Louay Fatoohi's Blog

The Factualisation of Lies: The Creation of Fake History from Fake News

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The Case of the Occupation of Palestine

The US is angry. For almost five years now, the American media has been raging. Fake news has finally arrived and entered the bastion of democracy and truth, the custodian of history. The immigrant who brought this foreign disease is one called “Donald Trump”. This alien went on a rampage, trumping the clearest facts with even more obvious lies. How this extra-American abomination managed to invade the country remains a mystery. Perhaps, because its origin is undocumented. It has puzzled everyone, even those experts, grandees, and veterans of the US media, those who know all the facts and truths and never hesitate from generously sharing them with all, in the US and beyond.

Trump lied, and lied, and lied. This pathological liar must have it in his blood, according to the US media people who detest telling lies and hate liars even more. CNN, the Washington Post, and others entered a frenzied race to count and counter the lies. Apparently, during his presidency, Trump has told over 30,000 lies, averaging a staggering 21 lies/day. This is unheard of and would have remained unheard of had it not been for the tireless fact-checkers of America’s intrinsically fact-loving media.

There is one problem with this picture, though: Trump and his lies are not foreign to the US. They never were. This very American person won the 2016 presidential election with 63 million votes. That is no less than 46% of votes cast. One would think that those who voted him in had no idea of the amount and quality of lies he was going to serve them, the US, and the world at large. Four years later they were surely going to show him that habitual lying is not what America is about. They were going to give him a bloody nose. Indeed, Trump lost the 2020 election. But there is another problem here as well: he increased his votes over the last election by as much as 21%, to over 74 million. This amounts to winning about 47% of all votes, which is also higher than his 2017 achievement! Did he really lose, then? Well, not according to him and his supporters. But Biden won, according to all neutral observers and just about anyone who has even traces of common sense. There was one certain loser though: The truth.

But how can we then explain this discrepancy between the nonstop complaining of the media and politicians about Trump, projecting him as a completely alien phenomenon, and the fact that he is consistently supported by almost half of the American population? The explanation is, in fact, very simple: America is used to fake news, just not some of what Trump lied about, as far as half of the population is concerned. There are things that an American, president or otherwise, is not expected to lie about, let alone insist on lying and accuse those who reject the lies of being liars themselves. Let me cite one example that even we, non-American, can understand.

In America, you must never lie about the rain, even with the driest sense of humour. You must accept, for instance, that it is raining when drops of water come down from the sky. That is rain. Anyone whose brain and senses are reasonably functional could tell that it rained during Trump’s inaugural address on 20 January 2017. Trump, though, disagreed. On the following day, he accepted that he “was hit by a couple of drops”, only to spit out the much bigger lie that “God looked down and He said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”. You just cannot lie about the rain in America. Even Trump could not.

Mind you, claiming that one is doing God’s works and the Divine is, therefore, supportive of whatever those actions are, comes with the privilege of doing politics in the USA. You may dislike this claim as much you dislike Trump, but you cannot accuse him of inventing this whopper about God. It is what I call a “factualised lie”.

A factualised lie is a lie that has been so commonly used and normalised to the ear and eye that it is received, perceived, and treated as a fact. Even when one does not believe such a lie, they are too desensitised to it for it to bother, let alone outrage, them. Factualised lies are so familiar that they are either treated as established facts or tolerated in the same way facts are. The factualisation of lies is the process of turning fake news and misinformation into fact lookalikes.

The factualisation of lies is a good place to start to understand what role fake news truly plays in America and why America is still reeling with disbelief from Trump’s lies. The problem is not lying itself, but what he lied about. Some people strongly refused to factualise such lies. This is not the kind of lies that people in authority used to factualise. Lying about God has long been factualised in American politics, so it is believed as a fact or treated with indifference. But denying the rain is utterly unacceptable.

