In the Age of Post-Truth, People Believe Falsehood

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“Did you know spaghetti grows on trees?”

This fake news was reported by BBC on April Fools’ Day 1957. At first, people made fake news for fun, but recently it has been shaking society at large. Fake news in article format are deceiving many people with false information online.

In summer, 2016, when the U.S. presidential election was approaching, there were lots of fake news articles that were favorable to a certain candidate and malicious against the opponent candidate. Thinking it was suspicious, the press traced those articles and found out that the source of most of these fake articles was a small village called Veles in Macedonia, a country in Southeastern Europe; some teenagers were producing fake news referring these as a “digital gold rush.”

The press analyzed that fake news actually influenced even the U.S. presidential election. Fake news that hides a sharp dagger is fabricated with an impure intention and is spreading widely across countries.

Fake news spreads fast on social media. As it reaches more and more people, it disguises itself as real news. What makes the situation even worse is the apps that make fake news with a few clicks and websites that are decorated like real press homepages. The Korean press once even quoted some overseas fake news and had to issue an apology.

Experts point out that fake news strengthens individual’s prejudice and raises hostility towards opponents. They say that the greatest cause of fake news is confirmation bias—the tendency to accept only the information that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. The British Oxford Dictionary’s selection of “post-truth” as the word of the year 2016 is not irrelevant to this. Post-truth means the circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotion and personal belief are. The term was often used in relation to Brexit vote, which decided the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union, and to the U.S. presidential election. To get rid of anxiety over economic crisis and to gain psychological stability by blaming refugees and immigrants for it, fake news that coincide with it gained trust, and even affected policies.

People want to believe and hear only what they want to believe and hear. They want false information that sounds good more than the truth that doesn’t sound good to them. Even if an insistence is neither logical nor based on the truth, it draws people’s empathy and is regarded as true. The government and the press are trying to filter fake news, but it is not easy. Experts suggest that each and every one of us needs to sharpen our discernment to tell the difference between the truth and falsehood.

The harmful consequences of the post-truth are also seen in the history of the Bible. Two thousand years ago, the Jews were waiting for their Messiah. Nevertheless, they only believed falsehood instead of the Savior who came to this earth in the flesh, because that was what they wanted to believe. Even though Jesus preached the truth, they judged Christ on the basis of their thoughts, despised Jesus—“You, a mere man, claim to be God” (Jn 10:30–33), and crucified Him.

As they couldn’t understand the words of Jesus that He would give eternal life through His flesh and blood, they criticized Him, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:51–52). False information continued and caused the Romans to think that the early Church was a group of people who ate human flesh, and it resulted in their persecution of the Christians. Moreover, the religious leaders of that time even bribed the soldiers with money and made Jesus’ resurrection, which occurred according to the prophecy of the Bible, look like a lie (Mt 28:11–15). To them, the truth was not that important.

The age of post-truth continues in the age of the Holy Spirit, too. If we do not learn from the past, tragedy is to repeat. If we want salvation, we need to know how to distinguish the truth from falsehood. Now is time to reflect on ourselves and see if we are trying to believe falsehood which fits our taste, looking away from the truth that the Bible shows us.