Last week it was reported that Malaysia repealed its “fake news” law.
This Asian nation is one of the first countries in the world to reconsider how to control this societal nemesis. But, aren’t you already wondering whether that story is also fake news?
Since Missourians live in the Show-Me State, I wonder how they’re dealing with this dilemma. Is seeing believing?
There’s a scam going around currently where people are called by someone claiming to be an official with the IRS. That “official” claims that the victim owes a bogus tax bill. Often, the victim is conned into sending cash through wire transfers or prepaid debit cards to settle a fake debt. The IRS has told the public time and again that they will not use this kind of tactic.
In an age when pictures are photoshopped, stories are spun, and anonymous slander is rampant, who or what can you believe?
Last week I received a notice by email that a well-known bank had sent over $1,000 out of my account to a named payee. The email asked me to verify the transaction by replying to the email.
Trouble is, I don’t have any accounts at that particular bank. Upon closer inspection of the email, the bank’s logo was not authentic, and the email address of the sender was in no way connected to that bank.
Now, more than ever, caveat emptor: buyer beware. Fake news is everywhere.
Fake news is not new
But, fake news is NOT new. In 1981, Janet Leslie Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize for an article titled “Jimmy’s World” written for the Washington Post. It was later discovered to be fake. After admitting she had fabricated the story, she returned the prize.
What persuades you that something is true? Are we all “Missourians” at heart? Is seeing that effective? (Think Photoshop.)
For centuries we’ve tried to understand persuasion. Rhetorical appeals are sometimes classified as ethos, pathos, and logos, according to Aristotle. How are you persuaded to believe something?
- Is it based on the source or the person telling you? That’s ethos.
- Impassioned pleas or convincing stories create emotional responses that can convince us something is true. That’s called pathos.
- Logos is a way of mounting an appeal based on “evidence,” like fact, figures, and words. A lot of us like this kind of “proof.”
Fake Good News
Even the gospel of Jesus Christ has been twisted by fake news.
Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, and Sun Myung Moon’s Divine Principle are all examples of fake news disguising itself as “good news.” Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of people have been taken in by these and hundreds of other fake gospels.
While there are many markers of fake “good news,” the most telling is the question that Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 16:13: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
The disciples responded in the next verse with lofty and honorable titles and positions: “John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But none were correct, even though they were all complimentary.
And, while all of the above examples I gave of modern-day “fake good news” have a significant place for Jesus, they do not afford him his rightful place.
Jesus then asked the disciples in Matthew 16:15, “But who do you say that I am?”
In verse 16, Peter claims, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” While Jesus is fully man, he is also fully God. A mystery, to be sure. But it’s the truth. Anyone or anything that gives him any lesser place is fake news.
When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) he was telling us that we can trust him. In other words, he’s the ethos, logos and pathos—completely believable.
Ready for the fake news
I have my Bible marked in such a way to show Jesus is God to anyone who knocks on my door wanting to share their “news” with me. I don’t ignore them or send them away. While I am willing to hear what they have to say, they have to be willing to hear what God’s Word has to say. Most leave without giving me the chance. But, I am prepared.
Sometimes, they question the veracity of the Bible. If you fear answering such questions, I encourage you to request the latest book in Jim Denison’s new series, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions volume 2.
He gives a clear, succinct answer to the question, “Why do we believe that the Bible is actually the Word of God?” 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (emphasis mine).
Finally, fake news has been around since the Garden of Eden.
Didn’t the serpent deliver fake news to Eve about the results of eating from the forbidden tree? “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die'” (Genesis 3:4). And, for the first time, mankind fell for fake news.
We all know (and live) the end of that story.
So, for Missourians and everyone else, we have to accept the reality that seeing is NOT necessarily believing.
But, be sure—believing “the way, the truth and the life” is always seeing.
A note from Jim:
Chris Elkins is writing today’s Daily Article. Chris serves as Brand Director for Denison Forum. He is a published author who earned a Master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in organizational communication. His wife, Minni, has worked with me for twenty years.
Chris served with several strategic churches and agencies before joining the Denison Forum team in 2016. He is a longtime friend; I know you’ll benefit from his wisdom today.