All the Fake News That Was Fit to Print
In 1920, The Dearborn Independent, a newspaper owned by the industrialist Henry Ford, published a series of articles about a global Jewish conspiracy based on the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” a forged document with origins in czarist Russia. Dozens of other newspapers published the forgery as news.
1920年，实业家亨利·福特(Henry Ford)拥有的《德宝独立报》(The Dearborn Independent)刊发了一系列关于犹太人的全球阴谋的文章，其依据是《锡安长老会纪要》(Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion)，一份源自沙皇俄国的伪造文献。其他数十家媒体也纷纷把这份假文献当成真新闻来报道。
In 1924, four days before a general election, The Daily Mail in Britain published the fake “Zinoviev letter,” a supposed directive from Moscow to British Communists to mobilize “sympathetic forces” in the Labour Party; Labour lost the election by a landslide.
1924年，在大选日还有四天就要来临的时候，英国《每日邮报》(The Daily Mail)刊发了伪造的“季诺维也夫信件”(Zinoviev letter)，信中宣称莫斯科方面向英国共产党(British Communists)下达了指令，让其动员工党(Labour Party)中“持同情立场的力量”；工党在选举中大败。
In the 1960s, the F.B.I. under J. Edgar Hoover orchestrated a smear campaign against the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Besides planting stories in the press, the F.B.I. forged a letter threatening to expose him as a degenerate and seemingly proposing his suicide.
上世纪60年代，J·埃德加·胡佛(J. Edgar Hoover)领导的联邦调查局(FBI)策划了一场旨在抹黑牧师小马丁·路德·金博士(Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)的行动。除了在媒体上发布文章，联邦调查局还伪造了一封信，在信中扬言要揭露他生活堕落的真相，似乎还建议他自杀。
In 1987, 96 soccer fans, supporters of Liverpool Football Club, died at Hillsborough football ground, in Sheffield, England, crushed to death after being forced into overcrowded caged “pens.” British newspapers, fed lies by the police, wrote that drunken fans were responsible for the disaster.
1987年，96名支持利物浦足球俱乐部(Liverpool Football Club)的球迷，在英国谢菲尔德市的希尔斯堡体育场(Hillsborough)丧生，他们在被迫进入过度拥挤的笼状“围栏”后，死于踩踏事故。英国的报纸听信警方的谎言，发消息称醉酒的球迷对这场灾难负有责任。
In 2003, in the run-up to the Iraq war, articles about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction filled newspaper pages across the world.
Lies masquerading as news are as old as news itself. It’s a history we should keep in mind amid the current panic about “fake news.” Donald J. Trump’s victory in the presidential election has focused attention on the torrent of false stories, particularly on social media, that many believe played a pivotal role in his victory. But too much of the debate ignores the long history of fake news and fails to recognize what is actually distinctive about contemporary politics.
自从有新闻那天起，就有伪装成新闻的谎言。在“假新闻”正引发恐慌之际，我们要把这段历史铭记于心。唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)的胜选，让假新闻狂潮——尤其是社交媒体上的假新闻狂潮备受关注，很多人都把这股狂潮视为特朗普获胜的关键助力。不过，有太多讨论忽略了假新闻的悠久历史，也没意识到当代政治真正的特别之处。
In the past, governments, mainstream institutions and newspapers manipulated news and information. Today, anyone with a Facebook account can do it. Instead of the carefully organized fake news of old, there is now an anarchic outflow of lies. What has changed is not that news is faked, but that the old gatekeepers of news have lost their power. Just as elite institutions have lost their grip over the electorate, so their ability to define what is and is not news has also eroded.
The panic about fake news has given fuel to the idea that we live in a “post-truth” era. The Oxford English Dictionary has even made post-truth its “word of the year,” defining it as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” But just as with fake news, the truth, if I may still use that word, about post-truth is more complex than many allow.
对假新闻的恐慌让人愈发相信，我们生活在“后真相”(post-truth)时代。《牛津英语词典》(The Oxford English Dictionary)已经把后真相选为“年度词汇”，并将其定义为“诉诸情感及个人信念，较陈述客观事实更能影响舆论的情况”。不过，与假新闻的情况相仿，关于后真相的真相——要是仍然用这个词的话——比许多人所声称的都要复杂。
Politics has always relied on more than just facts about the world. It rests also an ideological framework through which to interpret facts. Consider some of the big questions that may dominate the early Trump presidency. Should there be a registry of Muslims? Should undocumented workers be deported? Is torture acceptable? Should abortion be made illegal?
I oppose any registry of Muslims, reject torture, condemn mass deportations and support abortion rights. I do so not simply because of empirical facts but because there are certain political and philosophical beliefs I hold that run deeper than facts; beliefs about rights, values and what it is to be human. If the facts showed that torture worked, I would still oppose it. The fact that medical advances have made it possible for a premature fetus to survive outside the womb at a younger age does not change my view of abortion.
This does not mean that I am driven more by emotion that by fact. It means rather that, when it comes to politics, facts make sense only within an ideological framework.
In the past, those frameworks were constructed largely out of the political divide between left and right. Each provided a different ideological lens through which to look at the world, interpret the same facts differently and come to different conclusions about policy.
Today, those political frameworks have fragmented and are shaped more by identity than by ideology. The key fault line today is not between left and right but between those who welcome a more globalized, technocratic world, and those who feel left out, dispossessed and voiceless.
Mr. Trump’s supporters and his liberal critics fall on different sides of this new divide. Many Trump supporters see their economic precariousness and political voicelessness as a result of globalization and immigration. Many liberals see such voters as “deplorables.” Both sides interpret facts and news through their own particular political and cultural frames.
All this has led to anguished discussions about people living in echo chambers, sealed-off social worlds in which the only views they hear are ones echoing their own, and about the role of social media in creating such worlds. Studies suggest that such fears are exaggerated; that, for instance, Facebook users do have access to contrary views.
More important, social media have not created a fragmented world. They merely reflect and amplify one that already exists, a world in which the authority of traditional institutions has eroded, in which old vehicles of political change have disappeared and in which there is often a welling of anger without a conventional political outlet.
If the problem of fake news is more complex than is commonly suggested, the solutions offered are often worse than the problem itself. There are demands that Facebook should censor feeds and weed out fake stories, and for the law to come down hard on those who promote lies. But who should decide what is fake and what isn’t?
Do we really want Mark Zuckerberg, or the United States government, to determine what constitutes truth? Do we really want to go back to the days when the only fake news was “official” fake news?
Fake news is a problem. But we should not exaggerate its newness, misunderstand its cause or promote cures worse than the disease.