News Brief

Why The Pope Is Condemning ‘Snake’ News

The Pope has attacked fake news as a modern evil, comparing it to the snake in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden.

In a message released for World Communications Day, Pope Francis said fake news works by playing on “common social prejudices” and exploiting “instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration.”

The danger has been around since the biblical beginning of time, he said, when Eve was tempted to take an apple from the Garden of Eden based on disinformation from the serpent.

“The strategy of this skilled ‘Father of Lies’ is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments,” the Pope said of the snake.

But the “manipulative” use of modern social networks meant that falsehoods could spread far more quickly today, he warned, adding his voice to the growing chorus of concern about disinformation and its effect on public opinion worldwide.

More needed to be done, he said, “to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.”

The Pope did not address the issue of the term “fake news” being used by politicians as a form of attack — most notably by President Donald Trump — as a way of discrediting critical reporting. There was no mention either of the Catholic Church’s sometimes questionable record on truth-telling and transparency. The Pope himself has faced criticism over his handling of allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

But quoting a verse from the Gospel of John as his theme, he declared that “the truth will set you free.”