Fighting back against fake news

Peter Crumpler.

Peter Crumpler. - Credit: Archant

Coronavirus, racism and climate change have been named as the ‘three pandemics’ of our time.

But there is a fourth – disinformation – that makes countering the other three increasingly hard.

The rise in ‘fake news’ has reached epidemic levels with mounting concern about its negative impact. Respected newspapers like the Herts Advertiser play an important role in fighting back.

Without truths and facts that are widely agreed, it is hard to set out a level playing field for debate and argument. Instead, we end up shouting at each other from our dug-in positions. Or simply giving up.

In a new book, ‘Responding to Post-truth’ (Grove Books), I set out a Christian reponse.

As Christians, we place a high value on the truth. We worship a God of truth who calls for honesty and integrity from all those who follow him.

The Church and her members have not always lived up to this high calling. We need to repent of whenever our leaders and institutions have covered up wrongdoing or been economical with the truth.

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Yet Christians and other people of faith and good will could help to push back the tide of disinformation and fake news.

Places of worship can encourage dialogue across political, social and racial divides, bringing people together to air diverse views. We can build on our strong and enduring commitment to local communities.

At a time when trust in national politicians is low, supporting the local is vital. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have regained an appreciation of the community on their doorstep.

We can each engage with views we may not agree with, pause and think before we share anything on social media, challenge our own inbuilt worldviews, refuse to succumb to conspiracy theories, engage sensibly in social media, support independent journalism – and be wary of how much news we consume and where it comes from.

It can seem that we are powerless in the face of the onslaught of fake news and disinformation. But as individuals or communities we can take small steps to bring truth back into the centre of public life.

Rev Peter Crumpler is Associate Minister at St Paul’s Church, Hatfield Road, St Albans.