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  • Martin Castle

Fake News

We are surrounded by fake news, often from sources that not that long ago that we thought we could trust.

One definition of fake news notes that it is written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership - Randolph Hearst was a master. Fake news is a neologism. During and after his presidential campaign and election, Donald Trump popularized the term "fake news" in this sense, regardless of the truthfulness of the news, when he used it to describe the negative press coverage of himself. A neologism describes a relatively recent term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language. Previous examples are laser (1960), robotics (1941) and agitprop (1930) But is fake news a phenomenon that is an invention of now or something that has been with us for a while?

During the first century BC, Octavian ran a campaign of misinformation against his rival Mark Antony, portraying him as a drunkard, a womanizer, and a mere puppet of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Under King Edward I of England a statute was passed which made it a grave offence to devise or tell any false news of prelates, dukes, earls, barons, or nobles of the realm. In 1475, a fake news story in Trento, italy claimed that the Jewish community had murdered a two-and-a-half-year-old Christian infant named Simonino. The story resulted in all the Jews in the city being arrested and tortured.

In the American colonies, Benjamin Franklin wrote fake news about murderous "scalping" Indians working with King George III in an effort to sway public opinion in favor of the American Revolution. "The War of the Worlds" is a 1938 episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Directed and narrated by actor and filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds (1898), presented as a series of simulated news bulletins. It was reported that the broadcasts caused panic in many places - that in itself was fake news, although one community did attack its local three-legged water tower! But my favourite fake news concerns lettuce! Some American settlers claimed that smallpox could be prevented through the eating of lettuce and an Iranian belief suggested consumption of lettuce seeds when afflicted with typhoid would be helpful. Folk medicine also claims it as a treatment for pain, rheumatism, tension and nervousness, coughs and insanity! Please note that scientific evidence of these benefits in humans has not been found. But it is an ingredient in today's recipe.


Recipe:

Lettuce, Pea & Mint Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

A large, round lettuce about 400g /13oz

A thick slice of butter

2 shallots, sliced

500g/ 1lb shelled peas

500ml/16fl oz stock: chicken, vegetable or water

3 bushy sprigs mint


Method:

1. Separate the lettuce leaves and stalks and wash thoroughly.

2. Melt the butter in a deep saucepan over a low to moderate heat and add the shallots until they have softened but has yet to colour.

3. Add the lettuce and stir it into the butter.

4. When it has wilted, tip in the peas and the stock and bring to ther boil.

5. Turn the heat down, season with salt and black pepper and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

6. Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup in a liquidiser.

7. Check the seasoning, then serve hot.




Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...

"chasidah – Hebrew name for the White stork (Ciconia ciconia), meaning "merciful", "kind". In rare conservation good news, the first wild white stork chick born in Britain in 600 years should hatch any day now atop a Sussex oak tree.


Quotes

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. “ - Corrie ten Boom
"The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love." - William Wordsworth
"One must never miss an opportunity of quoting things by others which are always more interesting than those one thinks up oneself." - Marcel Proust
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