Factualised lies can be very harmful to so many people in so many different ways. They become even more damaging when a group of lies is created around a particular subject and sustained over a period of time. This is how fake history is made. A fake history is a group of related factualised lies. Let’s take one topical fake history as an example: The Israeli occupation of Palestine.

America has been the main home for a sustained factualisation of lies about this occupation to such an extent that a fake alternative history has been in existence for decades now. We are not interested here in unpicking all elements of this fake history, but we are going to highlight major themes under each of which factualised lies are regularly and assiduously introduced to replace basic facts.

1) Fact: Occupation and dispossession

Factualised lie: Conflict

When a state or group of people occupied the land of another state or group of people, this was always called “occupation”. France occupied Algeria in 1830; Britain occupied Egypt in 1882, Japan occupied Korea in 1905, Germany occupied Poland in 1939, Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990, and Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula in 2014. The full list is as long as human history. All these are called occupations. The occupation of Palestine by Israel, however, is denied this standard description. That, we are educated, is called “conflict”. It is a “conflict”, the explanation goes, because it is a “disagreement” over ownership. It must not be blown out of all proportion. This is confusing, you may think. Is this not about one group of people taking by force the homes, lands, farms, rivers, mountains, plains, livelihoods, and everything of another group of people? Also, has this not been happening every day for 73 years now? This is surely occupation and dispossession, right? No, do not be simplistic. You need more intellectual depth to tackle this misleadingly simple-looking matter. This is not as clear cut a case as the drop of rain that fell on that most significant day of 20 January 2017. That rain was certain, real, and factual. Occupying Paltesine and dispossessing its people of everything they own, including their human rights, is a conflict. It is a matter of difference of opinion. I hope you have been convinced by the power of the argument.

2) Fact: Poor David versus mighty Goliath

Factualised lie: Violence on both sides

Israel has one of the most powerful armies in the world. One of the divinely assigned responsibilities of US presidents and politicians is to ensure that Israel has the latest military technology and to provide it with endless aid. Yes, that is right, Israel needs aid, just like starved African populations do. But, remember, it is impartial to focus on the Israelis. What about the Palestinians? Most of the time, they mercilessly throw stones at Israeli forces. If that was not bad enough, there have been confirmed sightings of Palestinian children deploying catapults. In fact, in their pursuit of the truth, many American reporters have witnessed and documented this terrorist Arab technology in action. This is why we must accept that the use of tanks and machine guns and the throwing of stones should be both described as “violence”.

Do not be fooled by this blatantly biased trivialisation of Palestinian aggression. They may use rocks most of the time but some militants fire rockets at times. This is why it is necessary to deploy the full might of the Israeli army, save nuclear weapons. It is fully justified to use the latest fighter jets, helicopters, rockets, and missiles to rain hell on the Palestinians. The fact that the number of casualties and general devastation that the Palestinians suffer is astronomical relative to what happens to the Israelis should not change the overall view that this is “violence on both sides”. After all, whether you are stoning someone or bombing them, you are effectively “throwing things at them”.

But all is not lost in the effort to stop this cycle of violence. Let’s remind ourselves of a critical fact that all truth-seeking people know: Israelis throw things at the Palestinians only because those wretched Arabs throw stuff first. This indisputable fact carries within it a real shimmer of light of hope for a solution to end this violence on both sides. But where is the insight about the solution, you may ask? Well, if those stone-obsessed Arabs, including children, lost the ability to throw stones, the Israeli army would not have to defend its right to exist on occupied land using its divinely awarded weaponry. But how to stop the Palestinians of all ages from throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers? There is a very creative solution, so get ready to be amazed.

Before discovering that stones can be weaponised, the Palestinians were living in complete peace, as were their peace-loving occupiers. It is also a scientific fact that stones come from the land. So, if the Palestinians are deprived of the tiny land they still have, they will have no access to this dangerous weapons factory and peace will finally prevail in Jerusalem and elsewhere, as predicted by the ancients. This means that all peace efforts must focus on completing the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Anything short of a full occupation would continue to allow the Arabs access to stones and the world would continue to have to live with this “conflict”.

