FAKE NEWS: “Don’t let truth get in the way of good advocacy!”
There has recently been a viral social media meme that claims “The Arts employs more people than mining and sells more tickets than sport – Arts Matter”. Perhaps you have seen it, or maybe shared it. This particular campaign seems to have been instigated by the admirable MEAA (the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance), and at last count was shared almost 1000 times over Facebook.
Fact check: Does the Arts employ more people than mining?
Additionally, I would suggest that the second claim that “The Arts sells more tickets than sport” is a risky advocacy tool. Suggesting that there is some ideological battle between ‘sports’ and the ‘arts’, may be effective in entrenching the views of sport-hating arts-lovers, but does little to sway anyone’s opinions of the value of the Arts (and is a little ironic, given the basis of the first claim). I haven’t seen any source for this claim (I would be fascinated to look through such data if it did). No data jumps out when searching online, although I am confident that if it were found, it would support the fact that both the Arts and Sport contribute significant amounts to the greater well-being of our country.
The responsibility of the advocate
It seems alarming that such claims can be shared so ferociously, with little attempt to fact-check. These claims simply become ‘true’ based on how often it has been shared. There are plenty of well-tested resources which can help change Australia’s discourse to one that truly values the arts and understands the essential impact of creativity. Promoting the many people that are engaged in the Arts, as the MEAA has attempted to do, is a wonderful way of doing this. But perpetuating myths that are not based on fact can be counterproductive, and is no different to the ‘fake news’ we often fight against, even if it is done unknowingly and unintentionally.
The erroneous view that the Arts employs more people than mining spread like wildfire. So please, consider fact-checking before you share. If we don’t, we risk legitimising the views of those we condemn: the extreme right, the fascists, and others who spread dubious claims online. If we want to promote critical thought based on rigorous information with respectful debate and dialogue, we have the opportunity to lead by example.