To round off a year defined by fake news, lies becoming truth and fiction masquerading as fact, we present the only awards that truly sum up 2016. What else could we call them but The Fakies? Pass the Golden Envelope, please…
The Golden Straightened Banana for Brexit Bollocks: Vote Leave’s £350m bus slogan.
If the promises of the Leave campaign were to be believed, the UK – six months after voting to leave the EU – should by now be rounding up the last remaining Latvians and enjoying a dazzling dawn of independent prosperity, as opposed to being regarded as a global village idiot with bulletholes in both feet. The emblematic whopper of the Leave campaign was the bus-borne £350 million per week (see above) which would be suddenly available once the drawbridge was raised. (That’s only about £293 million in “new” money, of course). The ‘pledge’ was quickly erased from the Leave campaign’s website right after the Referendum, and finally quietly abandoned in September.
The “it’s on the internet, it must be true” plaque for stupidest fake story with worst real-world consequences: Pizzagate
It could have been worse. On December 4th, only fixtures and fittings were damaged when a gunman opened fire in the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, DC. He turned out to have been one of many impressionable yokels who bought a bewilderingly persistent online legend that the restaurant was a front for a child sex trafficking operation run either by, or on behalf of, Hillary Clinton. If you wondered who the people were who believed anything Donald Trump told them, here’s your answer.
Flimsiest Incitement to Hatred: Katie Hopkins and The Daily Mail
To criticise a single Daily Mail article for being tendentious and mean-spirited is akin to criticising a single column from Horse & Hound for being principally focused on horses and/or hounds. However, the Mail’s pre-eminent thinker, Katie Hopkins, excelled herself when she falsely accused a British Muslim family, refused entry to the United States while attempting to visit Disneyland, of ties to al-Qa’ida. Hopkins’ vow that she would “never apologise” was overruled by a judge, who also ordered a damages payout of £150,000. When Hopkins no doubt mistakenly tweeted the apology at 2am rather than a busier time of day, helpful internet users ensured that it didn’t go unnoticed.
The “‘You can’t believe everything on the internet’ – George Washington” award for most-retweeted fake quote on a jpeg: #nevertrump campaigners
Many of the people who criticised the United States’ incoming president for his lack of interest in the verifiable proved happy enough to trade in nonsense themselves. Frequently gleefully forwarded was a jpeg-mounted quote (above) supposedly from a 1998 interview Trump that gave to People magazine. In it, he mused on the potentially electorally profitable gullibility of Fox News viewers. Outrageous, eh? The only problem is that Trump never said it – although, ironically, it may have been the most accurate line attached to his name all year.
The Captain Credulous epaulettes for tweeting first and asking questions later: Louise Mensch
- Leonard Cohen was Canadian, Louise. Canadian. From Canada.
The mercilessly prolific Twitter feed of former MP Louise Mensch has long read like the consequence of an experiment in living entirely on white wine and Skittles. Many doubted that she could equal such previous peaks as believing that Charlie Hebdo was an individual, rather than a magazine, and suspecting that Theodor Herzl might have been an anti-semite, as opposed to a Zionist pioneer. She triumphed, however, when inexplicably leveraging the death of Leonard Cohen to insult Russia, declaring that while Russia “has nothing”, Cohen reminds us of “America’s enduring greatness”. Cohen was Canadian.
The Brass Necklace for Audacious Sanctimony: The Canary
- …and with an entirely different philosophy, policy platform, powerbase and set of advisors. Yep, same thing really.
The Corbynista clickbait-farm was in many respects the media outlet that best embodied 2016 – which, given 2016, is far from a compliment. It found a ready audience among the kind of people who prefer their headlines to tell them how they’re going to feel about the ensuing story, and who also enjoy the spurious gratification of the conspiracy theory – perhaps, most notably, that a PR firm called Portland was responsible for a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, as opposed to the MPs who actually challenged the hapless throwback. A peak was reached in July, when The Canary ran a deranged hagiography which compared Corbyn to John F. Kennedy. This has been deleted, though they appear to be standing by the one about a dummy transmission by a TV station in Chattanooga leaking results of the US election in advance (Clinton wins, apparently.)
The bronze troll statue for municipal services to idiocy: Veles, Macedonia
- Er, no he didn’t. Not even close. Thanks for the “clarification”, Macedonia.
This hitherto little-heralded Balkan burg was revealed, towards the end of the US presidential election campaign, to be hosting a thriving industry of online bullshit factories catering for the appetites of American voters – largely, as these self-starting propagandists cheerfully admitted, Trump voters, who tended to be readier to believe the lurid nonsenses created and/or recycled by Veles’ inventive young folk, some of whom were clearing US$5,000 a month from internet advertising. And people said Trump couldn’t create jobs.
The Golden Sheeple fleece for poisoning public debate: Steve Bannon
It may be the most wretchedly illustrative career arc of our time: from naval officer to Goldman Sachs banker to Hollywood producer to hyper-conservative media mogul to chief strategist for the incoming president of the United States. Under Bannon’s leadership, the cranky right-wing fulmination Breitbart was cannily positioned as a pro-Trump propaganda channel – not entirely unmoored from reality, and able to present its denunciations of establishment media as implicit demonstration of its own righteousness. More than anyone else this year, Bannon was to blame for popularising the idea that reasonableness, thoughtfulness and willingness to consider other perspectives are all character faults.