Learn to differentiate between “truth and falsehood,” says Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.
He said this in a homily on May 11 in the aftermath of the recently-concluded national and local elections, which were greatly influenced by social media and disinformation.
Jesus was God’s “agent of light.” He subdued the “agent of darkness (Satan).” Light and darkness are synonymous with truth and falsehood. Filipinos are to know how to discern between the two, Bishop David explained.
“The biggest arena in this battle between Christ and Satan in the age of digital technology seems to be social media. I am referring to the battle between truth and falsehood, or between information and disinformation,” he said.
“Although the use of social media is a relatively new phenomenon, mass disinformation itself is not a new phenomenon at all. It is as old as humanity itself,” the prelate said. “It has come by many different names in earlier times, like ‘propaganda,’ ‘brainwashing,’ ‘reeducation,’ ‘image-building,’ ‘manipulation,’ etc. It always has to do with the conditioning of the mind for falsehood than for truth.”
Do not be “seduced by darkness,” and “by its agents,” he warned. Do not “choose to remain in falsehood.”
The bishop reminded all to identify people “who willfully reject the truth and choose falsehood.”
“The real challenge” for all is “to get people to see the light or know the truth.”
Those who promote falsehood “will only become defensive or may even turn offensive because they feel that they are being attacked,” David said.
People are to learn how to “search for truth,” and choose not to be “under the spell of evil,” the prelate added.
“So how would you expect the agents of darkness to favor the principles or values of honesty, transparency, or accountability? Evil is like a fungus that thrives in dark and secret places. So how would you expect trolls to reveal they are true identities? They are hugely successful precisely because they are allowed to run myriads of fake accounts on social media platforms. You know that they are doomed when they no longer feel any sense of guilt about what they are doing,” David explained.
“In this age of mass disinformation through social media, propaganda can get more quickly amplified than the truth,” he said.
The aim of trolls is to “replicate themselves when their hidden voices are amplified by holders of real accounts who have been seduced by their false narratives.”
Amid the proliferation of disinformation, everyone is to learn to verify the source of information.
“People can be so convinced about a lie, they can substitute it for the truth,” the prelate said.
“Sometimes, when the truth becomes too inconvenient, some people find themselves withdrawing into falsehood as some kind of a comfort zone. They can behave like stray rabid dogs whose nervous system has been attacked by a virus that makes them afraid of the light. You cannot just order them to come out to the light because they are hurting or afraid,” David said.
“If we are to participate at all in Jesus’ work of redemption, then we must learn not to give up even on people who have been seduced by darkness,” he added.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, former CBCP president, in a separate message posted on his social media account and said people should not give up their hopes and dreams to serve the country and its people.
“There are more lessons to be learned from the roof of defeat than from the medal of victory. Don't hold back the tears,” he said, although he did not explicitly mention election defeats.
“Let's go back to the future! There's a pink future that woke us up! Let no one steal the dream that will move us! Pink is the color of the new fight! Let's go back to the future we tasted! I have no regrets! Nothing was wasted!” said the prelate of Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese in Pangasinan, north of Manila.
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