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Fake for Real

Stair ar Bhréagcheapadh agus Falsaíocht


Faigh amach faoi chásanna de bhréagcheapadh agus d’fhalsuithe a tharla sa stair, ón seanreacht agus ó ré na Meánaoise agus na nuastaire anuas go dtí an lá atá inniu ann. Bhí bréagearraí agus bréagcheapadh riamh ann, ach tháinig borradh faoi chineálacha ar leith díobh i ngach uile ré den stair. I cuid mhór suntais é go ndealraíonn sé gur rud uilíoch é an claonadh atá sa duine creidiúint i rudaí bréige áirithe.

Ag tosú leis an nós a bhí ann sa seanreacht daoine a fhágáil ar lár as cuntais oifigiúla (“Damnatio memoriae”) go dtí brionnú san eolaíocht, sa stair agus san ealaín agus as sin go dtí brandaí bréige agus bréagnuacht an lae inniu, cuirtear i do láthair bailiúchán ilghnéitheach de réada ó mhúsaeim thábhachtacha as 20 tír Eorpach.

Glac páirt i ndíospóireacht ina bpléitear an chaolchúis a bhaineann leis an tuiscint ar cad is fírinne ann agus cad is bréagcheapadh ann, agus tapaigh an deis tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar an ngá atá le smaointeoireacht chriticiúil. Faigh amach faoi na cúinsí stairiúla a mhíníonn an chúis gur tháinig bréagearraí chun cinn nó go ndearnadh bréagcheapadh faoi nithe ar leith, cad ba shiocair leo sin, an tionchar a bhí acu agus, i ndeireadh thiar, an chaoi ar foilsíodh an fhírinne ina dtaobh.


What makes power legitimate? Since time immemorial, the political and the religious spheres have bolstered each other’s claim to power and legitimacy. Roman emperors became Gods; Popes held temporal power; the presence of saintly remains raised the prestige of holy sites. An emperor’s blemish-free record, the Pope’s airtight paperwork, the physical presence of a powerful saint – it can sound too good to be true. Fortunately, we do not have to reiterate the distorted testimonies of the past. The facts have been uncovered by the brave and the curious.


The invention of the printing press ushered in a new era with information becoming available on an unprecedented scale. But an ever-increasing quantity of information does not guarantee accuracy. Those in pursuit of fame and fortune were happy to spread false information to an audience eager for the latest discovery. Even the history of scientific research exhibits wilful forgeries. The possibility of being proven false is not a defect of the scientific method but an essential quality that differentiates it from other systems of making sense of the world.


Fakes and forgeries were powerful instruments in the processes of creating ethnic and national identities in the 18th and 19th centuries. All over Europe, ‘patriotic’ fakes mixed with genuine historical discoveries reinforced national movements. The creation of modern nations required common histories but also common enemies. Forged documents, conspiracy theories and miscarriages of justice were used to create and condemn society’s scapegoats, with devastating and long-lasting consequences.


“Truth” has been described, in a phrase whose origin is still uncertain, as ‘the first casualty of war’. War is certainly a time when those engaged in it resort to falsehood and deception. During World War II, all of Europe became a battlefield, and choices of whom to trust had fundamental consequences. Establishing the facts of the crimes covered up and whitewashed by the totalitarian regimes became a task for the subsequent decades.


Throughout history, profit has been one of the main reasons for producing forgeries. Works of art, luxury products, everyday consumer goods and currency are forged for financial gain. Faking what people most desire, be it a painting by a Dutch Old Master or a Louis Vuitton bag, has become a key element of the globalised consumerist society that we live in. But the fake has also been used to expose our insatiable desire for ‘more, cheaper and newer’, as in the ‘Czech dream’ experiment and documentary.


The term ‘post-truth society’ describes a culture in which public opinion is shaped by emotion and personal belief rather than by facts. ‘Fake news’ is often considered its most apparent symptom.

However, fake news is not restricted to any specific era. What is special about the current situation is that modern means of communication, notably the internet, allow for its rapid spread and dissemination on a global scale. Confronted with an abundance of information emanating from innumerable sources, it is often difficult to determine what is true and whether a source is reliable.

Fortunately, there are ways of tackling these challenges: a critical mind that questions first impressions, an awareness of one’s own prejudices, and determining how serious the source is, may help us separate fact from fiction and navigate our way through the complexities of reality.