Just Fake It
Cheap internet, WhatsApp started an affair and gave birth to an illegitimate child called fake news.
WhatsApp will be off between 11:30 pm-6 am and become chargeable if you’re not an active user,” my Dad messaged.
Two hundred religious, 150 motivational forwards later, I spent two hours trying to explain him that it was fake news and he will not get a special blue WhatsApp by chatting with 50 people simultaneously. He was convinced by the end of it, but was disappointed that he had to message his in-laws in vain. Also, his ego was bruised when none of the maids replied to his ‘Good morning’ wishes.
Cheap internet, WhatsApp started an affair and gave birth to an illegitimate child called fake news. This child went on to become the biggest carrier of lies, deceit and entertainment mainly because of these reasons:
New Storytellers: From landing on the moon to religious miracles, government and religion held the authority to spread profitable lies through controlled media. However, now, anyone with good Photoshop skills can create fake news and make people burn their Kurkure to check if there’s plastic in it.
Personal Touch: When the news comes from a known person, people tend to believe it. If the school teacher who taught you the national anthem tells you that it was declared the best anthem by UNESCO, who are you to question it?
Remarkable Camouflage: Fake news, just like fake female orgasms, looks and feels so real that people believe that it’s genuine. If government can demonetise Rs 500/1000 bank notes, they can certainly print a 2,000 rupee note containing GPS tracking nano-chip. I really wish they did because then they would’ve known the exact distance a common man travels to find the change for that note.
Just like the driving license, there should’ve been a test before handing out internet connections. Few basic questions just to check how gullible a person is:
Q1. You receive a forward about a missing child, what do you do?
Wrong Answer: Immediately forward it to all WhatsApp groups and pray for the child.
Right Answer: Nothing. I don’t even know where my own child is right now.
Q2. You receive a warning that your phone will explode if you pick a call from a certain number.
Wrong Answer: Forward it to friends/family and will stop answering the phone.
Right Answer: Nothing. If my lover’s rants couldn’t make my phone explode, nothing else ever will.
Q3. You receive a chain message saying forward it to 10 people or back luck follows, what do you do?
Wrong Answer: Forward it to 100 people and hang 5 chillies, 1 lemon on the mobile phone.
Right Answer: Nothing. How can not forwarding 10 messages bring bad luck when forwarding 1000s of messages didn’t bring achhe din.
My Dad updated me on the situation. My Mom was furious that he was talking to her family behind her back. I felt bad for my Dad, he was the victim here. I’ve almost fallen for a couple of fake news in the past and I know how that feels. However, I’ve learnt my lesson and here’s how I filter my news these days:
The I-Said-So Test: Is the news supporting your already established bias towards a topic largely about the popularity of homeopathy, benefits of homegrown products, proof of existence of God and achievements of Make in India? Has your brain exploded with a heavy dopamine dose and you want to tell everyone that “You said so”. Well, then the news is as fake as your social media life.
The Culture Superiority Test: Is the news putting your heritage and culture in good light while dissing others? Is it something about your ancestors discovering way before the Western world? Well, the chances of that news being authentic are as good as Aryabhata’s discovery.
The Akshay Kumar Test: Is the news making you feel as patriotic as Akshay Kumar? Are you tempted to forward the message because you’re a proud Indian and can’t ignore it? If yes, please fact check the news before doing the Hera Pheri of messages. For example, the information that 58 per cent NASA scientists are Indians is fake news. If they had so many Indians in the team, they would’ve called at least one of their projects ‘Gulab Jamun’ or ‘Jalebi’.
I messaged my Dad and asked him if he now understood how to differentiate between fake news and real news. “Yes, I understand now. By the way, that message you sent me about the herbal therapy in Goa before asking for permission to go to Goa, was fake. Also, the statistics you showed me about how students who score low marks become successful person, was fake. And lastly, the horoscope you sent me about how people born in July can’t get married for the next five years is also fake. Let’s talk about it next week when you’re home”.
“Hey, did you know that Dad is now WhatsApp buddies with our maids?” I texted Mom before cancelling my flight tickets to Indore.
(Sudhanshu Ramteke is a stand-up comedian)