Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Catholic Blogosphere ... more thoughts.

On the endless proliferation of fake news ... kinda.

In an email, I jokingly commented the other day that after one of my posts Patheos would never again ask me to come on board.  My friend, who knows I don't want to be a part of any online blogomerate, or confined to an association or online magazine, wrote back, indirectly suggesting many of those sources tend to be 'generic and inoffensive' anyway.  There is some truth to that I suppose, yet some of the writers at these sites invite a great deal of controversy and generate a lot of 'spittle-flecked-nuttiness'.  Same old same old stuff, boringly regurgitated has a way of inciting the perennially disgruntled.

So anyway.

I came across a couple insightful critiques of the Catholic blogosterium.  I think it is good to constantly examine ourselves as we write for online consumption.  Bloggers pretty much write without editing, though they self edit for grammar and spelling, the posts do not usually go through an editor.  When you write and post not allowing comments, you further limit any editorial possibility, which means you aren't open to correction or dispute - hence the need for self examination.  (I'll post an excerpt from each article, and then link to the entire piece for the reader to review in context.)

On the nature of the Catholic blogosphere.

Fr. Angelo Mary is writing in response to a Damian Thompson piece on the wane of the Catholic blog... Fr. Angelo is as insightful as ever:
The reality is that the Catholic blogosphere is a clearinghouse for conspiracy theory. The nature of the blogosphere itself contributes to this fact. What passes for a standard of evidence and an ethics of accountability on the Internet has always been woefully lacking. And those whose causes have benefitted from the destruction of the reputation of others have not been eager to be held accountable or to make a distinction between allegation and proof.
In fact, the tribes that have formed in the blogosphere do more to provide protection for their tribesmen, than hold them accountable for the honor the tribal name. The largest Catholic tribe on the Internet, and arguably the most vicious and vindictive, has been the conservative, which because of its previous marginalization has felt itself justified in claiming the status of victim.
While we can all admit that there is truth to the complaints that led to this behavior, it would be to ignore reality to define it as anything other than juvenile. But that is also part of the nature of the Internet. Perfectly responsible adults have a tendency to revert to immaturity when they sit down in front of a computer. - The Mob and the Machine

Fr. Angelo notes something I've often said about bloggers, regarding the honesty and integrity of the author, and not believing everything one reads.
Thompson is honest enough to say that there was also a spirit of payback working among the voices in the conservative Catholic blogosphere. He says the bitterness of some of the exposition was a way of venting, and he even confesses to having even created obviously false narratives about a bishop—basically for the sake of ridicule. He it admits it was both obsessive and fun. But it seemed to him to be justified because it was done in the service of the true faith and liturgical sanity. - ibid

Satire and humor as passive-aggressive retribution.

Our responses to other bloggers and posts often takes the form of satire and humor.  At times it is downright mockery and scorn ... and evidently, lying.  Creating a false narrative about a bishop?  Claiming to know details about this or that Catholic without providing credible, documentary evidence save for personal experience or hearsay?  But I digress.

