Spreading misinformation and distorting truths are not new phenomenon. Our holy scriptures are filled up with warnings about false prophets and those who go around in sheep clothing, but are ravenous as wolves. The problem with detecting lies and distortions is that liars build on partial truths, perhaps adding a twist here and there. They also appeal to our biases and are experts at discerning what we want to hear and making their lies fit our presumptions and prejudices.
We need to be careful of where we get our information. We need to be aware of our prejudices, preconceptions, and assumptions, for they make us vulnerable to misinformation that fits our expectations.
It is not uncommon for those who are benefitting from an unjust system to use misinformation to protect that system. For example, if you read the gospels, you will notice the way certain powerful people followed Jesus around searching for ways to bring him down. They asked him questions, trying to trap him into saying something they could twist and use against him. In the end their propaganda campaign worked and they persuaded people to turn against him, taking partial truths and twisting them to fit a narrative the people would react to. The people listened to the lies and ended up shouting, “Crucify him, crucify him!”
A contemporary example of misinformation leading to attacks on a good man are the lies and distortions about Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci is a physician and immunologist who has long been sought out as an expert on infectious diseases. But, because he is stating facts that powerful interests do not want to hear and giving advice that goes against what people want to hear, he has been maligned. Crowds have been encouraged to shout, “Fire Fauci, fire fauci!” A man named Steve Bannon even suggested his beheading. Sadly, people in crowds are often easily manipulated.
We cannot trust every voice we hear and need to test what we hear before we put any faith in it. When what we are hearing goes against what we know to be God’s good news; when what we hear protects unjust systems, patterns, or structures of this world, we will do well to be suspicious. When what we hear props up the economy and ignores the needs of people, we need to be cautious and tentative with our belief.
At this time there is a lot of misinformation about Covid 19 floating around out there. People are justifiably tired of the restrictions, tired of being good and wearing masks and keeping socially distant. This means that people are vulnerable to misinformation that will allow them to set aside those restrictions and get back to normal life. What I can’t understand is why spreading this misinformation seems a good thing to do. I’m not sure who benefits from distorting the truth and creating a climate so that the pandemic surges and begins to overwhelm hospitals.
The advice we are given by Dr. Fauci and others is common sense to me. Looking at past epidemics and pandemics, it is easy for me to understand that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of an air born disease, that keeping socially distant is necessary, and that washing hands is the least we can do. I am puzzled by those who don’t see the common sense of these directives.
Herd immunity in this situation is not anything we want to strive for. Too many people would need to die, and the virus could easily mutate and attack us in new ways if allowed to run rampant over our country. This is just one situation that illustrates the need to guard against misinformation for that misinformation leads to deaths.
There are many other streams of misinformation traveling around our country at this time. We need to be aware that for one reason or another there are those who will lie to us, so test what you hear with multiple sources of information.
My beloved ones, test what you hear and do not be easily fooled by lies.