FAKE NEWS. We’re not only comfortable with the concept, some of us even crave it; don’t feel right without a constant stream of cues and facts - even though we suspect they’re a crock - to ‘inform’ us.
Need proof? Okay, try to have a conversation with a millennial. You could be explaining the meaning of life, but lose eye contact for a nano-second (or less) and you can forget it. Because Ol’ Gen-Why will have grabbed his or her phone and will be three thumb scrolls into a Stalkbook feed from Nobody Inc. And right there, you’ve lost them and social media’s dubious lure has won.
Which, makes us all think that the whole fake news thing is a creation of the internet and virtual world. Nope, it’s been going on for decades. For as long as mass media has been around, in fact. And just to prove that I haven’t completely fuddied my duddies, I would like to name and shame a handful of other sources of misinformation, diversionary techniques and good old porkies.
I’ll start with lifestyle television shows. Aside from attempting to convince you that your life is a hollow sham if your backyard isn’t a perfectly manicured Garden of Eden, these televisual retirement homes for pensioned-off sports-folk and shouty, couldn’t-hack-itin-the-real-world tradies, also paint a deluded picture. I ran into a proper landscape gardener at a backyard barbie a few weeks back who professed a dark desire to kill the next person he saw on TV, hollering into a camera mic that an entire backyard makeover could be achieved in six hours. “Do you know what that does to our chances when we present a real quote for a real job?” asked my new landscaper mate.
What’s this got to do with automotive mis-information, I hear you ask? Well, other than wasting an hour of airtime that could be better used showing cars being driven enterprisingly, not a whole lot, but it’s still part of modern crap-dusting.
Now, let’s talk old-school brochures. I found a beauty for the EH Holden, with a tag line that read, “Real excitement... every time you take the wheel”. It was true in a way, provided you accept the classical definition of excitement which includes the heightened emotional state brought about by the knowledge that you’re about to die. Seriously, if the cross-plies didn’t get you, the drum brakes would. The medium might have been ancient, but the twisted truth was as modern as tomorrow’s weight-loss website.
It was just as irrelevant, too. Contemporary EH buyers who would have been much happier knowing the real truth; that there were 38 places on an EH where you could open a long-neck. If Bottle-O Racing was serious, they’d have had Frosty (now Lee Holdsworth) in a Supercar with a flop-moulded EH body.
And how about those fuel-consumption stickers on all new cars? The one on a Y62 Nissan Patrol suggests a combined consumption figure of 14.4L/100km. Having attempted unsuccessfully to drive one of these past a servo a couple of years back, I would beg to differ. And I know they’re only good for a comparison, but my brother-in-law, an otherwise intelligent chap (his relationship with my sister aside) was all bottom lip when his new car couldn’t match the sticker.
But none of this can compete with social media for bald-facedness. And where there’s a bullcrap dissemination machine, a government of some sort won’t be far away. Whether it’s wire-rope barriers, safety cameras, speed kills, insurance companies pretending to be roadsafety experts, any number of other statistical manipulations, PR snowjobs or just good old-fashioned bullshit, our elected representatives have made fake news an industry. No wonder they’re all clamouring for a cyberspace mountain top somewhere on the social-media spectrum to spread their latest mis-message. Know your market.