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When the BBC did fake news

31 18 48

Earlier this month the BBC aired an informed and informative weeklong series on disinformation and fake news, "a global problem," as they rightly put it, "challenging the way we share information and perceive the world around us."

What's real? What's distortion? The series teaches us. I watched as many of the episodes in this series as I could, and the rest I followed on the BBC website. In one episode we learn how "Nigerian police say false information and incendiary images on Facebook have contributed to more than a dozen recent killings in Plateau State - an area already torn by ethnic violence."

In another episode, we learn how in Egypt fake news becomes a weapon of choice to crush dissent. In yet another piece we learn how "smartphones are making it easier for millions of Indians to communicate and share messages on social media. But misinformation is spreading fast and can often turn deadly."

The series then moved to tell us how "a BBC investigation has found that Russian media and officials presented false claims about a US-funded laboratory in neighbouring Georgia." In another episode, we were told about how "fake news in Turkey is rampant, and targets many, including the BBC. But some are fighting back."

While watching these episodes it suddenly occurred to me, as I am sure you too have noticed, something a bit strange about this series? It is all about non-British, and non-European countries - about India, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey and Thailand, which is of course perfectly fine for, no doubt, fake news is a global issue that includes these countries.

But targeting these non-European countries as the site of fake news par excellence implicitly puts European media and the BBC in particular as the arbiter of truth manifest. Fake news is something that backward black and brown people do, while real news is what the BBC and the rest of white people tell us.

That got me thinking - as we say in New York.

This deliberate exoticism and exorcism of the fake news as something that happens among the dark people and not among the British sounds a bit, how shall I put it politely, strange to an Iranian pair of ears old enough to know the US-UK military coup against Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, and the function of official propaganda of their news media in that treacherous act. The holier than thou attitude of the US and UK official media, the BBC in this particular case, could use a bit of historical memory. It'll teach them some humility.

Long before "fake news" had a name, the BBC was a master of fake news, in fact fake news of the most dangerous, the most vicious consequences, casting nations, not just individuals, into direct calamities.

What I have in mind is of course the harmul role of the BBC as the propaganda machine of British imperialism around the globe. As well as in enabling and facilitating the CIA/MI6 coup of 1953 in my homeland in particular, by doing precisely what it now goes around finding darker nations doing - indulging in fake news and propaganda.

The role of BBC in the overthrow of Mosaddeq was not out of character or unusual. In a piece titled Why the taboo tale of the BBC's wartime propaganda battle must be told published by The Guardian,........

© Al Jazeera