Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Lies, truth and fake news

In a recent podcast episode I talked about the subject of fake news and false information. Fake news is a type of news story that consists of deliberate misinformation, presented in broadcast media and/or through social media; it is often presented by those who have a particular agenda and wish to influence others to a certain way of thinking.

We have seen a lot in the media recently about fake news, and all the controversy it generates, the subject came to the fore after the US elections last year.

It seems to me that fake news is a particularly toxic manifestation, especially for Christians and especially for writers, and so doubly for Christian writers! So I’m using my slot on the blog to talk about the problem, and how we can avoid being taken in by it.

Five reasons why fake news is toxic

1.    It’s a deliberate lie, and as Christians we are rightly repelled by untruths and deception, the bible makes it pretty clear where all that comes from!

2.    Linked to this, in the world as well as the church, fake news normalizes the idea that the truth and lies have the same value. We need to see these distortions and falsehoods not just as inconvenient, or part of the entertainment, but morally damaging and wrong.

3.    Fake news tends to push people away from the wise middle and towards the unwise edge. Our world is polarised enough as it is, and fake news only aggravates the problem by provoking outrage, shock and emotional rather than considered reaction. We have far too much instant outrage in the private and public space, what we need is considered truth not provocative lies.

4.    Connected to this, fake news tends to confirm our biases. So as a simple example, if I like President Trump I am more likely to believe and endorse a piece of fake news that presents him in a good light, if I don’t like President Trump I am more likely to endorse and pass on a piece of fake news that casts him in a bad light, none of this is in any way connected to the truth.

5.    Fake news is particularly toxic for writers because it undermines the authenticity of our work. This can happen because we have accepted fake news or false information as truth and weaved it into our work, especially in setting and character development. The resultant error will probably be seen by at least one reader who may be turned off from our books, and may also start to tell others, loud and clear, about our mistakes.

Avoiding the fakery

Whilst researching my podcast episode on fake news, I discovered this wonderful infographic from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (a superb title for an organisation!) this infographic gives us the best strategies for avoiding fake news. I think it needs no further comments beyond presenting it to you.

Here’s to the Truth, may it set us all free! And a happy and blessed Christmas to you all J

Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt , a podcast and author of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook containing the best advice and insight from 100 episodes of the podcast, and which will be published in October 2017. 


  1. It's worrying that fiction is often more honest than non-fiction.

    1. Ha! Sad but true Patsy, at least fiction doesn't pretend to be the truth