The debate on the fidelity achieved between reality and its representations is not exclusively new: it dates back to the beginning of reflection on human thought and its way of acquiring knowledge. But today something different is happening, and it has to do with unprecedented access to multiple levels of information through ubiquitous platforms and screens.
It is almost a paradox: we have never had so many resources to connect to the world, but it is increasingly difficult for us to differentiate reality from fiction. The truth about lies. And this communicational phenomenon has a name. Fake news.
Or fake contents, or just fake. And this phenomenon is a serious issue: according to the Trust Barometer 2018 published by the Association of Communication Directors (Dircom), more than 70% of the world’s main cities are worried about the effect that false information may have on public opinion.
Beyond the rhetoric.
Traditionally, rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, was used in order to gain the support of the public, but always on the basis of a truth that had to be disseminated. Communication was enhanced by persuasion. But this new century witnessed the emergence and growth of a new practice, the post-truth. Post-truth, as the name implies, does not pursue a pedagogy, but rather a utilitarian goal, a concrete and final effect. It appeals to emotions to achieve negative manipulation, even at the expense of truth; either pursuing political, corporate or social engineering purposes.
In the empire of the ephemeral.
The post-truth and its concrete manifestations (fake news), serve only to weaken the global information system, in a mega-exponential multiplication of what Orson Welles had already demonstrated in his radio broadcasting of the “War of the Worlds” in 1938: the power of the believable lie. In this sense, the media, the journalistic institution and even the new content platforms are the major losers in this new virtual and ephemeral world. According to the Dircom report, “we are no longer willing to believe the information we are presented, even when it comes from the closest to us.”
Tools and challenges.
Agencies, advertisers and corporations are affected by the vision of a questioned media system. In this sense, it is gaining enormous importance the regulatory-legal and ethical framework that allows working in a context of best practices and professional ethics in each link of the communication process. A true blockchain of communication is needed, that is, an accurate traceability that can generate an environment of reliability and of quality of the information and the transformation processes that modify it, since the moment the event is collected, up to its written or audiovisual representation is offered to audiences.
Our professional contribution.
For all the actors affected, the development of a positive reputation over time can also prove crucial. The expert references of each industry (including the most academic ones) are once again becoming important; they are the ones who can present an “objective” version of what is happening. And of course, the day-to-day development of a serious work ethic and professionalism turns out to be imperative. The construction of a corporate-business ethic makes us return to the classic business “mission and vision”. The definition of a fundamental purpose of our organization.
Because by the end of the day, that is the best manifestation of storytelling. Telling the world what our reason for being is, why we exist, and where we are going. Perhaps it is the most efficient way to break down the barriers of prejudice, lies and suspicion. And on this very issue, we: agencies, companies, and communication professionals, still have a lot to say and a responsibility to fulfill.