Fake News Outperforms Real News? Buzzfeed said so, so it must be true, right? Here's some good news. Liberation theology can fix that.
You have to learn to 'love the questions' as feminist liberation theologian, Letty Russell, tells us in her wonderful and groundbreaking work, Human Liberation in Feminist Perspective.
Here are some "news" stories (with #FakeNews links withheld) and the questions I love to ask.
Headline: Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump.
Me: How could that be remotely true?
Headline: Clinton Camp Runs Child Sex Ring Out of Pizza Parlor.
Who are you kidding?
Yes, that last one is true. The first two are #FakeNews. But those are actually the questions that flashed through my mind when I read each of them.
I have been a learner and a teacher of liberation theology all my adult life and I know this. Oppressors begin by cultivating false consciousness in those they seek to oppress.
"False consciousness" is a term used often by educator Paulo Freire. See this chapter from his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Oppressors cultivate the adoption of a false view of the world in those they oppress in order to make them easier to control.
This type of active promulgation of a false view of the world, that is, false consciousness, is being done even now by totalitarians and totalitarian wanna-be's around the world, from Vladimir Putin in Russia, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. And now Donald Trump in the United States.
I became a feminist liberation theologian by learning from Letty Russell and 'loving the questions' about the stuff I was told as a girl and a woman about what it meant to be female. And it turned out almost all of that stuff was false.
You have to love the questions to get out of the false consciousness of hetero-racist-patriarchy. Women and girls of all races and sexual identities are fed a daily dose of lies about themselves, from their intellect to their bodies to their rights to their safety to their racial diversity to their gender diversity.
Feminism, I contend, is the radical idea that women are full and equal human beings, and that means you have to constantly question every one of these lies, all day, every day.
Here are some examples of false consciousness and my questions over the years:
'Women are not the intellectual equals of men.' Isn't that the dumbest thing you ever heard?
'Only thin women are beautiful.' Isn't it right to love my own body?
'Lesbians just need a good man.' For what?
'You don't have the right to control your own reproductive life.' Says who?
'She was asking for it.' No she wasn't. Don't men just want unfettered access to the bodies of women and girls?
'Blonds have more fun.' Isn't that a hair color ad? All women aren't white and blond and that's not best.
See? Liberation theology teaches that what oppressors want is for you to believe all the stupid lies about who you are, what you can and cannot have, and why you are not entitled to equality and justice. Oppressors just want you to feel bad about yourself and spend time on useless things so you won't turn around and question their right to control not only you, but the whole society.
It has been a life project for me to love the questions and get to ditch false consciousness for critical consciousness.
You can do it too. It's not easy but it is a life-giving project.
My students and teaching assistant and I, in the Chicago Theological Seminary class, Public Theology, invite you to log on here and take this pledge to counter #fakenews wherever you find it.
Please go to this link and sign the pledge and then take action.
You will find that adopting a posture where you 'love the questions' becomes a habit of critical consciousness that you can apply to all the ways you personally may be living in a fog of false consciousness. It can also help you give up the habits of white, cisgender, economic, able-bodied privilege and so much more.