Pope Francis condemned the idea of “fake news” in a message Wednesday, words that appeared to be an attempt to combat President’s Donald Trump’s ongoing war on inconvenient facts.
“Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions and serve economic interests,” wrote Pope Francis, noting that the first instance of “fake news” was committed by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
While Francis’ message was not specifically directed at Trump, there’s little question that the head of the Roman Catholic Church is aware of the American President’s role in seeking to call into question all news that he doesn’t like – and its ripple effect around the world.
Trump uses “fake news” as a political rallying cry – understanding that bashing the media is good politics for him with his base of supporters. What he doesn’t realize – or simply doesn’t care about – is the hugely corrosive effect that actively seeking to disqualify the idea of objective truth has on our culture.
If everyone is entitled to their own facts as well as their own opinions, then how can we ever agree on any set of facts on which we all agree? And, if we can’t agree on facts, what the hell can we agree on?
Francis put that idea more eloquently than me.
“Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue,” he said.
The Point: Trump’s attempt to label as “fake” anything with which he disagrees is, at the moment, his lasting imprint on our culture – and a massively damaging one at that. An American president who says more than 2,000 untrue things in his first year in office should trouble all of us – no matter what party you align with.
Read Wednesday’s full edition of The Point.