Half-truths is misinformation

A piece of news is, by its nature, new, true information of collective interest.

48 years ago, as long as the Estado Novo dictatorship lasted, Sophia de Mello Breyner wrote a poem about the whole truth. It was the 20th of May 1974, Portuguese Democracy was still a child of days, but at that «clear hour of truth», there were already those who said that «I need to tell the whole truth».

When a people returns from a long exile, it must be “proposed a whole truth and not a half truth”. For Sophia, «Half the truth is like living in half a room // Earning half a salary // How to only have rights // Half a life”(…). Half the truth is the measure of the demagogue who “tells half the truth // And the rest plays with skill (…)».

This was felt, at least by poets, in 1974, when we had not even dreamed of the algorithms that determine the information we consume, in real time, anytime and anywhere. When the English expression fake news (false news) was an inexplicable and unacceptable contradiction.

A piece of news is, by its nature, new information, true and of collective interest. If information is not true then it is not news. Hence the impossibility of the existence of fake news. At fake news are just lies, rumours. And the half truths? Half-truths are disinformation, as even Poetry identifies. At least the Poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner.

Paraphrasing the journalist Serge Halimi, who reflects on journalism in this global and totalitarian world, can we, journalists and intellectuals, still play the role of counterpower, giving voice to the voiceless, comforting those who live in distress and unsettling those who live in comfort? Are we who have sometimes fallen too heavily on the side of financial markets and liberal orthodoxy?

What role do we, information professionals, have in this global and totalitarian universe? To continue quoting Serge Halimi. It is a fact that many media are becoming a theater of ideological war and that one of the successful journalist models is the acceptance of markets, the modernity of free exchange and even deregulation and privatization.

By antithesis, non-modernity and archaism is the Welfare State, the unions and even the people, accused of being always intoxicated with populism.

It is in this dominant framework that much of the misinformation passes. Mainly many of those based on the half-truths that 48 years ago entered Sophia's poetry.


Author Júlio Roldão, a journalist since 1977, was born in Porto in 1953, studied in Coimbra, where he spent, in the 70s, at the Teatro dos Estudantes and the Círculo de Artes Plásticas, having, in 1984, returned to Porto, where he lives.