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This morning’s conversation with my old dudes came around to an angry encounter G had with his nephew last night. G was playing Scrabble with his nephew and had used the word quoin which his nephew had never heard of and he thought it was an illegal word. The problem arose because it is a high-value word and was a game-winning play. We all discussed the problem for a minute, but then moved on to the actual function of quoins in the old style typesetting trade at which G had at one time been employed. Quoins are various devices for tightening letters into the final field of letters previous to inking them and printing them onto paper. The type of quoin we talked about for a few minutes involved the use of two appropriately sized metal wedges lying snuggly together and then sliding their surfaces together across each other, which creates a widening of their parallel outer sides and when used properly secures the individual letters into a flat firm surface.

We had been talking about the political confusion created by fake news and I brought up the quoin-like effect that opposing wedges of fake news create in the public’s mind. When one wedge of fake news is proposed and then it is countered by another piece of alternate fake news these two wedges of fake news push together and force real news, that is accurately reported news, out of the public consciousness. The fake news has no limitations imposed by reality on the story being presented. The creator of fake news is only limited by his imagination and understanding of what will engage the public’s mind.

Arthur Conan Doyle (22 May 1859-7 July 1930) published a story called J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement in 1884 when Doyle was 25 years old. This story is written in the purest of fake news style by what was to become one of the world’s greatest authors. Read the first page linked above to get a flavor of the fake reality he was able to generate in an opening page. The story was apparently accepted by many as true, as there was no disclaimer that it was fiction on the first printing. Doyle went on to bigger and more audacious things, but this was a fine example of fake news.

It is impossible to know what damage can be wreaked by lies and fake news.