A Dominican theologian warned against what he described as “purveyors of untruth” who use truth itself to mask lies and sow confusion.
“Evil is parasitic on good and must survive by twisting things that are good in themselves,” said Father Rodel Aligan, OP, in an online “truth conference” on October 5.
“Pure evil cannot be used to tempt” media users, said the priest, adding that lies have to come across as truth “told in the wrong way, at the wrong time, or in the wrong context.”
He said “underhanded” tactic spreads confusion through fake news and disinformation.
Father Aligan, dean of the Ecclesiastical Faculty at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, spoke at the online “In Defense of Truth” conference organized by the Office of Social Communication of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and the Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communication.
He said media users must be “familiar with their own faith,” adding that media literacy must be “integral” in school curricula and in pastoral ministry.
He said people should be “media literate” to be able to analyze, evaluate, and create content.
Father Aligan said a media literate audience can unravel the “ideological and value systems of media texts” and are aware of the workings of fake news, misinformation, disinformation, media bias, and media distortion.
He defined “fake news” as “false, fabricated, non-verifiable news stories” that must be understood for their “complex, nuanced, and often politicized” nature.
“Misinformation,” however false and inaccurate, are only spread inadvertently, he said, adding that there is no real intention to deceive on the communicator’s part.
The priest said “disinformation” aims to confuse and outrightly deceive using satire or parody, fabricated content, manipulated content, impostor content, false content, and false context.
He said “media bias” comes in the form of sensationalism, flawed logic, bias by placement, opinions presented as facts, or the omission of credible sources, and utilizes lies and misleading information.
The priest said awareness of media distortion brings to the fore the fact that information accuracy dissipates as it travels farther from its original source.
Father Aligan stressed the need for media literacy across audience groupings, discernment in appropriating media content, and fact checking sources of news and articles.