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office. Some have a weighbridge for goods
                                                                       set into the platform, made in England of
                                                                       course. The original hand-operated points
                                                                       and signals are still lovingly cared for. Most
                                                                       stations are well maintained, the platforms
                                                                       decorated with brilliantly coloured geraniums
                                                                       and petunias, the slatted fences painted
                                                                       annually. The stationmaster is also in charge
                                                                       of the points and level crossings so, after
                                                                       setting the necessary levers, he rapidly dons
                                                                       his uniform to await the arrival of the train.
                                                                       He is equipped with a red cap and carries a
                                                                       red flag and a whistle with which he signals         ‘Fake News’ was not a term many   Nation state-sponsored           misleading photos, adverts on
                                                                       the train driver to proceed. It’s all very           people used two years ago, but it   misinformation:  The goal here isn’t   Facebook paid for by Russian
                                                                       nostalgic.                                           is now seen as one of the greatest   revenue, but influence. Outlets in   intelligence outfits, videos on
                                                                       Electronic signalling has also replaced the          threats to democracy, free debate   Russia or elsewhere might produce   YouTube claiming terrorist incidents
                                                                       manual technique of warning of oncoming              and the Western order. And yet,   content to swing public opinion,   are hoaxes. These are not links
                                                                       trains. The method was simple and foolproof.         nobody can agree on what it is,   sow division or give the illusion of   outside of social media but are part
                                                                       As a train left each station, the driver was         the extent of the problem, and   support for a particular candidate or   of the social networks themselves.
                                                                       given a hoop. He handed this to the next             what to do about it.             idea, either domestically or abroad.
                                                                       stationmaster who could then release any                                              Fabricated stories can often be   Finally: the deliberate dissemination
                                                                       train standing in the spur line at his station,      Fake news is not new. Octavian   mixed with true or sensationalised   of false information by politicians for
                                                                       and the hoop would travel back to its home           famously used disinformation to   ones. Over thirty nations currently   political means. Once the false data
                                                                       station with that driver.                            help his campaign against Marc   employ opinion shapers according   hits the media, it becomes ‘fact’.
                                                                                                                                                             to the 2017 Freedom on the Net
                                                                       Beyer, Peacock and Co. of Manchester built           Anthony. By the 20th century, fake   report.
                                                                       the first steam locomotives to run on the line.      news was called propaganda, and                                    Is there an answer? At the moment,
                                                                       Steam gave way to diesel in the 1970s, a             the new forms of mass                                              no, despite reassurances from
                                                                       disappointment to steam buffs but a                  communication helped             Highly-partisan news sites: These   Facebook, Google and the press
                                                                       significant increase in efficiency. When the         propaganda’s persuasive power to   can conflate fact and opinion, are   association. Everybody has to judge
                                                                       rails were wet the old engines had trouble           grow, particularly during wartime   nakedly supportive of one political   for themselves whether what they
                                                                       climbing some of the steep inclines and had          and by fascist regimes. However,   viewpoint or party, and often   read is fact or fiction. The general
                                                                       to be preceded by a man throwing sand on             before the Internet, it was      position themselves as alternatives   mistrust of news could lead many
                                                                       the track, reducing the speed to a walking           expensive to distribute information   to the mainstream media.     people to trust their own prejudices
                                                                       pace. The modern diesel locomotives spray            and to build up trust took years.                                  which could be very dangerous;
                                                                       sand automatically when they detect a lack           Propaganda, largely sponsored by   Social media itself: Swarms of   there are some real loopy loos out
                                                                       of adhesion.                                         Governments, tended to become    Twitter bots posting doctored or   there.
                                                                                                                            less effective as populations
                                                                       The Route                                            became used to mass
                                                                       Secure in the knowledge that progress will           communication; they could more
                                                                                                                            easily see through it.
                                                                       be in a forward direction, passengers can sit
                                                                       back and enjoy the spectacular scenery as
                                                                       the line follows the course of the Rio               The 21st century ushered in the
                                                                       Guadiaro. You will notice that the towns and         Internet and Social Media, and
                                                                       villages served by the stations are some way         fertile fields for the ‘opinion
                                                                       from the line and often perched high above           shapers’ who promote
                                                                       on their defensive ridges and buttresses.            propaganda online. Opinion
                                                                       Estacion Gaucin, or Colmenar for instance, is        shapers come in different shapes
                                                                       12 kilometres from Gaucin itself and Estacion        and sizes.
                                                                       Cortes serving Cortes de la Frontera is 5
                                                                       kilometres away. After Estacion Jimena the           Commercially-driven sensational
                                                                       line takes you through canyons and narrow            content: Stories that are not
                                                                       valleys as it starts the climb up to Ronda,          ideologically driven, but very often
                                                                       crossing and re-crossing the river. Just             have absolutely no grounding in
                                                                       before Ronda the line performs a hairpin             fact. Their key goal is to drive web
                                                                       bend to manage the last hill. It is a fantastic      traffic and, as a result, generate
                                                                       example of the best of 19th century, British,        advertising income.
                                                                       engineering.


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