Real News and #FakeNews

After the terrorist attack which took place at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22, a satire blog, Scrappleface published a post with the following headline: Youth Issues Cry for Help from Manchester Arena. Being satire, this is obviously “fake news”.

The reason the entire post is darkly hilarious, though, is not because there is anything funny about a terrorist attack, but that what is written in satire is so close to what actually gets published from major world news outlets. Take for example, a tweet on the same subject from the New York Times asking “What Led Salman Abedi To Bomb The Manchester Arena?” (archived at Weasel Zippers). Here we go again with the predictable “unanswerable” question about what the terrorist’s motive could have possibly been. For any sane person, the answer is clear. Although the main perpetrator may have had other “issues”, there was one obvious answer as to what his guiding principles were here.

No wonder that more and more people consider the New York Times, et al., no better than silly internet satire sites, and for all the furor that has been going on about #fakenews, it really would help if these “real news” sites would stop publishing things as ridiculous than silly internet satire sites.

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A few random thoughts after a weekend of reading WikiLeaks

First – there’s a lot of information out there, and it’s pretty difficult to slog through. That being said, there’s a lot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without really knowing who the inside players are, and the context of a lot of the messages. I’ve never spent much time on Reddit in my life, but certain threads there have been quite helpful as far as background and context goes, especially for someone like me, who couldn’t sit and read through thousands of emails this weekend.

Second – I think most people are looking for “smoking gun” emails, that is, ones that spell out what happened and who did it. This isn’t to say that there aren’t messages that aren’t pretty damning, such as the $1 million “gift” to Bill Clinton for his 65th birthday, Clinton Foundation money going for personal expenses, such as Chelsea’s wedding, LOTS of media collusion with the Democrat party, etc., but these people aren’t stupid, and they know that they shouldn’t be explict (nor do they need to be) in most of their discussions.

Third – As much as a lot of people have howled about Donald Trump’s statements about the game being ‘rigged’, the emails do nothing to disprove this, but rather cement the notion that a lot of people feel that they are the ‘puppet-masters’ and that they have the right to rule the world the way that they see fit. This inevitably entails consolidating their own power and enriching themselves to a degree that most of us ‘peasants’ could never imagine. And for those of you who are Bernie Sanders fans and felt like the deck was stacked against him, too, you are entirely right.

Fourth – There are aspects in some of the emails that are downright creepy, even reading things on the surface. The best direct example of this is probably the conversations about attendance at a certain Marina Abramović and her “spirit cooking” sessions. While many may blow this off as “performance art”, without even going any deeper, there is something quite deeply disturbing about it. It’s not to say that sometimes art can’t be deeply disturbing and yet profoundly meaningful, but this delves, rather, in the dark and Satanic. Most of us, I believe, live our lives without paying a whole lot of attention to the ‘darker’ forces which run amok in the world, and that’s fine. However, this does not mean that these forces do not exist, and that there aren’t people who have allowed themselves to be possessed by evil. Some of this evil manifests itself as the unending pursuit of money, power, and fame. As Christians, we are warned against this, in large part, I believe, because it opens the gateway to following greater evil.

Fifth – A lot of these ‘elites’ are openly hostile to Judeo-Christian beliefs and tradition. For instance, it’s amazing to see pushback from DNC staffers who don’t want to release an official statement on the Jewish day commemorating the Holocaust even though Debbie Wasserman-Schultz requests one. For believers, faith in God supersedes subservience to the state, and for those hold power, dissent of any kind cannot be tolerated. At this point, even paying lip-service to respecting religion can hardly be allowed, though some will be done in the pursuit of holding power. Before the WikiLeaks released the emails of John Podesta, he was considered a ‘practicing’, ‘progressive’, Catholic, much in the vein of Tim Kaine or Nancy Pelosi. However, the emails reveal that he was working with George Soros-funded groups to subvert traditional Catholic teaching from within the Church.

