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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Fake News

The biggest news today is “fake news”.

What is “fake news”? Nobody seems to know. It could be the panicky blandishments of the liberal media. It could be the paranoid pronouncements of the extreme Right. But it could also be the confused babblings of the moderate centre. Nobody really seems to know. The only thing upon which all sides agree seems to be that there’s a lot of it out there somewhere.

Information Panic

And in the welter of confusion, people become increasingly desperate for facts, for some solidity by which to make political decisions, shape economic policies, or just guide the myriad private decisions of their own lives. Today’s “news” is reversed by the next day’s revelation of conspiracy; a fact provided morphs into a fiction; a truth is exposed suddenly as a lie … and after a time, people begin to drift loose of the whole news experience, hearing but not trusting anything. All news becomes a kind of conspiracy entertainment, a YouTube collage of discordant opinions with no clear winner possible.

But people cannot live like that forever. Life must go on. Decisions need to be made. Issues must be addressed. And the stakes are often significant. But how does one go forward at all when uncertainty dogs every step one chooses?

Let uncertainty continue long enough, and eventually people will settle for any measure of reassurance that there will be a tomorrow.

The Silent Partner

Who wins the battle of the fake news? It’s not the Right, nor the Left, I think. It’s whatever agency is capable of capitalizing on confusion, and turning it to its own purposes. With remarkable prescience, C.S. Lewis described this situation in his novel That Hideous Strength.

Lewis’s main character, Mark Studdock, is a young writer who is being recruited to generate news propaganda in service of a mysterious social-engineering agency. The head-of-security, a certain Ms Hardcastle, has just finished explaining how the “fake news” Studdock produces is really supposed to get its results.

Check out the following dialogue:
Studdock: “Is it Left or Right papers that are going to print all this rot?”

Hardcastle: “Both, honey, both. Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to [our organization] is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us — to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.”
It’s “non-political”? Yes. It’s spiritual.

In fact, there is a “god of this world”, the Bible tells us, and it’s not the God we love. Yet nobody believes in Satan today. In the days of modern scepticism, we are embarrassed to say his name, lest we come across as paranoid, conspiracy-minded, or worse, as mere superstitious fools.

The Bible’s not so easily embarrassed. John plainly tells us that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” This is not merely an apostolic belief: if you have read Luke’s account of the Temptation, you will remember that Satan himself claims ownership of the world and its glory, and he adds, “It has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” But did you ever notice that the Lord does not contradict him? That would, of course, have been the easiest rebuttal: “It has NOT been given over to you, and you have NO power to give it; it belongs to God.” But that is not the way it happened, is it?

There is power behind the fake news. Don’t watch the Left or the Right: watch the third agenda.

Right Turn

Now, many Christians today see the Right as more sympathetic to Christian welfare and interests. I don’t doubt that they may be right, at least if the alternative is the socialist and totalitarian Left. But social conservatism is not itself a Christian cause: the danger is that it becomes just another distraction. Rather than preaching the gospel, one starts to focus on political advocacy of a short-term kind, perhaps assuming that once the Right has won and the dust has settled, new space will be opened up for religious freedom, and the gospel can go forward.

There is some value in political involvement. But don’t forget what we’re doing here. We’re not about a political win for the Right or the Left: we’re here because there are no political solutions to the human problem. We’re here to represent the Lord Christ, and to tell the world’s story an entirely different way. We live within the narrative of how God loved the world, and made a way for it to be redeemed before the wickedness of mankind blossoms into worldwide destruction and death. Our presence on this planet inhibits that turn of events; but it will not be put off forever. Judgment will come. And in the meanwhile, our job is to rescue as many people as we can from the perilous path down which all political projects are precipitating them.

We’re here to be instrumental in saving souls and to represent Christ to the world. We’re not here to pick a side.

So reach as many as you can. From all sides.

Changing the Channel

Our inundation of fake news today — and even the bewildering kaleidoscope of allegedly real news — is very likely nothing more than a stratagem to induce a level of confusion and instability in the general population. I cannot say if we are near to the time when the “lawless one” is prophesied to appear; but I can speculate that before he does, a period of profound insecurity — political, economic and probably informational too — will likely be loosed upon the world in order to bring it to sufficient desperation to accept whatever social-engineering project offers to restore stability and predictability to the global situation. It is likely this that the Enemy will use to introduce his program … a program conceived neither on the Left nor on the Right, but straight from the Pit.

And if that’s true, then it may not matter much at all which side one takes. As long as one is distracted from the real battle, one may be allowed to fight any battle one likes. The “real power” will win, whichever you choose.

Right and Left

So what is the power behind all the confusion of the present day? And which side should a Christian be backing? Whom do we want to win here? Maybe those aren’t just difficult questions to answer, but the wrong questions entirely.

In this world, forces aim to operate without reference to Christ. Some are on the Left, and some are on the Right. They rant and scream about all that they offer, and they campaign with great fervency and earnestness against all the other side represents. Each side holds up its “facts”, and each will tell you that apart from standing behind them, and apart from the other side being defeated, the world has no hope. But both are all operating securely within the domain of a different kind of interest.

Don’t let them fake you out: keep your head in the real game.

Sometimes the truth isn’t on the left or the right. Sometimes it isn’t even up the middle. Sometimes it’s in a different realm altogether.

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