So, aside from the celebrity deaths, the big news last year was about fake news.

It was all over the place, in our newspapers, on the TV, on the radio, in the mouths of our politicians and media pundits: everywhere.

The principle claim came from a group calling itself PropOrNot (“propaganda or not”) which published a list of websites it said routinely relied on Russian propaganda.

The report was taken up and repeated by all of the main news outlets.

Unfortunately for them PropOrNot is itself a purveyor of fake news. Not Russian propaganda: American propaganda.

Included amongst the websites it listed as fake news sites were Wikileaks, Truthdig and Antiwar.com.

None of these are fake news sites. They are sites critical of US foreign policy, which is an entirely different thing.

It’s a measure of the triumph of propaganda when all opposition becomes labelled as propaganda.

And, let’s be clear: pretty well all news outlets these days, including those you would normally consider reliable, are infected by the fake news virus.

To take one example: as the Syrian Army was fighting its way into Aleppo in December last year, there was a news report about a massacre that had taken place.

I’m sure you remember it. The figure was very precise: 82 civilians shot. It was all over the media, in the left as well as the right wing press, on the BBC as well as CNN.

Here is an example of one of the headlines, from the Independent: “Pro-government forces slaughter at least 82 civilians while closing in on Syrian city, UN says”.

Trouble is, the UN didn’t say that. What the UN said was that it had received a report about a massacre.

Reporting the report of a report isn’t news, it’s Chinese whispers. It was uncorroborated at the time and, in fact, has never been corroborated.

It is a prime example of what, had it been reported on an opposition website, would have been described as “fake news”.

Instead, it was reported as real news at the time, and then quietly forgotten about when it turned out not to be true.

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From The Whitstable Gazette, 19/01/2017

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