The troll’s creed:
Where there is error, let there be deception.
Where there is uncertainty, let there be confusion.
Where there is identity, let there be anonymity.
Where there is doubt, let there be disbelief.
Where there is despair, let there be hopelessness.
Where there is darkness, let there be an abyss.
Where there is sadness, let there be desolation.
Where there is hatred, let there be loathing.
Where there is offense, let there be anger.
Where there is discord, let there be division.
It doesn’t sound right, does it?
It shouldn’t. This ‘troll’s prayer’ is an satiric adoption of a real prayer, reverse-engineered to capture the true effect of online trolls.
The real-life inspiration for this ironic re-working is what’s known as the Prayer of St Francis, which directs people in the opposite direction of trolls: together, rather than apart.
The ‘troll’s creed’ however, helps explain the effect of a lot of online trolling.
Pope Francis’ critique of fake news, called The truth will set you free: Fake news and journalism for peace, is a refreshing antidote to the torrent of cynicism .
The broadside elevates the value of Truth to a spiritual level while defining fake news as a weaponised narrative tapping the worst impulses of humanity. The document is a remarkable combination of timeless religious principles applied to an emerging technological reality.
Pope Francis traces misinformation back to the Garden of Eden.
The Vatican’s doctrine on misinformation is a point of difference in dogma and practice between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. As I’ve written before, sensible religion can be a shield against weaponised narratives. Religion is no substitute for verifiable facts and no one sensibly wants a theocracy to replace democracy. It’s for that reason, not in spite of it, that religion matters. The hopelessness of Russian propaganda hinges in part on the division it foments. This division is a powerful tool to rip apart democracies. So a system of values that sees the fundamental goodness and the brother- and sisterhood of humanity has special importance these days.
The Vatican’s broadside against fake news is contained in its ‘World Communications Day’ message released last week. The document also has its own adaptation of the Prayer of St Francis – but this time refocused on communication. It includes verses such as…
Where there is shouting, let us practise listening;
Where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
Where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
See bottom of Vatican statement for the full adaptation.