3) Fact: Occupier and thief

Factualised lie: Settler

According to all known laws, ancient and modern, building a house on a land one does not own is as illegal as taking over the house of someone else. Even occupying an abandoned place is an offence and has a negative term for it: squatting. But there is one exception to this universal fact: if an Israeli builds a house on stolen Arab land, they are vested the title of “settler”. Before you think this is ridiculous, let me tell you that there is a very good reason for this. The title “settler” describes the main action that is involved in stealing Arab land to live on it: “settling”. It is not “stealing”, “occupying”, “usurping”, or any such English anti-semitic terms. No; it is the cute and accomodating word of “settling”. Those who find their promised dwellings in this manner are, therefore, rightly called “settlers”. Let me also tell you something truly amazing about this carefully crafted title that I am sure you did not know: it has the same meaning as its antonym, “unsettler”! This unique case of settling vests and divests rights at the same time, albeit acting on two different peoples. What a title!

4) Fact: Fundamentalist or extremist

Factualised lie: Ultra-orthodox, right-wing

The world is full of fundamentalists and extremists. A significant percentage of these are specifically identified by linking their twisted thinking and actions to the religion they claim to belong to, Islam. They are technically, popularly, and impartially known as “Islamic fundamentalists/extremists”. But not all extremists are given the privilege of being identified with their faith. For instance, those whose extreme views are influenced by the Christian faith are usually referred to as “right-wing” or “white supremacists”. That is just how the language works, in case you were wondering. Jewish fundamentalists have even a more posh-sounding title: ultra-orthodox. This term is applied to Jewish groups that strictly follow Jewish law and oppose modern values and practices. Such a view of religion would have immediately qualified a Muslim to at least the derogatory title of “fundamentalist” or even the scary label of “extremist”. But these are the prerogative of those who are linked to Islam in particular. Jewish extremists have had the language carefully interrogated for a distinctive and neutral term that is worthy of them. This is how “ultra-orthodox” came about.

Muslims are not allowed even the label “right-wing”. You hear and read about the “Christian right” and “Jewish right” but not “Muslim right”. Muslims do not have the right to be right for the obvious reason that they are already fundamentalists/extremists. Indeed, the moment you read the phrase “Muslim right” you involuntarily thought, “wrong”. “Muslim left” has invoked in you an even stronger reaction against accepting its right to be. Because Muslims cannot be right and left, we can safely conclude that they cannot be centre either. Their politics is directionless.

5) Fact: Human being

Factualised lie: Other

Some devious minds have suggested that accepting that the right and the left can be Christian and Jewish but not Muslim is the result of the very popular Western policy of “othering”. Othering means attributing to a group of human beings negative attributes or denying them rights to make them different from and inferior to us. Once this is done, the othered can then be given the treatment they truly deserve. One strong argument against this extreme explanation of denying directions in Muslim politics is that it is not right. A second argument is that politics by Muslims is not described as right or left not because Muslims are “othered” but because they are not “like us”, as some have powerfully put it.

But please do not underestimate otherism. This profound philosophy has a long history in Judeo-Christian culture. One misconception about this culture is that it was called so because it is based on values of the Jewish and Christian faiths. That is such a common misunderstanding, let me tell you. Actually, the name was introduced to differentiate between the people of the two faiths rather than bring them together. More specifically, and this will come as a revelation to you, it denotes the othering of the Jews by the Christians! This othersim-inspired persecution has twenty centuries of history! The othering of the Jews was so successful that they preferred to migrate from Christian lands and live under Muslim rule.

