Fake news is plainly propaganda to misinform and shape the minds of target audiences. Fake news is nothing new as this began from the time of Adam and Eve. Now is the time for those tasked to evangelize to study and act on how to deal with fake news.
PUBLISHED ONMay 2018
Yes. You read that right. There is no such thing as fake news. Editorializing or injecting your interpretation of the events is not part of a reporter’s job. News must always be based on facts, not fiction, and especially not about lies. So the term “fake news” is an oxymoron. How can something based on facts and the truth be fake?
Fake news is plainly propaganda produced with the deliberate intent to misinform and feed biases of target audiences. They are slanted often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated or fictitious headlines to increase readership, online sharing, and Internet click revenue, similar to the tactics of "clickbait" headlines.
Jesus Was Victim of Fake News
Fake news is probably as old as the story of creation itself as Pope Francis beautifully said it in his 2018 World Communications Sunday message. He said the serpent used fake news to lure Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was a victim of fake news when after his Resurrection, the chief bribed the soldiers guarding the tomb and instructed them to spread word that “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” The Gospel according to Matthew adds that this is the source of the story that “is still told among the Jews to this day” (Matthew 28:11-15).
Nazi Germany was very effective in using the power of mass media to spread fake news and poison the minds of many Germans. Nazi chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels knew the power of the propaganda technique the “Big Lie”, a term coined by none other than Adolf Hitler, which runs on the principle that if you keep repeating a lie, everyone will eventually believe it to be the truth. It was so powerful that some six million Jews had to suffer horrific deaths because of it.
How the Nazis spread fake news before is not far-fetched from how it is being spread today. The title of this article demonstrates this: it draws your attention quickly! This clickbait tactic was first used by digital marketers to lure unique visits to their websites, which automatically translates to higher website traffic, which gives them added revenue apart from selling these numbers to potential website advertisers.
Psychology Behind Fake News
Headlines like “What happens next will blow you away!” or “After she stops singing, I can’t stop crying” are prime examples of clickbaits. But there is a deeper psychology behind a fake news headline. And uninformed social media users help spread this like a deadly virus, thus the term “viral” is coined. How? Point your finger at cellphones.
Did you know that there are more cellphones than toothbrushes being used in the planet right now as you read this article? Author Jamie Turner, in an online article published in April 2016, investigated this claim and found this to be true.
This shows that people would invest more on a device that would improve their communication with other people rather than invest on a tool for personal hygiene. It is in man’s nature to communicate. It is a basic need that must be fulfilled. This need to communicate faster and more efficiently has led to the evolution of the modern day cellular phone. The smartphone is nothing more but compressing the personal computer, television, calculator, planner, etc. to fit it into your pocket. You can watch your favorite movie or TV program anytime, anywhere.
You need not go to a library to do your research or to read a copy of your favorite book. Gone are the days that you need to listen to music on the go with a bulky Walkman clipped under your belt. This technology has changed the way we receive and consume information. It also transformed consumers of information and users of media, into producers of information and controllers of media. All thanks to the power of social media.
A Double Edged Sword
But social media is a double edged sword. It has sped up the way we communicate with and connect to each other. New relationships are formed and old ones are rekindled. We can easily learn new things, and know the latest news quickly.
But the flip side to this is this immense power to produce content that is easily entrusted in the hands of anyone who has access to a mobile device and a social media account. In order for a person to write and publish news, produce TV programs and movies, one has to go through college to learn journalism, broadcasting and film production, along with the ethical dimensions of practicing the craft. It is like Ben Parker, the uncle of Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-man reminding us about the power of social media: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
This is where the irony of it all starts. Even with the vast information available at our fingertips, most users of social media are faster to share a particular article that verifies their particular beliefs, views and personal biases. Taken together, they are a potent and deadly concoction to spread fake news quickly thought social media with millions of people reading your posts.