Nightwing Annual 1 Takes on Fake News

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?

One comment on “Nightwing Annual 1 Takes on Fake News

  1. There are two types of Fake News.

    The real Fake News, done by Macedonians looking for hits or Russian bots to deceive. These are entirely dedicated to being fake. The Macedonians care only for articles that go viral through Facebook and therefore don’t need an illusion of reality as their business model doesn’t require long term readers. Meanwhile, the Russian bots exist solely to push Fake News when necessary to achieve their interests. Again, they don’t need an illusion of reality because most of the time, they exist solely for culture jamming. Confusion is more important.

    And then there is the other Fake News. The sort of Fake News that doesn’t actually exist. The Fake News that Trump uses. This isn’t so much something that exists, than it is a conspiracy theory pushed to discredit real news. The modern version of Hitler’s use of Lugenpresse. This conspiracy theory seeks to discredit real news stories and the outlets that report them by associating them with the idea that they are fake.

    Which is to say, this comic does nothing but push fascist conspiracy theories. To depict your Fake News story next to real stories about Killer Cops and the fact that the president is a malignant liar is not to address the real problem of Fake News. Because that’s not what Fake News is. Instead, all this comic is doing is equating actual news with Fake News and selling the conspiracy theory that real news of real importance today is fake.
    Hell, it isn’t just the stories themselves. The fact that it is a newspaper and high production value video, bringing comparison to the New York Times, Washington Post or CNN long before you think of random no name blogs or twitter bots.

    At a time when the Fourth Estate, as greatly flawed as it is, is more important than ever, to sell such lies about it and to buy into the conspiracy theories pushed by Trump is horrible. There is a lot to discuss about the media’s flaws. Including a real discussion about how Fake News works.

    But this is just the uncritical repeating of evil conspiracy theories.

    Fuck, I miss when DC actually cared about something

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