We can often see opinion pieces presented as fact, as well as claims/denials and impending warnings of doom presented as news. Outlandish claims may not always be fake news, as on rare occasions they could turn out be true, as after all, a stopped clock is right twice a day.
We’ve always had a large amount of sensationalist headlines which catch people’s attention. Those of us who are old enough will remember the ‘Millennium Bug’ in the late 1990s and how ‘all computer systems would come crashing down’ when the new century came in. We also remember the headlines of how ‘our economy will crash because we aren’t joining the Euro’ in the early 2000s.
I believe history is repeating itself when it comes to Brexit, although the doom-mongers have now moved on to ‘No-Deal Brexit’. Last weekend saw ridiculous front page headlines about a no-deal Brexit, claiming the Royal Family are to be evacuated from Buckingham Palace and that a plague of rats would infest the nation. Chances are, there will be some immediate complications in a no-deal Brexit scenario as there usually is when something changes, but most people rightly don’t believe the prophets of doom. There is however a downside to a constant stream of fake news, in that we become too sceptical when something is actually truthful.
An example of this is the re-emergence of cases of German measles which had previously been eradicated in the UK. In the late 1990s there were false claims spread that the MMR vaccination could potentially lead to autism in children. It didn’t matter how many rebuttals there were from medical experts, enough people believed the false claims to reduce the vaccination take up. Sadly, we are now seeing the consequences of this.
So who to believe about Brexit? My advice is the more sensationalist the claim, the more sceptical one should be. I would prefer us to leave with a deal in place before April which is bound to be smoother, but the sky will not be falling in should we end up leaving the EU without a deal.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
6th February 2019