Bias is the seasoning Fake News Needs

The recent events in the United States on the 6th of January shocked the world.
The land of freedom and promoters of democracy worldwide suddenly had their
own crisis of democracy.
Dozens of American citizens stormed their parliamentary building, The Capitol in an
attempt to stop the confirmation of a new president.
It turned out that Americans were just as susceptible to the effects of fake news
and hate speech as the characters in our Community Initiatives to Promote Peace
(CIPP) dramas.
Fake news works because it confirms and soothes people’s biases, whether overt,
or deep-seated. So when, for instance, a story is written about a society Big Man
throwing a tantrum after being denied a US visa it plays into a number of biases and
under-the-surface beliefs.
If readers are not a fan of the Big Man, they might first of all enjoy a bit of
Schadenfreude at his expense. They might enjoy this member of the so-called elite
being brought down to normal and having to undergo the humiliation and
disappointment of visa rejection dozens of Nigerians undergo daily. Or they might
feel that his supposed dodgy dealings, which may have fooled many across
Nigerian society did not fool the foreign authorities.
The story then went on to say that, he threw a tantrum, asking an aide to bring him
his phones where he attempted to make some calls to rectify his situation. Again,
fitting into the whole concept of the flustered ‘big-man’. The story appeals to the
readers’ biases, especially if they do not feel they are part of the elite.
It turned out that the news was false. Both the US Embassy and the man’s
publicists issued statements to that effect.
The same issue exists in America with many of the protesters believing an epic
story of a secret-cabal that extends to the highest levels of power and influence
who are supported by those who would see the downfall of the American republic
in their quest to maintain their shadowy power and control.
Of course the belief is that this cabal happens to be made up of the political
opposition and during times of great political change, like during a General Election
year, it becomes very easy to make the opposition an Other. And then it becomes
easy to accuse them of the most outlandish things.
In our own country, Nigeria, long-term mutual antipathy between some
communities easily creates an Other, and it is easy to believe that they will steal or
destroy your crops, or that their youths beat up your youths. It is easy to believe
that a ‘godless’ person from the South of the country, with their uncovered women,
and their drinking could desecrate a Quran, or that a migrant from the North is a
member of a sleeper cell of an Armed Opposition Group (AOG) who is secretly
plotting with his fellow Northern Muslims to kill their Southern hosts via poisoned
suya and/or apples.
Fake news inflames your passions, it elicits feelings of outrage or savage feelings of
malicious enjoyment. The language is usually provocative, the stories attention
grabbing and heart-wrenching. It plays on your innermost biases, confirming them
and making them foam like an effervescent.
While not all stories that do this are fake news, we should beware of these news
stories that seem to lean towards this. We should question our biases and in so
doing, we might be moved to question some of the stories we come across in the
traditional and social media, or at the very least not accept them with a ravenous