I recently attended presentations by Rebecca Oas, the associate director of research for the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), on how the United Nations misrepresents data in order to advance their anti-life and anti-family agenda. She pointed out the U.N.’s habit of confusing lower prevalence rates of contraception usage with lack of access when citing statistics supposedly revealing the “unmet need” for contraception. According to Oas, “access to family planning is approaching saturation.” Women who do not use modern contraceptives primarily choose not to, because of religious objections, fear of the side effects, or a preference for natural family planning methods. The UN, of course, doesn’t find this distinction worth making.
I am reminded of the claim that Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford told Jody Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff Jessica Prince that should Wilson-Raybould pursue a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin, the Prime Minister’s Office could “line up all kinds of people to write op-eds saying that what she is doing is proper.” Facts and figures can be twisted any which way, “truth” molded to fit any narrative – for example, Jussie Smollett, Covington Catholic students, and last year’s hijab hoax.
In all these cases, “the rush to judgment” was criticized, but “rush” is the name of the game in news and judgment is unavoidable. It’s human nature to be opinionated, an essential part of discerning what is true. The problem is not judgment per say, but the tendency for those in mainstream media to come to the same judgment, exacerbating the fake news issue, because they have the same biases, the same blind spots. A story is far less likely to be questioned if it confirms one’s preconceived notions. Of course a gay black man would be assaulted by Trump supporters, an indigenous elder would be mocked by male March for Life attendees, and a Muslim girl would be the victim of Islamophobia!
Censorship is not the answer to fake news for precisely the same reason. Unless it’s God Himself scrolling through our Facebook content and deciding which articles are accurate, the “fact-checkers” doing so, being fallible, are going to make mistakes, which is an even greater concern than fake news, as restricting perspectives (and thereby communication) makes the truth a whole lot more difficult to suss out. One example: according to “the definitive fact-checking site” Snopes.com, “Stating that abortion is the ‘leading cause of death’ worldwide (as opposed to a medical procedure) is a problematic pronouncement, because that stance takes a political position, one which is at odds with the scientific/medical world.”
A former politics professor of mine argued that ethnic diversity in a workplace protects against catastrophic errors as the varied backgrounds of the team members mean they’re each likely making different mistakes, which can thus be more easily caught, or at least not compounded. By that rationale, ideological diversity would also offer a protective effect against fake news—a better one than censorship. Mainstream media need both left-wing and right-wing reporters, editors, even photographers. Consumers of news need to utilize a variety of sources, and be educated to be critical thinkers and to come to their own conclusions.
We must also appreciate that fake news is particularly devastating for pro-lifers because fake news has been intentionally disseminated about us and the abortion issue for decades now. Ex-abortionist and co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League Bernard Nathanson admitted that during the sexual revolution they completely fabricated poll results, the number of illegal abortions, the number of women dying from them, etc. These and other lies birthed prejudice against pro-lifers; this prejudice accelerated the propagation of more fake news, which further cemented prejudices, and so on and so forth until today. The number of people I regularly come across unconvinced that life begins at fertilization, or that Canada doesn’t have a law on abortion, is extraordinary. That the well has been poisoned and our own believability as pro-lifers damaged is even more frustrating.
Somehow, especially in discussions about bubble zones, we’re the violent ones, even though we’re the ones opposing the dismemberment of innocent human beings, and frequently the target of violence and threats as a result. To enhance support for local bubble zones, The Kitchener Record, for instance, was all too happy to report on local abortion activist Sarah Robertson receiving hateful messages and having paint thrown in her face, even though they were completely made-up stories.
Fake news abounds, and abounds all the more to feed the greatest evils. So much more tightly then must we clutch at truth.