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Friday, March 24, 2017

Fake News Matters! Are You Posting and Sharing Lies on Facebook and Twitter?

If you dispense fake news, no one will believe you
 even when you speak the truth, as the boy 
who cried "wolf" learned!
I'm working my way through the February issue of Chronicles and was intrigued by Scott Reichert's article, Why Fake News Matters. He points out that fake news comes from both sides of the political spectrum and seems to be motivated by agendas on both the left and the right to damage opponents.

I agree! And it's equally repulsive whatever the source. Fake news isn't a new problem. Aesop addressed it in his fables 500 years before the birth of Christ. Remember the little boy who cried "wolf!"?

I was concerned about fake news long before anyone coined the term. For years, a few of my email friends, one in particular, forwarded all kinds of questionable articles. Sometimes they wrote later to say it wasn't true after all. One friend began sending things out prefaced by, "I don't know if this is true or not, but...."

My reaction to that is astonishment. Truth matters! So does credibility and trust in sources. I don't want to be a questionable source whom someone can point to and say, "You can never be sure that what she writes is accurate. She passes on all kinds of nonsense, some of it slanderous, without checking to see if it's true."

If I get a story and my antenna go up as I read it, I check it out. Where is this coming from? Did Ben Stein or the military vet or the reporter at Podunk news, or whoever really say it...or write it? Sometimes "yes," sometimes "yes, but," and sometimes "no absolutely not."

If something has a "this seems fishy" smell about it, I check. What did Pope Francis or Vladimir Putin really say? What was the context? Is the sensational headline proven by the content of the article?

Scott Reichert got me thinking about all that when he wrote:
A concern for the truth -- no matter how politically useful a lie may prove -- lies at the heart of any true conservatism (and, it goes without saying, at the heart of Christianity). Those who cannot see that -- or, rather, refuse to see that -- are as much the enemies of civilization as those who deliberately attempt to undermine it. Like everything else in life, sharing something on Facebook or Twitter is a moral act; failing to determine whether something is true because you hope to harm your "enemies" by spreading the story around does not mitigate the sin of calumny -- it deepens your culpability.
Wow! What a great meditation (and examination of conscience) for Lent. Am I violating the 8th Commandment on social media? Jesus is Truth. If we are followers of Jesus, we must be lovers of truth. And even if what we share is true, if it damages another's reputation we must be sure there's a sufficient reason for exposing it, e.g., protection of children, protection of the state and the common good, warning someone in danger, etc. To be a conduit for every salacious story that pops up on your feed is a danger to your soul.

Let us pray to always speak the truth and to speak it in charity. Lord, you are the way, the truth, and the life. Help me always use my gift of speech to advance your will, not mine, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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