Fake news only a democratic problem?

A NEWS item caught my attention recently. It said that the phenomenon of fake news nowadays is a crisis gripping countries with the democratic form of government. Frankly, I was amused more than anything else when I read that item.

What immediately came to my mind was the fake news – which is a euphemism for lies, spins, empty and tendentious rhetoric – have always been around since we can always misuse and abuse our freedom whether we are in a democracy, monarchy, autocracy, etc.

What aggravates the whole issue is that with easy access now to very powerful means of communication, the probability of fake news being spread around is indeed very high. We have many propagandists and spin masters who can only be partisan and therefore partial in their views. We now even have the so-called trolls.

Unless we know the real nature of freedom, its source, goal and means, and how it is related to the truth and ultimately and constantly to God, we would always be hounded by fake news and its many other forms and expressions that often are most tricky and deceptive.

When one is not inspired by the spirit of God, there is no way but to succumb to the ways of fake news, whether he is the maker or the receiver of such news. No amount of research and diligent work can replace the spirit of God who is the only one who can give us the whole truth, and truth that always goes together with charity. Without God, one tends to be reckless in his opinions and is often blinded by their own lights.

The other day, in an American talk show over the Youtube, the interviewer was fact-checked and was found to be mistaken in her assumptions. Just the same, the interviewer said that she counted on a vast network of researchers whose findings could support her claims. But she was actually wrong.

Everyone has to have recourse to God if he is interested in objectivity and fairness in his views. Ignoring God can only leave one to his subjective biases and prejudices. Not even a good intention supported by an extensive research and a big amount of data can change that.

With God, one will always be inspired to study issues very well before making some claims. He will examine his own attitudes and motives and put them in the right track.

He will also practice some restraint in his opinions, since in spite of all the studies and the amount of data and information, he knows that he still would not know everything. He would always realize that he does not have the last work on any issue. He should be open to the possibility of being corrected or given more data, etc.

But, alas, how many of our news agencies and journalists have God as their main anchor in their work? In fact, many of them would consider any reference to God as undermining their sense of objectivity and fairness.

Let’s remember what St. Augustine said about truthfulness. Some people “love truth when she shines on them, and hate her when she rebukes them.” He said that with these people truth will hide from them and will expose them in due time.

This is a real problem that is in need of urgent solution. How do we evangelize those in the media, so filled with their sense of self-importance and conceit, such that they realize deeply that they need God always in their work?

As to the readers and recipients of news, when they are with God, they would know that they just cannot believe what they read or hear in the media indiscriminatingly. They know they have to practice extreme prudence and discernment, especially now when fake news proliferate.

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Fr. Roy Cimagala is the Chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, Talamban, Cebu City ([email protected])/PN

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