Fake News Is Not Good News
Thou shalt speak the truth and respect the good name of your neighbor.
Loud and crystal clear, that is the eighth commandment of God, Yahweh as handed down to us by Moses from Mt. Sinai. In an old version, which we all learned from the Baltimore Catechism, the message is the same but in more familiar wordings: Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.
These days, however, not only has this commandment been ignored, along with the other nine provisions, but a different kind of mindset is emerging, one that is being practiced, peddled and massively sustained to the detriment of what is good, honorable and factual. It has one particular evil intention: to destroy the good name of your neighbor by simply hiding, twisting, and garbling the truth.
If this is kind of a new game, it has become dirty. And it is a grievous sin that no Catholic should ever become part of.
The name of this recent scheme is “fake news”, and the dumping ground is the media, using journalists and paid hacks who saturate the populace with wrong information and lies. Worse, it is becoming a dangerous habit to the extent that the minds of the public are subjected to dark, clouded and biased information, disabling them from making clearer and constructive conclusions.
It has become a cloak that covers up failings, and criminal acts; at the same time a canvass with which a different scenario is presented to project the opposite of reality.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recently came up with a very timely exhortation against fake news. Entitled “CONSECRATE THEM IN THE TRUTH,” the pastoral statement penned by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan and the current CBCP president, made it clear that “crucial decisions depend on the accurate grasps of facts;” but sad to say, he quickly added, “there are persons who have given themselves to the service of reporting what never happened, concealing what really happened, and distorting what should really be presented in an objective manner.”
The acts of faking news and creating false stories have been with us since creation. The devil seduced Adam and Eve with tantalizing words; Judas became a traitor on the basis of a preconceived idea of what a Messiah should be; Hitler had his own propagandists under Goebbels who enabled him to go on a warpath, telling and repeating lies that he eventually mistook for the truth.
And today, we have seen a flood of information that has destroyed reputations of good people, news that have been repeatedly published and shared, glorifying and justifying killings, even bad words and curses spoken by high government officials that they have become ordinary expressions of those who were once decent people—especially the youth.
All these because we patronize, popularize and believe fake news. We love destroying people. We copy the worst in the kind of leaders we have. We never seek the truth. We become media ourselves, purveying falsehoods, deceiving one another.
And so we laugh. We enjoy with gusto this charade. And even enjoin others to be part of the fun, not knowing about the consequences of our defective choice.
Most of all, we have kept quiet, believing instead that this will come to pass. We tolerate the evil that is going on because we never like to leave our comfort zone. We no longer believe that being tricked with soothing words will lead us to being banished from the Garden. And forming a conclusion merely on the basis of biased, selfish motives can lead us to betray Him who is Truth, Himself.
The CBCP urges us Catholics to speak nothing but the truth. And be consecrated in the truth.