It is a universal phenomenon that we prefer to consume media that support our prejudices and views. On a daily basis we are comforted by a false consensus reinforced by a frisson of pleasurable outrage at the egregious opinions and deeds of those with whom we disagree.
The proliferation of social media has enabled foreign governments, political parties, lobbyists, fantasists and manipulators of all kinds to serve up fake news and misdirection on a global scale. And as we respond with outrage to a juicy item confirming our deepest fears it is often impossible to distinguish the real from the fabricated.
The outcome is hugely damaging. ‘Truth isn’t truth’ said Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer in August of this year.
And yet. Very occasionally something so silly is published its authenticity is beyond dispute. On Saturday, 3 November an article written by Hong Kong University law student, Ronald Chiu, was published in the South China Morning Post.
Hong Kong needs a new constitution, argued Ronald, because the Basic Law provides ‘no real democracy and no real means to check Beijing’s powers.’
In setting out the argument for his conclusion he omits any mention of how replacement will be achieved. There appear to be two options:
First, Beijing officials read Ronald’s piece, agree that he has made some jolly good points and proceed, as Hong Kong’s sovereign, to write a liberal constitution to warm the heart of Ronald and all the pan-dems in Legco.
Second, Beijing being unwilling to replace the Basic Law, Hong Kong unilaterally declares independence from China and produces a new constitution written by Ronald and his pan-dem chums.
I may not be alone in finding these possibilities unpersuasive. Indeed, some may argue they are designed to further enrage Beijing.
I, however, am disinclined to question Ronald’s sincerity. Even the brightest students frequently say and do extremely silly things.
But I do wonder how a newspaper that is owned by a prominent Chinese businessman with little sympathy for Western-style democracy came to publish such juvenile nonsense. Could it be a false flag item after all? One can never be sure.