Monday, October 23, 2017

Don’t Believe Everything You Read (comments on fake news, 1625 style)

From Lapham's Deja vu:
When the first booklets reporting on foreign affairs were published in 1620s London, they were met with immediate distrust. Ben Jonson described a weekly news organization as “a weekly cheat to draw mony” in The Staple of News (1625). In his satirical sketches Whimzies: or a New Cast of Characters, Richard Brathwait also seized on public furor to decry the corrupt journalist:
Thanks to his good invention, he can collect much out of a very little: no matter though more experienced judgements disprove him; he is anonymous, and that will secure him. To make his reports more credible, more vendible, in the relation of every occurrent: he renders you the day of the month; and to approve himself a scholar, he annexeth these Latin parcels, or parcel-gilt sentences, verteri stylo, novo stylo.
He has now tied himself apprentice to the trade of minting: and must weekly perform his task, or (beside the loss which accrues to himself) he disappoints a number of no small fools, whose discourse, discipline, and discretion is drilled from his state-service.
He would make you believe that he were known to some foreign intelligence, but I hold him the wisest man that hath the least faith to believe him. For his relations he stands resolute, whether they become approved or evinced for untruths; which if they be, he has contracted with his face never to blush for the matter.