The second case involves a set of claims about a secret “black ops” programme to undermine the opposition to the governing party in the recent local government elections.This job of making fake Economic Freedom Fighters posters and the like, if it went ahead at all, wasn’t as sophisticated as the Russians hacking into Donald Trump’s Democratic adversaries’ emails, but still it allegedly came at a fee of about R50-million (paid by donors to the ANC, apparently).From childhood, men have been brought up to be fierce competitors, to opt for the most risky jobs, to put themselves on the line, to accept rejection “like a man” and to always make the first move.
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Think of the tale of the “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service, now seen to be largely untrue but still, it seems, part of the propaganda arsenal of the new powers at Sars, chiefly Tom Moyane, who have used the “rogue unit” narrative to seize control of the service and purge any dissent or opposition.
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Even the vote to leave the European Union taken by the stereotypically phlegmatic Brits was driven largely by a range of half-truths and misunderstood ideas that people simply took on board without thinking them through. It is not yet possible to uncover all the links between who’s producing this weird discourse, but it’s clear that there is a war going on — a war for the truth.
In this week’s edition of the we peer into this murky world, one in which sock puppets and bots, which simulate human activity on the internet, spew forth opinions and reproduce dodgy claims. Fake news not only convinces some people of the truth of what is often an obvious lie, but it so muddles the discourse set before the public that it becomes difficult to believe anything one reads.
In the past few days we’ve seen two instances of this business of generating minsinformaiton and disinformation, one playing out in the public sphere of social media and the other a court case uncovering a secret propaganda assault.