Otherism does not concern itself only with religion or ethnicity, hence its popularity. It is also colour-blind. People of colour are particularly known for their high otherability. Their intrinsic ability to be othered realises its maximum potential in America. This is partly because the otherness of a black person is often easier to recognise than that of any other group of others, and partly because of the outstanding othering ability of Americans. I know what you are thinking: this is a very serious claim that cannot be reconciled with the American values, the American dream, American democracy, and many other American things that may or may not exist. You are spot on. This is why police departments across America are looking into this allegation as we speak. Let’s see what they find, or video.

But what on earth has this to do with the Palestinians? Well, these Arabs have taken otherability to a completely new level. Had they not been that good at being othered, the factualisation of lies about them would not have been this successful. They have even managed to get othered by people who were themselves so good at being otherered! Many Israelis have terrible stories about how their ancestors were othered. Now, they have equally compelling stories of their othering of the Palestinians. Palestinians are the ultimate others.

6) Fact: Destroying

Factualised lie: Building

Given the technologically advanced stones that Israel drops on the Palestinian territories in its military actions, the damage caused is substantial. Having no resources, no economy, and no jobs, and being almost completely surrounded by the very country that destroys them, the Arab recipients of the bombing cannot rebuild their ravaged towns, streets, schools, hospitals, and homes. That is when American beneficence steps in. The USA has never failed its role in leading what it calls the “international community” to rebuild the Palestinian territories. Western counties that are full members of this American-approved only-by-invitation society always oblige. Technical expertise, monetary aid, and other forms of support start flowing for yet another rebuilding of the same areas. The Palestinians are, of course, expected to be immensely grateful for this help. They are also encouraged to remember who gave them that aid. They are not expected, however, to think of who gave the Israelis the military machinery that made them need that aid. That would be discourteous to their benefactors. It is true that those weapons are mainly American, but then Israel was defending itself against Palestinian aggression. Let’s be honest, what country would allow its citizens to be at the mercy of such military might as that of the Palestinians? None, surely. Just imagine what the Palestinian territories would have been like had America and its allies not come to the rescue! That is how grateful people should think.

But, believe it or not, it is not all bad news! There is a unique geographical phenomenon that should give all of us real hope: The Palestinian territories somehow shrink with time! While scientists and politicians work hard to understand how on earth this particular part of the earth shrinks, there are two massive benefits to truly cherish about this great phenomenon: Smaller territories mean less bombing is required and less rebuilding is needed! This revelation can only lead to yet another insight: Why have those territories at all then? If there is none, then there would be zero bombings and zero rebuilding needed. There would be no human casualties either. It is simple maths. This, indeed, is the actual thinking that has been driving the romantically named “peace process” between the Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, the Palestinians and their gullible supporters are just unable to understand this perspective. Nevertheless, time is on the side of the wise as nature continues its work on trimming down those territories.

7) Fact: Criticism of Israel

Factualised lie: Anti-semitism

No other factualised lie shows the deeply racist nature of the falsification of the history of the occupation of Palestine than this. If you criticise Israel’s criminal history of the gradual wiping out of a whole people out of their land and history, you are not only falsely accused of being against the state of Israel, but you are also called “antisemitic”. No criticism of any other occupation, aggressive policies, state, republic, or monarchy would earn you the title of being anti any race, ethnicity, or religion. You may criticise Saudi Arabia as much you like, but you would never be anti-muslim, anti-Arab, or anti-peninsula; you are only pro-human rights. You may attack Chinese policies, not least the organised persecution of its Muslim population, including keeping them in concentration camps, but that does not turn you into an anti-Han, anti-Confucius, or anti-large country. You are only being anti-anti-fair trade, which is intrinsically fair, as Trump revealed to the American people. You may also grudgingly accept that Mynamar has been systematically persecuting and killing the Rohinga, but do not worry about being called anti-Buddhist, anti-Asia, or anti-elephant. After all, God did not give any land to Buddhists over 4,000 years as He gave Palestine to the ancestors of twentieth-century Jews who migrated from everywhere to Palestine to reclaim their ancient land. As for criticising Russia, you simply cannot be a proper citizen of America or Europe and not do that. You may even accuse Russia of invading Iraq without fear of being called anti-history, anti-geography, anti-white, or anti-anything. You would only be praised for being pro-democracy. In fact, you are strongly encouraged to attack Russia for occupying the Crimean peninsula. There is not a shred of evidence that God gave them that land in ancient times. Their argument that they did not exist thousands of years ago to have the chance to be given the land is self-evidently absurd.