Another blogger, a traditional Catholic of impressive intellect and fidelity to Catholic teaching did an essay on 'Another Francis effect: Bad satire.'  I haven't read him on criticism of Pope Francis, yet what Athanasius writes regarding bad satire is well said and important to consider.  What he really hones in on, for me, is the untrustworthiness of some of the writers - suggesting facts and data may be made up, unresearched, and so on.  Likewise, what is repeated as to what Francis says is often taken out of context, miss translated, or even made up.  Then it gets repeated by Catholic bloggers duped into believing it is true - or who just really want it to be true.  
Still, the latest is completely absurd: “Pope Francis says unwed mother’s must be forcibly sterilized to stop climate change.” The website is obviously fake, and it cites the source as Francis’ encyclical, where the Pope actually said the opposite (no. 50). This did make the rounds and in spite of it’s absurdity, some news sites and people, particularly on facebook, did accept it as fact, even though a quick google search would have pulled up an easy snopes article showing it is false (which is less work than verifying through the Vatican website, as I suggested the last time I wrote on this topic).
Now, the fake news article in itself is not particularly of interest to me. Rather, I have several observations.
1) That people could or would accept this is evidence of how poorly team Bergoglio has managed the Pope’s message. The frequent gaffes and off the cuff statements referenced above, combined with instant clarification from Fr. Lombardi, and the use of the Pope’s words by the media, whether in context or not, are evidence of the complete failure of the Vatican Press Office and others to use media to present what the Pope wants to teach, and as a result, people are prepared to believe anything. One can only blame the media so much, as it is obvious the secular media has an axe to grind against the Church, and poorly made and ill-prepared statements only give them the perfect opportunity. It doesn’t exculpate the media, but at the same time, the Vatican clearly needs to control how it presents info. All we need to do is turn back to John Paul II’s pontificate to witness an efficient and well run press office. Those who know me, or followed the old incarnation of this website, know I was no fan of that pontificate, nevertheless, John Paul II’s messages were carefully prepared and crafted, he never made off the cuff remarks that could be easily misinterpreted and taken miles in another direction by the media, let alone things disparaging to Traditional Catholics, though he no doubt strongly disagreed with them (e.g. Francis’ many pejorative terms for those cultivating traditional spirituality).
2) There is a wider critique here than Francis, which is the credulity our culture places in news, and it’s lack of discernment in regard to sources. Too often we read headlines, and take that to be true without any further question. The Drudge Report is an obvious example. Only crazy news junkies click on every single link and discerningly read every story. In reality most people skim and click on the more interesting stories. On top of that, Drudge then has a lot of power to manipulate headlines to his particular point of view. For example, one time he linked an article and wrote the headline: “Organic food contains ecoli”, but when you went to the article it was organic food sent to a packing plant that was contaminated with ecoli originating with conventional food. Such is the power of headlines. Not to say Drudge is evil, but it would be foolish to think he didn’t have his own agenda, and he would certainly admit to it, unlike the MSM. - Athanasius
(Ed. Note: My apologies for dissecting these posts to use pertinent quotes to express ideas which correspond to my personal POV.  Please read each post in the context of the authors' original

h/t nan

"Proliferating fake news under the guise of satire."

That's the ticket - or at least my point here.  Athanasius writes:
A lot of these news outlets hire out writers and accept nearly anything, which is just stuff re-written from other news articles, and can include many false or incorrect things. I know this because I’ve earned money doing this on various contracting websites for writing, though I never wrote anything I knew to be false. Others did and it was clear. The goal is to get content with buzzwords that brings more clicks and increase advertising revenue. This doesn’t help inform the public, or provide any beneficial service. Internet has provided us with an easy way around the Main Scream Media, to reach out and provide news, find news, and in another word, form alternative media without them. The problem comes in with the fact that anyone can do this, and create nonsense. Alternative media needs to be self policing and adhere to strict standards itself, to prevent the proliferation of fake news. - ibid
Athanasius comments: "The overarching point is that the proliferation of this fake news is not truly satirical, and frankly dangerous, because we are approaching a point where we can’t really know anything."  I totally agree.  Couldn't have said it better, in fact.

Another fault of bloggers: We jump to conclusions.


As I always say, you can't be more Catholic than the Church ... they're going to come after you if you try.  CNA - Johan P. Martel did a hit piece on Michael Voris and his criticism of seminary modesty and Catholic NFP - which some regard/use as Catholic birth control.  The article is titled, The devil is in the details ...  It is a good article rebutting Voris and his style of journalism.  It mirrors Voris' style to some degree.  The author makes very good points - although I think he misses Voris' intent as well as the facts - as Voris perceives them from his man on the street format - because of the tone and style, not to mention tenor of Church Militant's approach.  (Voris deliberately rejects resorting to PC language or speaking like the so-called 'church of nice'.)

All I want to say here is that I wish I had read it before writing my post.  As it stands, it's a rather good segue.  Fact is, it pretty much demonstrates the devil is in the details of everything online.

Critique, critique, critique.

Anyway - go read it here.

As you can see in this photo - 
Brady doesn't even squeeze the ball.
Only the facts ma'm.


  1. In related news, Fr Longenecker has commented about an aspect of this blogosphere: the Victim blogger who becomes a bully in their victimization. I commented here:

    1. That's a good point - your comment on Fr.'s post was quite good.

  2. Interesting piece, Terry. It does sum up things pretty much and I am glad it is being laid bare. I read this piece on CNA last night, I could not agree more.

    1. Wow! That is one well done expose if I ever read one. I have to agree with the article as well. Thanks Yaya - wish I'd seen that before writing.

  3. Phew. For a minute there, I thought you were talking about me.

    1. No. I was thinking of Fr. Longenecker.


      It's always about me larry - I'm always ripping myself apart.


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