This post has two, related, points:
1. A past post was entitled: Please Christians…stop sharing fake news! We follow THE TRUTH – our Lord Jesus Christ. Early church historian Luke (who wrote Luke-Acts in the New Testament) was concerned with writing an accurate portrayal of Jesus and the early church. We should strive to be accurate and trustworthy with our faith and how we present it – and with other things too.
Yet, I often find that evangelical Christians can be the worst culprits when it comes to sharing news reports of questionable origin, internet rumors, hoaxes, and the like. This does not properly reflect people who claim to follow THE TRUTH. We should be concerned with accuracy and exhibit critical thinking skills.
Why should an unbeliever listen when you share Christian truth, if they otherwise observe that you naively fall for falsehoods all the time? You aren’t credible! Please… pause, think, and do a little research. Here are some ideas:
- What is the source of the news story? That can be revealing. If you see the source is The Onion or The Babylon Bee, then it is satire. (More below.)
Is it an obviously biased site, something like “exposing liberal lies”?
Is it an obscure site, that you have never heard of before?
These things warrant further investigation.
- Compare several different mainstream news sources. If something is true, you should be able to find it on multiple news sources. While different reputable news sites may place a different spin on a story, the basic facts should be the same.
- Ask yourself thoughtful questions about the report or story. There may be obvious flaws or problems with it, if you take a few moments to consider it.
- Go to a site like snopes.com and see if they have investigated it.
That was a summary of a previous post, but now I will mention another problem, related to this one.
2. Are you taking everything literally? – Stop it! I increasingly find that false info is spread or confusion created due to an inability to detect literary devices…hyperbole, satire, irony, sarcasm, and just plain old wit. This site reviews literacy devices.
Literary devices are used to create and convey meaning. They can help with thoughtful reflection, and in making a point. But I increasingly observe an inability to recognize these things. The point is completely missed. Techniques that are supposed to create thinking and thus bring clarity, end up doing the opposite. And if you have to announce ahead of time that you are utilizing satire or hyperbole, well, that defeats things – it detracts from the power of the argument and makes the usage of the literary device almost pointless!
I don’t think Mark Twain would succeed as a writer today. Twain was known for social commentary – utilizing both subtle and overt satire, irreverent humor, and the like. He was a master of witty communication, and today I fear that few would understand him.
Please note that satire and fake news are two different things. Recently on someone’s facebook page, a satire piece was shared, and someone responded “this is fake news.” To which the original poster replied, “No. This is not fake news. It is satire.”
Fake news is propaganda. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead and spread false information. It may be outright lies, or the manipulation of details, in order to deceive. Satire is utilizing humor to make a point. It is not trying to mislead. A satirical story uses a silly or exaggerated example in order to demonstrate or expose a societal folly. In other words: satire may not be true, but it is attempting to portray a truth.
(On another note, there are a variety of literary devices in the Bible, and an inability to detect them can likewise cause Bible interpretation problems.)
I am not certain about what tips to offer about recognizing literary devices, but here are some ideas:
- Don’t react immediately. Pause. Think. If a statement seems exaggerated, that may be the exact point – hyperbole is being used to make a point about something.
- Does the story, while written like a news story, seem rather silly or farfetched? Good satire is like that! Fake news is different – It is not silly; it is presented as real news.
- Does a detail not make sense – meaning it is outright illogical? This can be a good clue that some type of witty humor is in use.
- Is there a tone to it? This can be a bit harder to detect with the written word, but sometimes you can detect an overall seriousness vs. humor.
Others ideas welcome for identifying fake news and literary devices.