Perhaps during our childhood we all experienced – just like the orphan child in Cesare Pavese’s “The Moon and the Bonfires” – closing our eyes to see whether the hill before us would disappear when we opened them again, allowing us to see a better Country. Digital culture has given a decisive contribution to the yearning “to go further.” Individuals have veritably “crossed the hills” and reached Wonderland, an alluring realm of images news and comments, enabling to share even the most intimate moments on the public arena.
The thrill of speed, in the car as in life, entails serious risks. One may go so far as to believe that contents are all the same, that fabrication and reality can’t be fully distinguished, that personal beliefs count more than facts and that, in any case, one may reject whatever sounds off-key.
These are fertile grounds for the spread of prejudice and stereotyping, suspicions and closures. Even identifying fake news, ungrounded information “based on non-existing or distorted facts”, yet efficient in their power of attraction and dissemination, becomes a veritable challenge. Those who claim that this phenomenon is not new are speaking the truth. However, what makes it worrying today is the amount of people it can reach out to in a hastily and uncontrolled manner. While social networks cannot be considered the major cause of fake news, likes and sharing of content facilitate their dissemination, on the basis of a dynamism that favours visibility to the detriment of truthfulness. In this respect, in the Message for the 52nd World Communications Day Pope Francis denounced the “snake-tactics” that can end up “darkening our interior life” and rob us of our “interior freedom.” Even an impeccable argument “if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful.” And thus, what purpose does it serve?
“I came back, I had made a fortune, but the faces, the voices, the hands I expected to touch me and recognize me were no more – says the protagonist of Pavese’s novel upon his return from America. – What remained was like a square the day after the fair …”
This is not an inescapable outcome. In fact, Francis – and with him all Church Magisterium – is the bearer of a gaze that confides in our capability to “describe our own experiences and the world around us, and thus to create historical memory and the understanding of events.” It is a question of “rediscovering the dignity of journalism”, where journalists are “the protectors of news”, whose heart “is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons.” A “journalism of peace”, that is at the service especially of those “who have no voice”; that explores “the underlying causes of conflicts.” Furthermore – seen that, in addition to being users we have all become ‘producers’ – the Pope underlines “the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth”; a responsibility that requires teaching people how to discern, evaluate and understand in depth. Moreover,
In its relationship with reality, truth remains an irrepressible necessity,
That is not fulfilled by a “conceptual reality”, nor by “bringing to light things that are concealed.” Truth “is something you can lean on, so as not to fall”, Francis says, adding: “We discover and rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us.” Pavese would say: “Your own village means that you’re not alone, that you know there’s something of you in the people and the plants and the soil, that even when you are not there it’s still there waiting for you.” Ultimately, is underlined in the Message, “the only truly reliable and trustworthy One – the One on whom we can count – is the living God.” The experience of the ecclesial community recognizes his face in Jesus Christ, the absolute, total truth of man. It’s the foundation that is most dear to us, also in the realm of communication. It’s the reason why we came back. It’s the reason why – as the protagonist of The Moon and the Bonfire – we continue our endless quest: “I’ve travelled the world enough to know that all flesh is good and all of it worth the same, but that is why one gets tired and tries to put down roots, to make land and country for himself, that his flesh might be worth and stay a little more than a common round of season.”
(*) Director National Office for Social Communications, CEI Under-Secretary