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Media does not tell the reality


Disinformation has always existed, internet just reveals it (We are all fake by Bonsky)

About how media magnifies the news and therefore reality… take one article at random subsequently to the year 1998. Something has changed in the news: there is more gossip (as a source) and nothing really to talk about. But misinformation didn’t begin with the poor internet that everyone blames…

Take one article at random subsequently to the year 1998. In 2016 for example Corriere della Sera (well-know Italian newspaper) headlined like this:

The mugging and then the beatings to the young mother: the most hated man in Sweden arrested thanks to a video

But as soon as I read the article and see the video, it seems to me that they are still telling the same story: a title that captures by falsehood and hyperbole for an almost non-existent value of the news. (Many articles have come out on the matter, with even worse headlines: “Fists and spits to a mother after mugging“, “Why this video makes Europe tremble“…)

Here is what the journalist writes: “He pulls his woolen hat down over his forehead and stands beside an old woman who is going up the stairs of the subway. He tries to tear the bag from her, but something unexpected happens: a young mother with two children gets in the way, screams, tries to push the mugger away. He then jumps on her: a push, two fists, the girl picks up one of the children and tries to escape. The man comes back and spits them in the face”.

And here is what I saw (pointing out that in the video the faces are all obscured except one, and you can’t hear any audio): a man gets out of the metro station settling his hat like anyone else would, at the last moment he seems to notice something and starts to get behind a person, perhaps a lady who at that moment is opening her bag to take her cell phone. At that point he seems to be intending to take it or take something from that bag, but he can’t because another lady, perhaps younger and with two children, who is coming from the opposite side, dissuades him with one arm and probably words. The man reacts one first time instinctively, rejecting her, then he hits her in the face, she loses her balance and starts to fall down the stairs, but manages to keep herself. The woman does not run away, but rather tries to protect the children, when he suddenly starts to turn back, but fortunately surpassing her only, and perhaps spitting at her, while returning inside the metro station.

Less appealing? Likely. On the one hand there is almost an excited thriller (I would almost like to buy the book, to know how the movie ends), on the other there is a simple chronicle that at least tries to be objective (even if we know that it is impossible).

The fact is that articles like these have the power to transform the near-irrelevance of a fact into a state matter, (or even a continent matter), and the social warning into blind and generalized hatred.

News that were not. Why certain stories are too good to be true (2015) by Luca Sofri is a book “dedicated to the stories and mechanisms with which the newspapers publish false, invented, unverified news, telling a kind of parallel reality made up of unconscious and dangerous alarms, ridiculous quirks or false ritual news…”

And this is how an attempted snatching becomes a snatch, a push and (maybe) a spit become one push and two fists and a criminal becomes the monster.

Or better, “the one most hated in Sweden”: perhaps a little exaggerated? And why do not make it about a positive way, just for one time, defining her “the bravest mom“…? Before this subject (whose name we don’t even know), in the 90s, Jackie Arklof was the most hated by antonomasia, but he was also a neo-Nazi, called, alternatively, the “Charles Manson of Sweden“.

According to Luca Sofri, “moreover director” of the Italian newspaper Il Post, “we come from times when we used to think that what media told us was reality. This was never really true, but the more limited information spaces allowed us to have the delusion that it was like that. The world has shrunk, and the self-absolving legend that internet would be responsible for a worsening of the accuracy of the information must be denied: internet has rather destroyed its oligopoly and allowed us to realize that in many cases under the story of the world that we receive there is nothing. Information has probably not become less accurate, it’s just that we didn’t notice it before. I therefore believe that we will have to get used to the idea that the good one is a lacking and partial service. We must learn to get by, moving with suspicion” (something different from paranoia, anyway) “and knowing that we will have to do it ourselves, if we want to understand what is true and what is false in a world where there is a lot of fake, well printed. Funny”.

Sociology is also studying the phenomenon. Recently Antonia Cava and Francesco Pira, sociologists of Communication, have published Social Gossip – From the courtyard chat to the web gossip (Aracne Edition) in which they explain that “the way of doing journalism has undergone many mutations over time“. Today what dominates on TV, print and especially on the web is the so-called gossip press: “a sort of ‘barbaradursization‘” of the reports, often crime beat, like the murder in Avetrana (south Italy), in which drama is born just from gossip”. Barbara D’Urso is in fact a well-known italian TV host that tends to foment rumours around news. In an interview on Il Resto del Carlino newspaper, they explain: “there is a historical moment that has been a sort of watershed between before and after, the Lewinski sexgate. After this, rumors have often become the source of the news, everything is written and the opposite of everything. In the United States journalists are paid taking into account the number of likes their articles get on social media”. We have examples displayed in front of us every day. The last one? “Giorgia Meloni’s pregnancy, become the real news of the three days of Family Day…”. Too bad that she fights to mantain the “natural family” (that doesn’t exist) while she is having a baby out of the marriage (Meloni is Fratelli d’Italia – Italy’s brothers – right nationalist party’s leader).

Corriere’s article concludes by citing a comment, taken at random from the web, of those who have read and seen the video: “I am so happy to have recently invested my money in the European rope industry that I will become damn rich.” The journalist comments: “He is probably European. And he talks about hangings, Lynch’s law, not the Schengen treaty…” So, do the journalist intend to refer to the hatred that seems to spill over the internet, astonished by so much violence of words…?

But the point is, isn’t the journalist (and many like him) contributing to this hatred? By insinuating that one’s actions may fall on the actions of all those “similar” to him? “He is a refugee: he has been expelled, but no country wants him”, the summary reads, to conclude in the article “so he has become a symbolic case, of what shakes Europe in 2016”.

When news are not news, they are like empty shells in which to find the confirmation of own prejudices: far from being facts, words of the kind lead only to crystallize a situation that is considered emblematic, in fact. “Young people fight online hatred instigation is a Council of Europe project aimed at making young people aware of episodes of intolerance and violent expressions manifested online towards the different people, concerning religious, gender and cultural differences, but also episodes of bullying”.

But are we sure that marginal events like this are really “emblematic”, “particularly representative or significant” about what is happening at national or even continental level? Statistics continue to say the opposite, even on days heavier than those. Perhaps “the most hated” is only one who hasn’t had an easy life and in the end has not been able to do better than this.

It is easy and more comfortable to embrace stereotypes, instead of striving in due distinctions between people and situations. Media doesn’t care and prefer gossip since its duty is to reach the mass, but reality is full of distinctions. So this should be the time in which the mass itself becomes aware, trying to make the proper distinctions. The point is: with all the anger and indignation that a person can feel in seeing this video and the vile behavior of this man, is it right to try to bring whole categories of people into this, each time, magnifying facts and actions in the news, and always if (and only when) it is someone who does not seem “like us”?

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