By Michael DeLaney
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
We’ve all heard the sayings “Knowledge is power” or “The truth will set you free”, but what good is that when that knowledge is so easily weaponized and the truth is blatantly denied? Nightwing Annual 1 continues Benjamin Percy’s “Dark Web” arc with Nightwing taking on the literal embodiment of fake news. And while a certain president might use that term to mean “bad press”, what I’m referring to – and what Percy is focusing on – is the targeted online disinformation that swayed many Americans to vote for that president in the first place.
Nightwing takes a day trip to Gotham to flirt with Vicki Vale, flirt with Batgirl and most importantly, try to put a stop to the Dark Web and their digital attacks. The Dark Web takes over Gotham City with a singular news source hosted by Karna Shifton – a gossip reporter who convinces people to tell her their deepest darkest secrets.
With a name like “The Feed” Percy makes a fairly direct link to social media like Twitter or Facebook – the two large carriers of fake news, propaganda and disinformation. One image that I found striking was the first page of The Feed’s print edition:
Otto Schmidt draws a disfigured man laying in bed that personally evokes the classic tabloid headers of “Bat Boy” or other creature conspiracies. Accompanying the main story are several headlines that are straight out of our own national news. The ideal situation is to have an unbiased press, but the way that these headlines are constructed connotes a neutral POV that is designed to cause panic and chaos.
Knowing that Nightwing is their biggest threat, The Feed later fabricates incriminating images of the Butt-Wonder in order to turn public opinion against him. Again, these are outlandish and laughable claims but then again there is a whole community of people who believe the 9/11 and Sandy Hook conspiracies. As Karna transforms into her grotesque “Vire” form, she monologizes about how easily it is to weaponize information to distract, influence public opinion and separate people. Dick returns the favor by turning the cameras on her, exposing her true terrible self to Gotham City. Alas, this is but a work of fiction. Wouldn’t it be nice if damning facts and footage changed public opinion?
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?