Pope Francis has warned of the dangers of ‘satanic’ fake news, comparing the the purveyors of such information to the snake in the Garden of Eden.
He described false news as “evil” and accused peddlers of disinformation of employing “snake-tactics” similar to Satan who, disguised as a serpent, tempted Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden tree.
He issued the unusual warning in a document issued on Wednesday ahead of the Catholic Church’s World Day of Social Communications, which takes place on May 13.
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Reuters reports: The document was issued after months of debate on how much fake news may have influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and the election of President Donald Trump.
“Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests,” the pope wrote, condemning the “manipulative use of social networks” and other forms of communication.
Called “The truth will set you free – fake news and journalism for peace”, the document was issued in advance of the Catholic Church’s World Day of Social Communications on May 13.
“This false but believable news is ‘captious’, inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration,” Francis said.
False stories, the Pope said, spread so quickly that even authoritative denials often could not contain the damage done and many people run the risk of becoming “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas”.
He called for “education for truth” that would help people discern, evaluate and understand news in order to recognize the “sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments”.
Francis compared the use of fake news to the Bible story of the devil, who, disguised as a serpent, persuaded Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. He said she was fed wrong information by Satan, who told her the fruit would make her and Adam as all-knowing as God.
“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those (purveyors of fake news) who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.”
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, a former reporter for U.S. outlets, told Reuters Television: “The Pope is not saying that all journalists are snakes but he is certainly acknowledging that they can be.”
The pope said the role of journalists was “not just a job, it is a mission” and they had particular responsibility to stem fake news.