How media twist facts to create an illusion of truth

Published Jun 29, 2023


IF ENOUGH people are told a lie enough times, it becomes part of the culture. And if that culture passes that misinformation to the next generation, it becomes the truth. Or at least an illusion of truth.

Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and its chairperson find themselves in the spotlight once again as the smear campaign against the entities and its investee companies continues to have an influence on its stakeholders and associated entities.

Secretary-general of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), André Kriel, has claimed that it is struggling to pay out funeral benefits to its members, and he blames Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) for allegedly refusing to pay back R150 million loaned to it a decade ago.

Kriel, in court papers, has cautioned that the union may be forced to sell shares in Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) if SIM does not return the funds with interest.

SIM, the majority owner of Independent Media, bought out Independent Media from its Irish owners in 2013, and shortly after this transaction was concluded, the smear campaign began as a consequence.

SIM’s detractors repeatedly used unverified and false truths on various platforms to keep the entity in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, and in the process created an illusion of the truth.

The brain uses repetition to determine truth and trustworthiness. Even if untrue, a repeated concept or phrase might become accepted as truth. The “illusion of truth”, a psychological phenomenon, has been used to sway public opinion throughout history.

Repetition shapes beliefs. Lies and disinformation can affect public opinion by appearing truthful. Countering this tendency requires the understanding of cognitive biases, repetition's emotional impact, and media ecosystems. We can fight recurrent lies and build a more informed and resilient future by promoting critical thinking, transparency and accurate information.

A report by News24 states that Sactwu Investment Group (SIG), the union’s investment arm, was fearful that its funds would be lost unless it took swift action, so it demanded that SIM repay its loan. However, in its court papers, Kriel pleads poverty, stating that the union may be forced to sell shares in HCI if SIM does not return the funds that its investment arm, SIG, loaned it in 2013.

Meanwhile, Sekunjalo has said it owes nothing to SIG as the loan to SIM was converted into shares in another SIH subsidiary, Sagarmatha Technologies.