RTFA for his analysis – and warning.