Criticising Israel is unique; it is racist. Every Christian and Jewish Zionist and fundamentalist knows that, as do many if not most politicians and media people in America and Europe. You surely cannot argue with this bunch when it comes to history, facts, logic, and justice; can you? Even criticising Israel’s racist policies is antisemitic. Apartheid was a South African thing, so using that term to describe identical policies in Israel is to effectively Africanise Israel, which makes no sense. Building walls around the Palestinians is not racist. It is intended to separate evil from good, so it is, in essence, a moral necessity in any country, let alone in a great democracy like Israel.

So how do you then engage in discussing Israel’s role in the “conflict”, its side in the “violence of both sides”, its peace-seeking “settlers”, its tolerant “ultra-orthodox” and “right-wing” religious groups, its “reclaiming” of Palestinian land,  its “othering” of the Palestinians, and its policies in general? You do not! To avoid falling into any of these antisemitic traps, you must focus only on “Israel’s right to defend itself”. Some may try to lead you astray by suggesting that the word “itself” here could stand for “its occupation”, “its crimes”, “its racism”, “its illegal settlements”, “its bone-breaking policies”, “its apartheid”…etc. Do not be fooled by such ill-intentioned attempts. Do not allow the substitution of “itself” by another word. Be a person of principle. “Israel’s right to defend itself” has proved to be a most powerful mantra. Many people achieved not only spiritual enlightenment but also the highest positions in the world by repeating this most sacred mantra. Such positions include president, senator, member of parliament, business mogul, and media tycoon. Declaring that Israel has the right to defend itself regardless of any seemingly criminal act it commits has unfailingly proved to bring the believer power, authority, and money.

Palestinians are, of course, the main victims of this fake history of the Israeli occupation of their land and dispossession of their rights. But they are not the only victims. The USA is itself a victim of this persistent decades-long substitution of facts with lies. Lying and corrupting facts is an element of culture, so once it is practised, it becomes pervasive and impossible to localise. This is exactly what the USA discovered with Trump. Democratic politicians, non-Trump-leaning media, and others are struggling to understand how his blatant lies have been tolerated, let alone believed. They are also finding his lies have outlived his presidency. Republicans, Trump supporters, the Jewish and Christian right-wingers and Zionists are keen on protecting his legacy of falsifying, denying, and twisting facts. Feeding people continuous lies about something but expecting them to enjoy only that particular kind of falsehood is naïve. When one’s ability to tell facts from outright lies is compromised, one becomes susceptible to any falsehood. CNN may be outraged by Fox News when it comes to Trump-induced lies, but they have not been lying and misleading any less on Palestine. When people are made to see the scene of Arab children in scruffy and dusty clothing throwing stones at occupation soldiers and those soldiers using heavy weapons against Palestinian civilians as “violence on both sides”, these people would be more likely to believe that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim and was born in Kenya, the coronavirus is a flu, wind-turbine noise causes cancer, and Trump won the 2020 election. Such fake news that US politicians and media resent is here to stay, just like the fake histories that they worked hard to create.

So was it Trump who brought fake news to the USA? Not really; fake news never left home. Was he responsible for increasing the creation and spreading of fake news? Yes, but only of certain news. Was he the culprit behind the creation of fake histories, such as the falsification of the history of the occupation of Palestine or convincing 90% of Americans that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Of course, not. These are the creation of America PLC, of which the forty-fifth president of the USA is only a shareholder.

Copyright © 2021 Louay Fatoohi
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