What one fake news can do is to seed a mistrust. A mistrust to another human being because of who they are, because of who they believe in, because of how they look like.
Here is a piece of fake news like many other fake news out there.
3 February 2019: “A woman in a burka photographing children at a primary school in Opole” with this picture as a feature image:
Just under the image an important message: “sharing is caring”. I should borrow that idea for my blog! Yet for now my focus goes elsewhere.
What is the news? A burka-dressed woman has been taking pictures of children. The local police has been alarmed, as the woman has been doing it for awhile and did not respond to a school’s teacher questions on what she was doing and why. The teacher’s name is Danuta. The author of the article – unnamed user “wmeritum” – talked to Danuta. Their conversation could be summarised this way: there is someone watching your kids. Stay alert. This could be an attempt to kidnap one of the children for a forced adoption in Western Europe. We do not even know if the person was a woman – the burka was covering the face up. The person refused to talk, hence we do not know if the voice was male or female, if the person was Polish or not. Be vigilant!
The website we talk about is wmeritum.com. Yes, .com, as there is another website, wmeritum.pl, which is committed to quality news. Wmeritum.com on the other hand – oh well, they take news a little bit more lightly. Their main take on reality is SCANDALOUS! It is contradictory with the name, as “w meritum” in Polish means “in the merits”.
This is why I am not providing a direct link to the wmeritum.com – type it yourself, if you’re interested. Wmeritum.pl, on the other hand, is worth promoting.
The fake news goes viral
At the moment of writing this blog post the news about the burka lady photographing kids in Opole is viral and is cruising though the world wide web.
In three days it is shared 1135 times, according to the website itself. The website message under every news is “sharing is caring” inviting the readers to share the news – to stay vigilant.
How do we know the news is fake? For once, there is no “Danuta” in the school. Second, it is highly improbable.
Third, I asked Wmeritum.pl if they know Wmeritum.com and what do they think of them. Their answer to me is this:
We have nothing to do with them.
They impersonate us, which we have already reported to Facebook.
We are at the stage of determining who is behind this service, because we are going to take legal steps.
Alerted local professor from the University of Opole Błażej Choros wrote on his Facebook profile after having studied the piece of information: “watch out what you share”.
Wmeritum.com not only produces fake content, they manipulate other websites, too. This is a vehicle to promote stories of no value in the society.
In another article they claimed one story was on the front pages of the main national news, when it was only possible to trace it back to a far-far-right magazine NCzas.pl (official circulation 38,000).
This particular story is doing damage. The damage it is doing is to undermine the trust in the society. It portrays people who do not look like us as a threat. In fact, if this article wanted to alarm parents to watch out for potential kidnappers they should use a very different picture – a picture of a trustworthy person, who gains trust of their victim, the child or the parent. The news stories about kidnapping are stories about luring children with candies or letting a woman hold your beautiful child “just for a moment”.
Most kidnappers are parents who were not given parental rights following a divorce.
So why a burka lady? It is to perpetrate mistrust towards the unspoken, but surely meant – the Muslims, the terrorists, “the Other”.
This could be an attempt to introduce a ban on burkas in Poland.
Somewhere down the road, when the society is ready, there will be political parties campaigning against the Islam. There will be governments opposing migration for all the wrong – racist – reasons. There will be people willing to go and fight against the terrorists, where, in fact, there is no need.
Oh wait, we already have all that.
Because there is no burka kidnapper in Opole. Or anywhere, for that reason. Not only in Poland. In the whole of Europe!
My final message is this: sharing is caring. If you read this, click the “share” button!