BY Daniel Harkins | February 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Scottish bishop echoes Pope in warning of ‘fake news’ dangers

A Scottish bishop has joined Pope Francis in warning about the dangers of ‘fake news.’

In the Pope’s message for World Communications Day, the Holy Father said we have a shared commitment to ‘stemming the spread of fake news’ and ‘rediscovering the dignity of journalism.’

“The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonising them and fomenting conflict,” the Pope said. “Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth.”

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley last week highlighted as an example of ‘fake news’ the reporting of pro-life groups who campaign outside abortion clinics.

“The media, especially it seems Channel Four News, unleashed a typical tirade against pavement counsellors, with Cathy Newman writing in the Telegraph that anti-abortion protests in Britain are more aggressive than ever,” Bishop Keenan said in a social media post. “Really hate to use the term, but a real, live genuine case of fake news!”

The bishop was referring to a Daily Telegraph article from last year in which the Channel Four News reporter attacked the pro-life group The Good Counsel Network.

Bishop Keenan also criticised pro-abortion groups that film pro-life campaigners outside clinics, and warned against the erosion of free speech.

The bishop said he supports the right of pro-lifers to ‘respectful vigils’ and he warned against ‘any draconian campaigns to get the likes of ASBOs (Public Spaces Protection Order) issued against people whose views you don’t like, in this case pro-lifers.’

“You may or may not agree with such vigils but that’s not the point here,” he said. “The point is whether you agree we should invoke laws to ban what is effectively free speech, in a context of due consideration for others privacy, respectful understanding of them and an invitation to peaceful dialogue, by means of legal measures made for serious anti-social behaviour like drunkenness and public disorder.”

In his message for communications day, Pope Francis said fake news ‘often goes viral, spreading so fast that it is hard to stop, not because of the sense of sharing that inspires the social media, but because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings.’

“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place,” the Holy Father said. “This was the strategy employed by the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news, which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbour, society and creation.”

“The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people,” the Pope continued. “People who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge.”

The Holy Father added that everyone has a responsibility to promote a ‘journalism of peace.’

“A journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines,” he said. “A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those—and they are the majority in our world—who have no voice. A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.”

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