Pope never said Jesus was a metaphor, as dodgy site claims
Yournewswire.com, a dodgy fake news site with a long record of infaflammatory claims that keep Snopes busy, can’t be accused of burying the lede.
Pope Francis’s latest controversial statement – that “Jesus is metaphorical, not literal” – has pushed the Catholic Church to the verge of open mutiny, with multiple Vatican cardinals going on the record declaring Pope Francis is the false prophet foretold in holy scripture and prophecy.
Well, that escalated fast.
Who are the multiple cardinals who are on the record “declaring Pope Francis is the false prophet foretold in holy scripture and prophecy”?
Well, you can read the whole story without finding out, but on the way you’ll wade through a good deal of invention and distortion (Francis did compare Christ to a serpent, for example, but in the context of a sermon which you can read here.)
The story ends, almost inevitably, with a claim that the Pope called for a single world government, particularly for Americans. (The idea that secret forces are seeking a single world government is a very durable conspiracy theory.)
The current Pope has turned out to be more liberal than people who are less liberal than him would like him to be. As any pope would, Francis appeals more to some wings of the church than others, and the critics of the current papacy are found mostly on the right. Some of the more extreme ones are given to denouncing Francis as a heretic, and if you’re in the business of fabrications, it must be tempting to invent ever more outrageous imaginary heresies so that they can be indignantly reported and denounced.
So the fake news pattern we see here is one we’ve seen in other contexts, which is inserting falsehood into a situation where there are existing divisions, in order to amplify them.
Francis became the subject of one of the better-known fake news stories of the U.S. 2016 election cycle, when one site claimed that he had endorsed Donald Trump. (An earlier fabrication claimed that he had endorsed Bernie Sanders.)
Perhaps understandably, fake news has Francis’s attention. A pastoral letter planned for early next year will offer ” … a reflection on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media,” pointing out that fake news “involves an often misleading distortion of facts, with possible repercussions at the level of individual and collective behaviour.”
WATCH: Colin Stretch, vice-president and general counsel at Facebook, faced an intense round of questioning from U.S. Senator Al Franken during a Senate hearing Monday into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
In fake news news:
- Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have died and hundreds of thousands have fled a genocide driven by Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. Increasingly, it looks like hate propaganda circulated on Facebook played an important role in fuelling ethnic hatred. Once again, it looks like the platforms, Facebook in this case, are profoundly unable to understand or cope with the world that they themselves created: “In many ways, Myanmar is an example of the future Mark Zuckerberg seems to want: A country in which most people are connected through the social network and get virtually all of their news from it,” CJR concludes. “And yet, the outcome of that vision isn’t a utopia, it’s a dystopia — a world where ethnic and cultural tensions are inflamed and weaponized.” (Last week, we linked to this must-read story in Foreign Policy, which covers much of the same ground.)
- In the Guardian, a case that part of the problem social media platforms are both experiencing and causing society to experience lies in STEM and the humanities being out of balance. Technology gets developed, but little thought is given to its implications. “Mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated.”
- “Baked into the frustration surrounding these gaffes is a sense that Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are incapable of the necessary introspection to see themselves the way their critics might,” Charlie Warzel writes in BuzzFeed. “… They’re massive companies with world-historic power, and they don’t seem to recognize that consumers aren’t approaching them with the good faith they used to.”
- Freedom House published a report earlier this month warning that “… state-sponsored efforts to control online discussion has become significantly more widespread and technically sophisticated, with bots, propaganda producers, and fake news outlets exploiting social media and search algorithms to ensure high visibility and seamless integration with trusted content.” Psychology Today has a summary.
- Russia gets a lot of attention, but albawaba.com, an online new outlet based in Jordan, points out that bot armies are afflicting journalists who try to cover the conflict in Yemen. Possible culprits: the Saudis or the UAE.
- The Stanley Foundation’s recent paper ‘Three Tweets to Midnight: Nuclear Crisis Stability and the Information Ecosystem‘ “somehow manages to avoid ever mentioning Trump by name,” the Nieman Lab quips. There are “more questions than answers,” the problem being new. Among them: “How might online belittling and humiliation affect the emotional state of a decision-maker in a crisis?” and “How might the information ecosystem change the likelihood that a leader gets caught in a commitment trap or is able to escape one?”
- In the Post: a look at how Russian disinformation targets Canadian troops deployed to Latvia. Ten soldiers keep track of it full-time. Among their imagined sins: buying large quantities of beer, and littering.
- Warzel also has an investigation of the murky world of YouTube videos featuring children in what he calls “disturbing and abusive situations.” While the videos Buzzfeed flagged were taken down once they started asking questions, ” … the … videos present a specific challenge to YouTube in its effort to moderate, potentially exploitative, content on its platforms. While all of the videos are bizarre and disturbing, many are creepy in ways that may be difficult for a moderation algorithm to discern.”
- And a board member of the European Central Bank is concerned about fake economic data. “Actions by economic agents could become less anchored to actual activity and more prone to manias and panics, with obvious implications for economic and financial stability,” Benoit Coeure said in a speech in Paris.
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