In short: because they are rapidly losing the propaganda monopoly
by system failure
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find a source to inform me about the exact origin (who and when) of the term 'fake news'. Generally, the term became mainstream during the last years, and especially after some shocking events for the Western neoliberal establishment, like Trump's presidency and Brexit.
Very briefly, it appears that the term was suspiciously invented by the neoliberal apparatus to discredit people who supported such events, through social media and other Internet platforms completely independent from the mainstream media control. Of course, one can easily discredit this perception as 'conspiracy theory' or even 'fake news', as well.
While it's true that there has been a lot of hyperbole, misinformation and hard propaganda circulated inside the cyberspace, it seems that the 'fake news' term was expanded somehow to include even opinions and positions outside the dominant neoliberal orthodoxy expressed by the political center in the West.
What's perhaps most interesting in the whole story, is that the term 'fake news' eventually backfired against the establishment, as it was immediately adopted by the political ‘extremes’ outside the neoliberal center, to include the misinformation and the smearing campaigns by the mainstream media against those who didn't comply with the neoliberal narratives. Mainstream media propaganda is what brought us numerous wars and plenty of disaster in previous decades, after all.
Now, a relatively new technology with its origins in the beginning of the previous decade, seems that it spreads a sort of panic among the mainstream media, often described as 'information apocalypse'.
As described by Guardian recently:
What is new is the democratisation of advanced IT, the fact that anyone with a computer can now engage in the weaponisation of information. 2016 was the year we woke up to the power of fake news, with internet conspiracy theories and lies used to bolster the case for both Brexit and Donald Trump. We may, however, look back on it as a kind of phoney war, when photoshopping and video manipulation were still easily detectable. That window is closing fast. A program developed at Stanford University allows users to convincingly put words into politicians’ mouths. Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos. Quite soon it will be all but impossible for ordinary people to tell what’s real and what’s not.
What will the effects of this be? When a public figure claims the racist or sexist audio of them is simply fake, will we believe them? How will political campaigns work when millions of voters have the power to engage in dirty tricks? What about health messages on the dangers of diesel or the safety of vaccines? Will vested interests or conspiracy theorists attempt to manipulate them? Unable to trust what they see or hear, will people retreat into lives of non-engagement, ceding the public sphere to the already powerful or the unscrupulous?
The potential for an “information apocalypse” is beginning to be taken seriously. The problem is we have no idea what a world in which all words and images are suspect will look like, so it’s hard to come up with solutions. Perhaps not very much will change – perhaps we will develop a sixth sense for bullshit and propaganda, in the same way that it has become easy to distinguish sales calls from genuine inquiries, and scam emails with fake bank logos from the real thing. But there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the onslaught, and society could start to change in unpredictable ways as a result.
The perspective described here is indeed frightening. Yet, what's really impressive in this article and in other similar articles by the big media on the Internet, is that there is a type of information elitism, implying that there is a media priesthood, which has the copyright of Truth. You can tell that by the fact that the article completely ignores the possibility that this technology could be used by the mainstream media too, to manipulate the public.
Inside this increasingly artificial reality, is there really anyone today who holds the keys of the 'ultimate' truth? I don't think so.
So, this bizarre panic around the mainstream media about this new, and indeed frightening technology, is not coming from their concern that you will be heavily misinformed. It's coming from the fact that they want the monopoly to misinform you. Because they know that after decades of lies and propaganda being upgraded to a literally scientific level, their credibility today has reached a record low.
Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos by anyone. I don't like it. I don't think is right. Personalities should be protected and perhaps we need a new legislation code to achieve that.
But what about the mainstream media pundits who will use this frightening technology to grab the consent of the masses for another devastating war with millions of dead?