Facebook and Donald Trump brought fake news to the world, but I’m increasingly seeing fake views in the the newspapers, particularly in the letters to the editor.
I quite understand and support the idea that the letters page is a place where readers can express their opinions and argue their case, and that often those opinions will vary from my own views. But I find it quite depressing how regularly these views veer from opinion, to the expression of demonstrable factual errors and untruths.
Take for example a letter to the Newcastle Herald this week entering into the debate about cyclists on roads. I won’t name the writer, for my beef is not with them in particular but with the practice in general, which the Newcastle Herald editors tolerate if not encourage.
“The intersection at Ridge and Mitchell St Merewether has a four-way intersection with four stop signs, close proximity to a school bus stop and shops”.
The cyclists appear to think these signs are only for cars, but not for them. Red lights are also a special, blatant disrespect for the law.
If an accident were to occur, I bet it wouldn’t be their fault.
Note the progression from fact, to opinion, to absurd nonsense. If a road user (motorist or cyclist) breaks the road rules and causes an accident, they are clearly at fault, and the law clearly states so. Is the writer seriously suggesting that if a cyclist ignores the road rules and causes an accident the police or the courts will just let them off because they are a cyclist?
It’s not only the letters where fake views appear but the opinion articles also, where the writers seem to think that ‘opinion’ means a licence to state untruths. A particularly egregious example is Robert Montheath’s article on electricity and renewable energy on 29 September 2017 where he says that because …
” … we average only 12 hours of sunshine a day …”
… we will never be able to rely on renewables to generate the thousand of megawatts we need every hour of every day”
This would only be true if there was no such thing as stored energy. But battery storage or pumped hydro schemes means that it is absolutely possible for solar energy to provide all our electricity needs. It is a matter of opinion whether it is desirable, or how cost effective it would be, or how soon it could be achieved, but it is a matter of fact that it is possible.
People, please don’t poison your opinions by mixing them with untruths.