Like most people, I got involved in local politics as a way to play my part in making our community a better place. Fake news was something I associated with shady foreign governments. I didn’t expect to find it being used in local campaigns here in North Shields.
What do I mean by Fake News? According to Wikipedia “Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news” with “the aim of damaging the reputation of a person”. Sadly in my role as a local councillor this is what I have seen increasing instances of from our local Conservative opponents. Their main outlet is a local website they operate, pushing its articles onto social media as clickbait.
The target is generally my hardworking ward colleague who they have been trying to unseat for some years. Their personal attacks against her really are shameful. Local residents need to know that their articles and adverts are an attempt, in the run up to May’s election, to undermine the strong trusting relationship Cath has built up with you.
I really do think that weaponising Facebook to discredit political opponents has no place in politics anywhere, never mind at the local level, where we generally try to get along with one another. Using these tactics is also very short-sighted. Nobody wins as all it serves to do is to poison the atmosphere so that people lose faith in all of their public representatives. Ultimately our democracy is corroded.
My message to local people is to be very careful what you read online. There is an ancient saying “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” I take this to be a point about the reliability of the source of the information. If an individual or group attempts to mislead you on one issue, then you are wise to avoid anything else they put your way. No matter how juicy the headline.