Truth in an age of disinformation
FAKE news is not only out. It has not only grown in notoriety. It is not only virtually on the lips of everybody. It has become a weapon. For one, it is used to discredit political or social enemies. For another, it is resorted to when trying to sell a candidate as through he/she were a product that have positives enhanced and negatives suppressed, glossed over or denied outright just so he/she could get elected or hired. At best, truth is glimpsed at; at worst, we see only its back, if at all.
One trouble ordinary citizens encounter is the diversification of truth. In scholastic philosophy we are told that truth consists in the conformity between the mind and outside reality. The problem is that there are as many minds as there are people. That simply means outside reality can be conceived of in many a mental frame by anyone, particularly by a leader. On his part, to choose any point of view carries with it the unwritten obligation to responsibly explore objectively, study and present it in a balanced way and pray fervently for the grace to arrive at the whole spectrum of possible aspects of truth our reality offers. The closest thing to expressing them altogether means the country is on the verge of rediscovering itself in a fuller, more complete way.
But then alternative facts stand in the way of finding truth. To advance one’s interests, a person could compromise with untruth. Alternative facts are offered by people in power in order to hide a deficiency, a failure or a negative impression. For instance, to cushion the bad impression of thousands of killings, a leader could stress the freedom from fear people experience on the streets or when walking at night due to a policy he espouses, to the extent that the next generation is being saved from from benign annihilation.
The Church understands truth in a totally distinct fashion. For her truth is what God reveals in and through Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). This revelation is itself historical and realistic, for the Son of God entered history and joined our sense of reality. Hence, it does not contradict our ordinary or philosophical understanding of truth. In Jesus Christ we see the whole reality of God and that of the human being; for he himself is both God and man. In him we are made to discover the full extent of our humanity and God’s divine mystery. Moreover, we the Church, so says St. John Paul II, are the guardian and proclaimer of this Truth. Our access to every means available in our local and national context as well as along international levels can only serve the ministry of the Church involving the truth.
In an age of disinformation, the Church must exert every possible effort, use every available means to proclaim this truth of Jesus Christ, whether or not people are willing to listen. For while in the Philippines liberation of individuals and of the nation are a goal, most of the time people are talking of social, political and economic liberation. They ignore their deeper need. If Jesus Christ reveals God to us and us to ourselves, then his word is crucial to our media use.
“If you will abide in my word, you will truly be my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).