Avoid Fake News: Listen to Alternative Perspectives

IT was all over the news this morning: Pope Francis condemning ‘fake news’, which he defined as:

The spreading of disinformation… It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader.

In fact, the Pope is guilty of exactly what he preaches against, particularly with his encyclical on climate change issued back in 2015.

In that document, the Pope made various unsubstantiated claims suggesting that carbon dioxide was directly responsible for the melting of the polar ice caps, as just one example. In reality, at that time, while there had been significant melting at the North Pole, the South Pole had been gaining ice for some decades.

This plot of changes in the extent of sea ice suggests that the South Pole was gaining in ice from at least 1980 to 2015, contrary to the Pope’s encyclical issued in 2015. The significant ‘melt’ in 2016 corresponded with the super El Nino and minimum declination of the moon.

In his new message entitled ‘Fake news and journalism for peace’, the Pope suggests that one possible solution to fake news is to engage in healthy dialogue:

The difficulty of unmasking and eliminating fake news is due also to the fact that many people interact in homogeneous digital environments impervious to differing perspectives and opinions. Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue…

This is perhaps just another way of suggesting we become more informed. Of course, this can be best achieved by being curious and asking questions. Indeed, Socrates said:

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves and the world around us.

The Pope ended his message with a prayer that included:

Where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions.

Fake news is not an issue that will be easily solved. But the individual who has the wisdom to doubt, the courage to ask hard questions, and the fortitude to listen to alternative perspectives will get much closer to the truth and much more quickly.


Paul Driessen details some of the misinformation in Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on climate change in chapter 16 of the book I edited last year: ‘Climate Change: The Facts 2017’. Consider buying two copies, and sending one copy of the book with a polite letter to Pope Francis. Suggest he engage in dialogue with the sceptics on this issue.

10 Responses to Avoid Fake News: Listen to Alternative Perspectives

  1. Matthew Coles January 25, 2018 at 3:45 pm #

    I wonder if the pope is open minded enough to read books written by Richard Dawkins?

  2. Bob Cherba (@rbcherba) January 26, 2018 at 2:08 am #

    As you know, Jennifer, there is nothing new about fake news. I don’t have any immediate references, but it seems to me there were complaints about the news in ancient Rome. Thomas Jefferson commented on it. I spent 30 years in the nuclear power industry and media reports and movies were usually technically incorrect or grossly misleading. I’ve been reading Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” about his experience in Spain during the civil war in the late 1930s. He observed “Nearly all the newspaper accounts published at the time were manufactured by journalists at a distance, and were not only inaccurate in their facts but intentionally misleading. As usual,only one side of the question has been allowed to get to the wider public.”

    Nothing has changed.

  3. Jennifer January 26, 2018 at 3:59 pm #

    Thanks Bob. What has perhaps changed is that there is now some recognition of the phenomenon… thanks almost entirely to Donald Trump: he was the one who coined the term ‘fake news’? And now even the Pope is acknowledging its existence!

  4. BoyfromTottenham January 28, 2018 at 8:51 am #

    Thanks, Jennifer. I found this article interesting solely because the Pope used the word ‘disinformation’, and in particular because he felt the need to define it! As a person with a long interest in 20th century history, I have read widely about the massive extent of ‘disinformation’ before and during the Cold War, mainly (and famously if you lived through it as I did) by the USSR’s KGB. Since then its methods have been widely used by numerous groups seeking to manipulate the public’s perception of important fields such as politics, the environment, and energy to name a few. And IMO by far the greatest use of disinformation recently has been against President Trump. Fortunately, DJT seems to be way ahead of his detractors in his awareness of disinformation, denoted in typical DJT style by renaming it to the simpler to understand ‘fake news’. Unfortunately, it seems that the Pope and DJT have a completely opposite view of who is using ‘fake news’.

  5. BoyfromTottenham January 28, 2018 at 11:40 am #

    Just thinking about this ‘disinformation’ thing a bit more, what if the Pope’s ‘fake news’ message, and the previous encyclical regarding ‘climate change’ are just a diversion from the real issue facing the Catholic Church – its now very public history of covering up sexual abuse by the clergy? Does that make the Vatican’s ‘fake news’ story itself ‘fake news’?

  6. Gengis January 29, 2018 at 1:30 pm #

    I give talks on: Nuclear Energy – Why Australia needs to adopt it’ My second slide is ‘Definition of a Factoid’ – A dubious assertion (lie) when repeated often enough takes on the form of a Fact. A factoid was first seen by me on the Australian Newspaper around Dec. 2016.
    It is perfectly true today in so many areas but certainly ion the topic of Global Warming – that is Anthropological GW

  7. Neville January 30, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    The best and most costly example of fake news is the so called mitigation of their so called CAGW.

    Lomborg has used their software to show that Paris COP 21 is just BS and fra-d ( Dr Hansen’s very apt description)


    He tells us that this will cost about 1 to 2 trillion $ per year until 2100, but will produce no measurable temp change at all.

    Where are the media sources exposing this corruption, that even Dr Hansen ( the father of their CAGW) says is just BS and fra-d?

    And Dr Hansen also said a belief in solar and wind energy is like believing in the Easter bunny and the Tooth fairy. IOW it’s just more fairy stories. Their so called mitigation is the greatest con and fra-d for hundreds of years. Yet scientists, pollies and the media across the globe choose to ignore it and tell us lies about it.
    Why is it so?

  8. Neville January 30, 2018 at 1:34 pm #

    Here is Dr Hans Rosling’s video trying to dispel ignorance about the world we live in. This 4 minute video shows how all countries were poor and sick in 1810, but by 2010 most countries enjoy much higher life expectancy and are much wealthier and healthier today.


    Here is Ola Rosling’s lecture trying to get people to check their facts ( evidence or data) before they believe what so called experts tell them. In fact the so called experts score very badly on questions about human health and prosperity. Again,why is it so?


    I also wonder why so few people understand the facts about their climate mitigation story.

    I suppose it’s much easier to believe BS and fra-d instead of looking at the data from the IEA and EIA

  9. Geoffrey Williams January 31, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    The Catholic Church has been mixing religion and politics for centuries. For them it is the only way to keep themselves relevant in the face of modern science and communications technology. Having said that I have respect for all religions and their right to exist and express opinions. But it is clear that the Vatican is playing politics with the “global warming mantra” that says climate change is man made. I have no time for the Pope when he puts such political and religious spin on a subject that is based upon science and observation.

  10. hunter February 3, 2018 at 2:45 am #

    The Pope is perilously close to promoting a fake gospel of environmental worship and leftist clichés.
    He should consider the many warnings regarding corrupt and insincere clergy.

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