One can search for keywords within a set in Wikileaks, and I thought it was interesting the few results that came up concerning the Orthodox Church. My search wasn’t exhaustive, but it seems like all the hits pertained to the Greek Orthodox Church. The following are my impressions, which are not necessarily made from things said explicitly, but the general impression of the whole. Already, one official of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has recently claimed that it was the US State Department, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, that put pressure on Patriarch Bartholomew to back away from a joint resolution to help heal the Church scism in Ukraine. It seems as though there is some effort to “make nice” with the Greek Orthodox, with certain people among the “in” circles being considered friendly towards them. Among these are Vice President Joe Biden (who was made an Archon), Representative Chris Van Hollen (whose wife is Greek and whos kids were baptized Greek Orthodox), and John Podesta himself, whose mother was Greek, and in one email points out to a reporter that one of the icons in his office was a gift from the Ecumenical Patriarch. I think these people are there to make Greek Orthodox faithful believe that they have good “friends in high places”. However, when push comes to shove, I don’t think it will matter a hill of beans. I believe that they see President Erdogan’s consolidation of power as something to be admired and emulated, and furthermore have demonstrated that they do not mind turning a blind eye to repressive governments (especially if they are willing to support the Clinton Foundation). Therefore, I believe that in particular, if Hillary Clinton were to become President, what is left of the Orthodox Church in Turkey (the Church in Constantinople) will be destroyed, and not only will there be no help for the EP from the US, but it is doubtful that there would even be a strong letter of denunciation from our side.

Daily Mail Hit-Piece on Religious Practice

The Daily Mail, a newspaper from the United Kingdom, and one of the most widely-read online newspapers in the world, recently posted the story of an Indian girl by the name of Aradhana Samdhariya, a 13-year-old who died, allegedly as the result of taking part of a religious fast. The article begins thus:

“A 13-year-old girl died in Hyderabad after she was forced to fast for 64 days as part of a community ritual of fasting during the holy period of Chaturmas.

The city police launched an inquiry into the incident after a child rights NGO demanded a probe.”

Chaturmas is a Jain period of fasting, but not knowing much about Jainism (about .4% of Indians identify as Jains), I have no idea what this fasting entails. Orthodox Christians, for example, often fast by reducing the amount of food eaten and eliminating certain foods, but it is almost unheard of to try to completely abstain from food during all the Orthodox fasting periods. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast completely, but only from sunup to sundown. Unfortunately, no explanation of what a typical fast for Chaturmas looks like is provided. In one book reference I found, albeit referencing Chaturmas in a Hindu context, it describes the Chaturmas fast as a period of cutting back, not necessarily of eating nothing for the entire period.

The article also says the girl was forced to participate by the family and community. However, in a Reuters article covering the same topic, it states that, according to the parents, the girl was a willing participant, and that she had completed a similar fast last year.

One huge discrepancy between the two articles is that the Daily Mail claims that the girl was only in the third day of the fast when her blood pressure dropped precipitously, and was then taken to the hospital, where she died. The Reuters article claims that everyone was already celebrating the end of the fast, which had been completed the day before the girl died. If the Daily Mail is correct, it is almost certain that another medical issue was at play here, as a healthy 13-year-old would probably be hungry from not eating anything for three days, but may even handle it better than an adult. As for the longer number, one has to assume that it wasn’t a complete fast, and without further information, it’s hard to make any judgement on what actually happened.

I also put the following things out for consideration: This girl lived in India. From the pictures, she was quite beautiful, and it looks as though her family treated her well. Consider, too, that in India, daughters are often considered a liability, and by their teens, many are working in terrible conditions trying to survive or have been married off. This girl was still attending school – a Catholic one at that – and was in the 10th grade. In this type of culture, had the parents not cared, why go through the bother and expense of educating her? Was no one at her school aware of what was going on? Again, this is a point where the articles differ, but the Daily Mail also claims that once the girl’s blood pressure dropped, she was taken to the hospital. If this was truly murder, as some have characterized it, why go through the trouble and expense.

The fact of the matter is is that this type of story is written and disseminated in large part to try to discredit religion and to ridicule those observing religious practice outside of designated places of worship. The Daily Mail piece is self-contradictory and poorly written, but serves as a place for commenters to denounce religion and congratulate themselves for being so ‘reasonable’ rather than religious. For this reason, I consider the article a ‘hit-piece’. Considering all the children in India who live in deplorable conditions, I have a hard time understanding why this case is garnering so much attention, including calls from an NGO to have the parents arrested for murder and their other daughters removed from their custody. The Reuters article even has a quote from an area politician. Call me cynical, but when the politicians get involved, it leads me to suspect that the uproar over this case may have more to do with certain Hindu political factions that are intolerant of minority religions in India more than anything else.

The sad thing is that sometimes children will die, some even in ‘preventable’ deaths. But even in the case of ‘preventable’ deaths, it doesn’t mean that a death was deliberate or could have been foreseen. This is a tragic story, yes, but hardly the outrage that many seem to make it out to be.

(As for outrage and barbaric practices involving children, check out this story pertaining to Ashura Warning: extremely disturbing images), also from India and reported by the Daily Mail as well as highlighting India’s minority religions, but which the Daily Mail has no ‘expert’ or politician denounce.)