Post Truth” was the word that Oxford Dictionary announced as it International Word of the Year for 2016. Post Trust is defined or denotes circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeal to emotions and personal beliefs. “Surreal” was the word Merriam-Webster chose as their word for the year 2016. Surreal refers to something marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.
We are in an era of surreal and Post Truth. We are repeatedly strafed with news and messages which are “half-truth” or “no truth”. We live in the Information Age, but with surreal and post-trust as a reality of the day, we also live in an age of misinformation or alternate facts.
Colleen Seifert at the University of Michigan in a Paper, ‘Continued Influence of Misinformation in Memory’ noted that there is a continued influence effect, where misinformation continues to influence judgement even after misinformation has been corrected.
That makes us stand on a busy cross road of Information and Misinformation. A leading newspaper recently carried a cartoon captioned “Facts Don’t Matter” where it depicts, I’m sorry, Jeannie, your answer was correct, but Kevin shouted his incorrect answers over yours, so he gets the point, says the quiz master to the participants. Propagandist speak in such a way that the targeted people believe and accept and pass on misinformation as Information, because they are convinced that that receiver can be persuaded and manipulated. Lies sauteed with emotional appeal are told in a convincing way are treated as truth, win the hearts of the weak and result in public opinion.
In Hebrews chapter 6, The Bible speaks about moving on to maturity. The stage of childhood, the stage of adolescence and to be cross into move into the age of maturity. Moving to maturity is essential for grownups, because they are no longer babies on liquid diet but be able to dissect information from misinformation, deceit, disinformation, falsehood from truth.
In the information age coupled with the influx of the social media as an essential element of our daily life, with facebook, twitter, whatsapp and other networking and communication applications, do we become culprits of passing rumor, gossips, bearing false witness and also being manipulated by misinformation.
What does the Bible say about it?
A rumor or gossip is an unconfirmed, widely spread story or statement. It may or may not contain elements of truth, but carry no factual certainty.
Bible warns against spreading rumors and those who engage in gossip. Proverbs 20:19 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Words are powerful. They can build up or destroy. James 3:2–12 instructs us to control our words. God desires that we use our words to praise Him, to speak wisdom and to encourage and edify each other.
The Bible often includes gossip in lists of specific evils Spreading rumors is so repulsive in the Lord’s sight that He made a prohibition against it in the Law He gave to the Israelites. Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
1st Timothy 5:13 sternly warns against using idle time to spread slander. And Proverbs 17:4 implies that those who eagerly listen to gossip have low character.
When the Bible says about speaking it also includes the communication of the digital age.
According to Proverbs 26:22 “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” There is a delicious thrill in hearing scandalous information about someone we know or wish we knew.
Have we ever heard of rumors of someone’s success, honour and achievements, or things that are positive and truthful in nature. As humans, we tend to enjoy the mere thrill of passing information and many times try to be the first one to do so. We get excited to become the centre of somebody’s attention. The sheer thrill, the overactive approach, novelty, high-sensation seeking tendency, experience seeking sensation, dis-inhibition and boredom makes us both victims and culprits of misinformation. Our sinful natures enjoy possessing a juicy morsel of information that would gain us attention in the telling. But when we are willing to recognize the selfishness of that desire, we can repent of it and dedicate our mouths to the glory of God
In Christian circles, prayer chain and prayer groups become victims and culprits of misinformation and Post truth.” Recently at a morning prayer gathering one lady brought an emotional running into tears prayer request to the congregation about a school bus accident in the city that morning in which several children passed on, the congregation prayed for the bereaved parents and kids who had survived. Later this news was found to be hoax. On being asked, the lady said, she just heard about it from someone else.
Prayer chains are ways that local churches inform other members of prayer needs within that body. They can be useful if the information shared is general knowledge and those informed will truly pray. However, many times prayer chains become excuses for speculation and misinformation as the story grows with each telling. A prayer chain can become a real-life example of the party game ‘telephone’ with the last person on the prayer chain receiving information that bears little resemblance to the original request. When this happens, it is nothing more than spreading rumors and can be destructive to individuals and churches.
Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” We cannot stop all rumors, but we can refuse to participate in them. We can break the “telephone” chain and refuse to pass it on. When we hear slanderous news, we should go to the source and check it out. If we are not part of the solution, and the person we are telling is not part of the solution, then the news is not ours to propagate. Next time you speak, or pick your phone or use your computer to share, forward a news or an information, ask yourself, is it really important? is it true ? If not, then I don’t have be a party to misinformation?