On this day of “News and communication” we can’t escape to ponder on the last two years where we got bombarded with continuous streams of fake news and attacks on people and organisations.
All people who write on the internet should be aware of their social function and be conscious of their responsibility and impact on others. The last few months social media also showed its bad and dangerous side in being a weapon of opponents and misleader of the people. When you look at the fake news that could be spread in one week it should really alarm us.
Today the Roman Catholic Church Father Francis I looked at what is going on in this world and said
Made in the image and likeness of our Creator, we are able to express and share all that is true, good, and beautiful. We are able to describe our own experiences and the world around us, and thus to create historical memory and the understanding of events.
He is also aware and tells about what happened very early in the history of man, what too many have forgotten. We should remember that there was the inner thought of the mannin or first woman who doubted the sincerity and honesty of her Creator. Pope Francis has denounced fake news as evil, comparing it to the snake in the Garden of Eden, and urged journalists to make it their mission to search for the truth.
In his annual social communications message, Francis said fake news played on stereotypes and prejudices, and praised efforts to make social media users aware of false reports. Question hereby can bye how we ourselves want to see the world around us and how we want to be honest to others. Lots of our way of reaction against others has to do with our background, attitude of life and our pride.
The pope opened his sermon today with a warning.
But when we yield to our own pride and selfishness, we can also distort the way we use our ability to communicate. This can be seen from the earliest times, in the biblical stories of Cain and Abel and the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen 4:4-16; 11:1-9). The capacity to twist the truth is symptomatic of our condition, both as individuals and communities. On the other hand, when we are faithful to God’s plan, communication becomes an effective expression of our responsible search for truth and our pursuit of goodness.
In 1972 Pope Paul VI already for the World Communications Day had its theme: “Social Communications at the Service of Truth”. The present pope want also to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth. for this pope it is not the first time he has scolded those who spread false news reports. He called it a “very serious sin” that not only hurts those who have been slandered but also hurts journalism itself.
We have come into a time when it looks like a sport or competition to bring the most deceiving and manipulating messages to the reader. Clearly the spreading of fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests, and is as such used.
The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible. Secondly, this false but believable news is “captious”, inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration. The ability to spread such fake news often relies on a manipulative use of the social networks and the way they function. Untrue stories can spread so quickly that even authoritative denials fail to contain the damage.
In Christendom we can see that lots of people are so caught by the arrangement between the clergy and the Roman emperor Constantine. Their agreement to equal the Roman gods with the Christian figures (or better the other way around) made that the Trinity was born and fostered.
The difficulty of unmasking and eliminating fake news is due also to the fact that many people interact in homogeneous digital environments impervious to differing perspectives and opinions. Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas. The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict. Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth.
In Facebook Groups lots of people go very hard against people who have an other opinion than they or than mainstream groups. Many want others to believe as them and when they do not do that they come to abuse them and call them names.
It is not an easy task to get people to see what really happened and to get rid of the false information Awful is it when such false news is to blacken people or organisations. Since disinformation is often based on deliberately evasive and subtly misleading rhetoric and at times the use of sophisticated psychological mechanisms, plus when it gets multiplied or shared via social media it starts running its own life and often turns up a few years later when people have forgotten about the matter and do not recollect that it was classified as fake news.
The Pope finds it good that
praiseworthy efforts are being made to create educational programmes aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media, and teaching them to take an active part in unmasking falsehoods, rather than unwittingly contributing to the spread of disinformation. Praiseworthy too are those institutional and legal initiatives aimed at developing regulations for curbing the phenomenon, to say nothing of the work being done by tech and media companies in coming up with new criteria for verifying the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles.
Yet preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the “snake-tactics” used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place. This was the strategy employed by the “crafty serpent” in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news (cf. Gen 3:1-15), which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide (cf. Gen 4) and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbour, society and creation. The strategy of this skilled “Father of Lies” (Jn 8:44) is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments.
The world is taken by its greed. So many people do want it all for themselves. Politicians do whatever they can to degrade their opponents and to let themselves look the better one.
What is at stake is our greed. Fake news often goes viral, spreading so fast that it is hard to stop, not because of the sense of sharing that inspires the social media, but because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings. The economic and manipulative aims that feed disinformation are rooted in a thirst for power, a desire to possess and enjoy, which ultimately makes us victims of something much more tragic: the deceptive power of evil that moves from one lie to another in order to rob us of our interior freedom. That is why education for truth means teaching people how to discern, evaluate and understand our deepest desires and inclinations, lest we lose sight of what is good and yield to every temptation.
At Facebook Groups we often find people, claiming to be Christian, using words unworthy for a lover of God and for a follower of Christ, calling those who are not in line with their thinking all sorts of names. By bringing all sorts of false ‘news’ they also try to bring others in discredit. In many of those groups we can see a constant contamination by deceptive language which can end up darkening our interior life.
Dostoevsky’s observation is illuminating:
“People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them, and so lose all respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect, they cease to love, and in order to occupy and distract themselves without love they give way to passions and to coarse pleasures, and sink to bestiality in their vices, all from continual lying to others and to themselves.” (The Brothers Karamazov, II, 2).
Many people are thrown form one side to the other and become so confused, not able to see what is true , half-true and what is false. Lots of false messages look so engrossing that one can not resit the excitement and love to share it on social media which makes the ball rolling.
So how do we defend ourselves?
The most radical antidote to the virus of falsehood is purification by the truth.
In Christianity, truth is not just a conceptual reality that regards how we judge things, defining them as true or false. The truth is not just bringing to light things that are concealed, “revealing reality”, as the ancient Greek term aletheia (from a-lethès, “not hidden”) might lead us to believe. Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the root ‘aman, the source of our liturgical expression Amen.
Those who call themselves Christian should have the aim in them to purify their body and spirit and to share the love of Christ with others, not wanting to hurt them by false sayings or awful words. they should work on their character, trying to become like Christ. By their daily meditations and reading of the Word of God they should discover and rediscover the truth when they experience it within themselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves them.
every person should know that the truth will set them free (Jn 8:32).
Freedom from falsehood and the search for relationship: these two ingredients cannot be lacking if our words and gestures are to be true, authentic, and trustworthy. To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another. Nor can we ever stop seeking the truth, because falsehood can always creep in, even when we state things that are true. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.
When looking at news channels, social media (tweets and Facebook messages) we always should use our common sense and examine the truth as well as the value of the message.
The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectorsof news. In today’s world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission. Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons. Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people’s lives. That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.
The pontiff wants to invite everyone to promote a journalism of peace. He said
By that, I do not mean the saccharine kind of journalism that refuses to acknowledge the existence of serious problems or smacks of sentimentalism. On the contrary, I mean a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines. A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice. A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.
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