Everywhere one goes on the Internet, one seems to be barraged with articles talking about “fake news.” Indeed, as Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times has noted, fake news has “gone viral.” Since the campaign, and subsequent election, of Donald Trump, Google search results for “fake news” have spiked and everyday a new article is being written on how to spot “fake news” or how the Russians used “fake news” to influence the presidential election or how “fake news” is killing democracy. But I want to ask, what makes news real or “fake?”
Update 1/31/17: As the Google analytics map above is dynamic, it will eventually become out of date as this post becomes older and older.
The New York Times recently reported Russian buildup of unconventional weapons: inflatables. Specifically, the Times notes that following increased tensions between the United States and Russia over Syria, the Russian army has been buying and moving inflatable weapons systems — tanks, anti-aircraft guns, MiGs, etc. — to make their military seem stronger than it really is (a tactic called maskirovka).1)Andrew Kramer, “A New Weapon in Russia’s Arsenal, and It’s Inflatable,” New York Times, published 10/12/16, accessed 10/13/16, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/13/world/europe/russia-decoy-weapon.html?%5C%5C&_r=1.
This move is obviously interesting on a number of different levels; is the Russian military weakening? Are nuclear weapons less of a deterrent than they used to be? And so on. The question I want to examine, however, is a starkly different one. The tanks, MiGs, and anti-air guns are obviously ‘fake,’ but does that really matter? Further, as we live in a world filled with simulacra, is there any legitimate difference between a MiG made of aluminium and jet fuel and one made of canvas and hot air? I’m not convinced that there is.
In the world today, Obama’s a jester and Putin’s the king who’s grasp in Eurasia is unchallenged. In fact, one could even say Putin’s favorite hobby (apart from kicking ass in Judo) is making the Obama administration the laughing stock of the international community.
On February 28th, Obama issued one of his usual empty threats towards Russia saying “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine”…the next day, Russia annexed Crimea. (x) Everything the West does in an attempt to contain Russia is met with Putin laughing in the faces of NATO leaders and doing the opposite. Arms buildups. Weapons Transfers. You name it.
To be honest, I was really dreading a whole big fight over this thing. When you first condemned the seizure of Crimea as patently illegal and in breach of the Ukrainian constitution—which it absolutely was, by the way—I feared for the worst. But then everybody stopped short of doing anything to actually prevent what was essentially a state-sponsored landgrab, and I just thought, “Wow, these guys are a pretty laid-back and easygoing bunch!” It really was a huge load off when you let everything slide like that.
But all kidding aside, it’s clear that if Russia really is the enemy and needs to be stopped, empty threats from Obama and NATO leaders or faux pivot attempts with no tangible backing are not the way to deter further aggression. A new strategy is needed.