Fake news has been a term that has been recently circulating in politics and every day life. “Oh don’t believe that, that’s fake news,” my friend says to me. But what exactly is fake news? According to Leonhardt and Stuart, “fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online media.” Even though president Trump claims that he coined the term fake news, the term and idea has been relevant long before his administration.
During the Rwanda genocide, newspapers and radio stations played a crucial role in determining the fate of the country. These sources were controlled by the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, to gradually dehumanize the minority group, the Tutsis. Along with manipulated information that were transmitted to a majority of the population, the Hutu’s fear of losing their recently gained political power, fear of being captured and enslaved by the Tutsis, and the assassination of the Hutu president brought about pure hatred and the desire to exterminate the entire Tutsi population.
But how exactly did this start? Genocide is not a phenomena that occurs over one night. The deliberate killings of a particular group of people takes dehumanization, organization, and media sources that affirm that the elimination of that particular group will desensitize and purify the society as a whole. The radio station, RTML played up-to-date music and developed a strategy in which ‘celebrities’ casually spoke on talk shows while reasserting negative rhetoric towards the Tutis.
I am not saying that the media caused the genocide, but more so, it added more fuel to the fire.
While the media and journalism is ‘supposed’ to shed some truth on news and events, as we can see with Rwanda, it was used to ignite repressed emotions and turn it into the annihilation of over a million Tutsis and Hutus.