Andrea/Cara here, I saw this 1894 cartoon from Punch magazine the other day, and it was a good reminder that our current media brouhaha over “fake news” and “alternative facts” are, alas, nothing new. History shows that from time we first learned to communicate with each other, be it in telling stories around the fire, painting pictograms on cave walls, or writing on a clay tablet, we’ve tended to shape our narratives based on the view through our own tinted spectacles! (As Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me because I intend to write it.”
There have been some particularly outrageous times of media hype and spin in history—the 1890s in America is one prime example. Hearst’s newspapers pretty much ignited the Spanish-American War though its outright lies. The term “yellow journalism”, which refers to outrageous, sensationalist headlines just to sell papers, was created in response the press manipulation of public opinion.
The Georgian and Regency eras had their own excesses, too. In doing a little research, I discovered they, too, were well skilled in the art of fake news and inciting scandal. The 18th century saw the advent of “paragraph” men. It seems that many of the newspapers were based on simply compiling snippets, or paragraphs, supplied by people who frequented the London clubs, coffeehouses and social activities. Some were paid, and some did it just to be able to sway public opinion.