ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Riding on Misinformation


This year might well be remembered for the coming of age of misinformation or “alternative facts,” a term coined early this year by Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to the United States (US) President Donald Trump, during the course of a television interview. A decision of far-reaching consequence this year was based on misinformation. The US exited from the Paris Climate Agreement that mandates the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions because the US President believes that climate change is a hoax. A lot has already been written about how fake news played its part in the last US presidential election outcome. In India, a recent alternative fact that hogged the limelight was the judgment of Justice Mahesh Sharma of Rajasthan High Court who had commented on the peacock’s copulation habits, trashing established scientific evidence. He went on to say that “scientific evidence is not everything, there is religious evidence.”

Historically, misinformation was always circulating in public sphere with impunity. In 1938, a radio adaptation of H G Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds triggered massive unfounded fears of aliens invading New York leading to panic calls to police stations and hospitals. In 1857, when the British troops were about to enter Delhi, many people including Delhi’s Urdu-language daily Dihli Urdu Akhbar thought that Persian army was on its way to help the beleaguered Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. These are straightforward cases of misinformation or sometimes just plain rumour.

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Updated On : 17th Mar, 2021
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