April 15th, 2018
Some may think that fake news is a 21st century invention. It has been there from the dawn of human existence. The difference is the global reach and the speed with which it can travel and, consequently, affect or influence a vast number of people. Fake news can fall under any of the following categories: gossip, rumor, falsifying truth, deception, misinformation, deceiving, lying, misrepresenting, distorting, fabricating truth, etc.
We find mention of fake news in the Gospel: “while they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” (Matthew 28:11-15)
The authorities were trying to falsify the resurrection of Jesus. If we examine history, we find that fake news has caused wars, violence, murders and all sorts of evil. Our penchant for truth is challenged and, at times, even overcome by fake news.
In discussing fake news, we may think that it is out there, or someone else is the cause of fake news. In some ways, we are all guilty of fake news. When we gossip or engage in character assassination of another we are engaging in fake news. Saint Francis of Sales says, “Slander is a kind of murder. We have three kinds of life: spiritual (God’s grace), corporal (that of body and soul) and social (our good name). Sin destroys the spiritual life, death the corporal life and slander/gossip destroys social life.”
The saint continues to say, “beware of falsely imputing crimes and sins to your neighbor, revealing his secret sins, exaggerating those that are manifest, putting an evil interpretation on his good works…in these you offend God and do harm to your neighbor.”
As we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, it is good to ask: Am I an agent of fake news? In our TV, computer, internet and social media age, not only the agent of fake news, but the platform that supports it also is guilty. Those responsible for providing the platform for news and media should scrutinize and remove fake news before it does tremendous harm to humanity!
— Father Augustine