My story is set in the near past, right before internet become widespread 80's to 90s. The paranoid regime strictly controls the press, and any journalist without license is trialed and executed by a kangaroo court. Unlicensed journalists and foreign press are considered an enemy of the state.

Is it realistic under such circumstances that regime will allow tabloids, who could sneak up real stories now and then as long as they are sensationalized and distorted to a large and extent and buried with news about psychics, extraterrestrials, lizard people and other conspiracy theories?

The idea is for the journalists to use it as backdoor to air grievances with the ruling officials, but most of the population to be skeptical of whatever is posted. It also allows the regime to test the water on questionable policies, cutting bread subsidies, officials corruption, or polluting the air by burning medical waste from foreign countries.

Also unpleasant news about the junta leader could be confused by such "reporting". If there was a danger of foreign media leaking a tape of dear leader with prostitutes, the tabloids would first leak several fake ones, so afterwards nobody would know what is true and what is fake.

Something similar like Russians are doing now, with RT & Sputnik, but primarily for domestic consumption.

My plot is about struggle to stay in business, since the state doesn't pay the tabloids. On one hand they must print whatever public wants in order to get readers and advertisers, on the other hand publicly saying that mayor Jon is stealing money from maternity ward to build his mistress a villa would get themselves killed. So they must somehow obfuscate the story. Though central government doesn't like local officials stealing, at least no more then what is customary, they absolutely hate riots and challenge to its rule.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! I assume that these tabloids are distorting the stories and printing nonsense about lizard people of their own volition, without any input from the government? If they aren't, then they wouldn't count as "free press". This is an interesting concept, though - bombarding the people with so much fake news that they can't tell fact from fiction anymore. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    May 8, 2018 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the question should be "if" but "why" would it work. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    May 8, 2018 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy My plan is that's the price of doing business. If you want to be independent as far possible in their situation, and print that comrade Roy is stealing money from the maternity ward to build his mistress a villa, you better make the news into something that most of the people would doubt. Or if riots happen, secret service will knock on your door. $\endgroup$
    – Airhead
    May 8, 2018 at 11:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Check out the Russian and Chinese press - you won't need imagination to see how it really works. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    May 8, 2018 at 12:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Given you've completely changed the question I withdraw my contribution. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    May 8, 2018 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


as long as they are sensationalized and distorted to a large and extent and buried with [...]

This is not free press. It is yet another flavor of controlled press. The government controls what can be written.

It is more or less what the communist press used to be during Cold War, when the newspapers were full of stories on how lucky where the commies to live under communism, while the poor westerners were forced to struggle under the capitalist greed [insert photo taken in some American slum here, showing a man ravaging garbage bins while seeking for food].

To a certain extent also part of the "free world" press was stuffed with stories on the baby eating commies.

On a side note, all the regimes become paranoid. So a journalist writes a report on a pig sinking in a mud pit, and the censors see it as a metaphor for the supreme ruler being hit by a drop of dirt water while getting out of his limo during a rainy day. As such it has to be censored!

  • $\begingroup$ @Airhead, though I appreciate that you marked my answer as accepted, there are other users in the community who are sleeping right now and might have more chance to find your question attractive if it wasn't marked as "answered". In this way you could more answers. That's why we advice waiting at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 8, 2018 at 12:37

While not exactly a public junta you just have to look to the establishment in the UK vs the Wilson government in the 1970's, Wilson's government was too far left for their tastes. Both the police force and the military in the UK swear an oath to to the king or queen then the government - the wording and the order is deliberate. Estiablishment disapproval was shown very publicly in the shape of a "military exercise" that involved taking over Heathrow airport, organised and executed without informing the government.

On this backdrop Mountbatten - the Queen's cousin visits her to ask for her blessing on plans to start a coup d'etat, offering to head the post coup military government.

The Wilson government was eventually taken down by a smear campaign organised by a group of "rogue" counter terrorism officers in Northern Ireland, who at the time were referred to as "a few bad apples in the barrel", but melted into the woodwork of history without criminal proceedings ever being taken against them.

This situation still gets tagged as "conspiracy theory" even in this age of information due to the fact it deals with a powerful minority effecting regime change of a democratically elected government and who was involved. However the current leader of the same party, Jeremy Corbyn was reminded of these events when he first became leader


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