Our times may be described as time of fake news. For, leaders like Ronald Trump and Narendra Modi are internationally known leaders who indulge in spreading and promoting fake news! What is fake news? Let us understand fake news with the help of a concrete example. Pope Francis points out an incident in the Bible as an example for fake news.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis in Chapter 3 narrates a conversation between snake the woman Eve. In the conversation between them the snake says to the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden?”

“We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden,” the woman answered. Except the the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will die.”

The snake replied, “That is not true; you will not die. God said that, because he knows that when you eat it you will be like God and know what is good and wht is bad.” (Gen. 3: 1b – 5)

The woman felt that the snake was telling her the truth. She saw that the fruit looked beautiful and it was very attractive as it would make her wise. So she took and ate the fruit and gave it to her husband who also ate it. Eating the forbidden fruit brought her and her husband very bad result. They were driven away from the paradise.
This is just a simple story but with a strong message. Men and women can be easily  cheated or misled by a mixture of truth and half truth. Facts and cooked up stories can mislead people. A mixed data of truth and falsehood can create fake news which can change people’s views and opinions. So fake news is often a concoction of truth and falsehood. Fake news leads unsuspecting person on the wrong path of false belief.

Education has increased among people. People have began to think for themselves. Behind the thinking of the people there are their experiences, concrete facts and their personal belief and opinion as well as naked truth. Selfish leaders and self-seeking politicians create fake news mixing true things and falsehood making people believe that they have the whole truth in their favour!

It is essential to know fake news and be cautious about them. But many people are unable to distinguish from truth from falsehood as it is difficult to separate one from the other in a mixture of milk and water. So uncritical people believe anything printed or broadcast or even gossips. There are self-seeking politians and leaders who take advantage of such situation. They create fake news without any ethics and morality.

News is usually based on truth and concrete facts. When journalists cover a public function their reports based on truth and reality will be more or less similar. But selfish leaders and polititians do not want the people to know the whole truth and draw their own conclusions. They want the ordinary people to believe and support their point of view. So they mix truth and half truth and even falsehood and knowingly deceive the unsuspecting people!
So these days we need to  check every news printed in newspapers or broadcast in social and mass media like televison and radio. For, we know that practically all mass media have been penetrated by politicians and others who have no morality and gloriously mislead people.

The 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat is well known in the whole world. For, Indian and foreign journalists and writers have written  in depth news reports, research papers, and even published  books. I refer here just one book: HARVEST OF HATE – GUJARAT UNDER SEIZE. The book is published by Rupa Pyblishers, New Delhi. It is written by two eminant personaliaties: Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thambu. Both are also well known social workers. They are upholders of truth, nothing but the whole truth. So we can accept and believe their finding written after much research and investigation.

But here in the context of fake news our attention is drawn to another two similar books. Like the communal clash against the Muslims in Gujarat there was an organized, systematic communal attack on the Christians in Kandhamal District, Odisha in 2008. In the attack about a 100 Christians were mercilessly killed. Like in Gujarat where Muslims were falsely accused of killing ‘karasevaks’     the communal attacks in Kandhamal were launched falsely accusing the Christians murdering Swami Laxmanananda. Even though the Maoists publically took responsibility for murdering the ut Swami, the communal attackers went after Christians raping, murdering them and destroying their houses, Churches, hostels and other Christian institutions.

After the communal attacks on the Christians in Kandhamal District a book came out similar to the book mentioned above. The title of the new book is similar: HARVEST OF HATE – KANDHAMAL IN CROSSFIRE. According to the claim of the publishers, India Foundation, New Delhi the book has been brought out by an American research scholar and a seeker of truth, one Michael Parkar. The same book is published again with minor changes and modications with a new title: ORRISA IN CROSSFIRE – KANDHAMAL BURING by another author named Brenon Parkar.

But a real research scholar and an internationally known journalist Anto Akkara has proved beyond doubt that both the authers and their books are FAKE!

Beginning with eminent journalist Kuldeep Nair many Indian and foreign journalists and authors have appreciated and welcomed Anto Akkara’s research and his conclusions. Journalists Anto Akkara has made no less than 27  trips to Kandhamal after the murder of Swami Laxmanananda and published 5 books of his research about Kandhamal communal attacks against the Christians. I have written and published a review of the 5 books in English.
In short we need to be cautious about believing and following many things written or broadcast in mass media. In the Bible story the snake used tricks and deceptions to get the woman to follow his path. Similarly self-seekers use many tricks and deceptions to mislead the public. In such situation to cull out truth from falsehood we may use the triple filter of Sacrates.

Socretes was visiting a friend. The friend was very happy to welcome Socretes and was eager to share with him something. But Socretes told his friend that before he shares with him his story it has to pass through his thriple filters!
Socretes told his friend,  “Truth is the first filter. So are you very sure that the thing, which you are going to share with me, is true beyond doubt?”

“I am not very sure about the veracity of  the story. I have heard it from a firiend”, Socretes’ friend said.
“So you are not very sure if your story is true or not. So let us use the second filter. Is your story good for me or for someone? Is it about the good behaviour of someone?”

Socretes’ friend has to acknowledge that his story is not about the good behaviour of someone nor does it say something good. On the contrary the story may be harmful to someone.
Before his friend say anything further, Socretes said, “You are not sure if your story is true or not. Then you say that your story instead of doing good may be harmful to someone. So let us examine your story with the third filter. Is your story needed for me? Will it be useful to me?”

Socretes’ friend had to acknowledge before him that his story has nothing good or useful for Socretes.
“Then,” Socretes said, “There is absolutely no need to tell your story to me.” That was the end of the story of Socretes’ friend.

So without blindly believing any news or story let us use our intelligence and common sense. Let us save ourselves and others from sharing and spreading fake news .#
Changed On: 01-11-2019
Next Change: 16-11-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019