Sir, Fake news has consequences; in the 17th century, fatal. Titus Oates invented the Popish Plot in 1678 whereby Catholics were accused of planning to subvert the English Protestant polity. He was a chancer with a bad record who had operated on both sides of the Protestant/Catholic divide. Three dozen judicial murders were committed using fake charges of high treason, the Primate of Ireland among those convicted. Fake news included a French landing in Purbeck and a fire in London’s legal district ascribed to “papists”.

A historian of the Stuart period, Sir George Clark, wrote in 1934: “Once a false charge is made uncritical people will always find circumstances which seem to point to its truth. They will do so the more readily if it is a charge against those whom they already hate and fear.” He was writing during the rise of Fascism.

Chris Crowcroft

Ludlow, Shropshire, UK

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