Poetry and fiction are creative with the truth – it is part of what these forms of expression are for. At the same time, both have a significant capacity for reflecting on the world as it is, and changing how we think about what’s going on. We can and do re-imagine history to suit modern needs. We tweak stories to give them a shape that suits our purposes. We make stuff up. Further muddying the water is the fine art of satire, which will often present itself as the truth and as actual news in order to undermine, poke fun, make political comments and so forth. So, what is the difference between a bit of poetic license, and fake news?
For me, the answer is about intent and effect. The aim, and usually the outcome of anything requiring a poetic license, is that it adds to the sum of human experience. It helps us go deeper, further, to see from other perspectives, take a long view, see the absurd, or the human where before perhaps we couldn’t. A poetic license might lead to a story that is not factually true, but which nonetheless contains valuable truth.
The intention and often the effect of fake news is to diminish and confuse. It exists to shut down conversations, reduce diversity, limit perspective and close minds. When it works, we become less than we were because of it. We know and understand less. We have fewer productive ideas. We are smaller, and less able.