From Disinformation to True Information
Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of conference given by Fr. Alain Lorans, August 12, 2018 during the Summer University of the Society of Saint Pius X in St. Joseph des Carmes School (France). The oral style of the conference has been retained throughout.
Theme: 1968-2018 Chaos: How Can We Reconstruct Society?
If we take the tryptic around which the theme of this summer university articulates itself this year: order, disorder, and restoration of order, and if we apply it to the domain of the media, which is the topic of this conference, we can bring up three stages: Information, disinformation, and re-information. The order corresponds to true information; the disorder to disinformation, and naturally, you will say that restoring order is to “re-inform.”
The term disinformation has reappeared several decades ago and in particular under the pen of Vladimir Volkoff who authored two books: the Set Up as well as A Short History of Disinformation.
Re-information is more recent. This is a term which the alternative media, the media on the net (especially right wing media), use in order to oppose themselves to the official disinformation, to counteract the disinformation of the great press or what the Anglo-Saxons would call the mainstream media which is the dominating current, exclusive thought, and the proper way of thinking.
When you consider these terms, you may think that they are quite clear and that we can apply them to the theme of our summer university. Information, order; disinformation, disorder; re-information, return to order. However, in reality, it’s not that simple.
I would like to show you that it is not certain that the true information is as clean as we think, that it has not interfered with (I wouldn’t say) disinformation, but that it certainly has undergone a filtering, a framing, an illumination of the facts. We need to be aware that information is not the presentation of a raw event. It’s an event that has already been selected and chosen according to several criteria. What information does is to make the event presentable to the public, as one does when presenting a photo—by choosing the proper frame. You go through a selection process: why this angle, why not another? Why this light, rather than another? So, in fact, there is no such thing as neutral information.
Does this impossibility of neutrality make this information a disinformation which ignores the reality of itself? No! Dis-information, on the contrary, tries to pass a message surreptitiously. Successful disinformation is the one which goes unseen. If we were aware that disinformation is intoxication, that it is not credible, and therefore, it would lose its efficacy. Between information which is obliged to have a framework and a special light in order to present an event, and disinformation that intended to hide its ideological frame, prejudicial lighting, in short, the formatting of the mind, where can we find the the distinction?
In my exposition, I will be using the book written by Ingrid Riocreux, who teaches at the Institute of St. Pius X called The Language of the Media, Destruction of Language, Fabrication of the Concent. This woman, who has a PhD in modern literature, specializing in grammar, rhetoric, and stylistic texts, draws the attention of her readers to the fact that re-information itself, which is the goal of the alternative media, is not always exempt of the very method proper to disinformation, not, of course, with the forbidden ideas, but of certain means being employed. This shows us, once more, that the distinction between information, disinformation, and re-information is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. We need to look at this in more detail.
Methods of Disinformation
Let’s have a look at disinformation as Volkoff analyzed it. We can say that if information necessarily involved framing, a special light, or a selection of the facts, disinformation itself seeks to be forgotten and to go unnoticed in order to become efficient. It is characterized by the logomachia that is “the battle of words” or the “combat of words,” the weight of the words, the shock of the photos, a slogan like Paris Match. The weight of the photos and the shock of the words because in the logomachia, it is the shock of the words which is important. This shock is much more interesting since it allows you to neutralize any rational discourse. The words have an emotional charge so strong that it dispenses one from all reflection which does not support critical judgement. There are several indisputable words used in the media as a means of true disinformation.
If you pronounce a certain taboo word, one word, right away you fall under the stroke of the law. There is no possible distinction. It’s illegal, but especially before the tribune of public opinion it is indisputable. This pure logomachia can be seen in certain televised debates. There are words so unqualifiable in the world of media that they immediately disqualify those who pronounce them.
Another system of disinformation is what we French call the “langue de bois”—the “bamboo language”—that is the language which says nothing, is perfectly stereotyped, and is a chain of statements that are perfectly politically correct. This is the language of the world. This bamboo language would be characterized by a great poverty of vocabulary which is a sign of a great poverty of thought. A rich and nuanced reflection is expressed by the richness of the vocabulary and the nuances of the words. To a poor language corresponds poor thought.
The logomachia which is similar to diabolization dispenses from all reflection. The bamboo language also invites one to have the minimum possible reflection without nuances and without distinction. This is the way we make a herd of bleating sheep who certainly do not think. The masters of this great information were Lenin, Goebbels…and before them there was the Chinese general Sun Tzu six centuries before Christ, whose most famous book, The Art of War is often quoted by Volkoff.
The master idea of disinformation is to prevent any critical perspective and to neutralize reflection without the interlocutor being aware of it. Discreetly we are telling him, “Do not think; we are thinking for you.” True disinformation gives you the illusion of thinking for yourself while really, you are thinking only by proxy. One arrives at giving this illusion by bringing about quasi-Pavlovian reflexes which obviously are not rational but simply based on the passions, meaning, at the level of the fundamental passions which Aristotle explained which are rooted in the concupiscible and irascible.
Diabolization consists in provoking an emotional reaction. People complain: “this person is pro-life, she is against abortion; this is diabolical.” There’s no need to think; there is no need to go any further. See how the media have pitted persons who have defended the life of the child born in Argentina recently. The emphasis was placed on the sadness of the pro-abortion supporters because the law had not passed, but there was no thought about the real murder of the children in the womb of their mother. Every time, it’s a question of raising a form of pity, of anger, or of envy at the level of the concupiscible or irascible passions.
This is the reason why disinformation functions so simplistically in a binary mode according to the Manichean dialectic. There is the good as we can conceive it and the evil as it is defined and the less we discuss it, the better. We must adhere like Pavlov’s dog, by reflex. What Volkoff shows in a very interesting way in his books is the role of the sounding box. The media may be an efficacious sounding box at the service of one who is controlling the disinformation campaign. For example, during the war in Iraq with the question of the weapons of mass destruction. A campaign was created to make this idea pass in the public opinion. We must have military interventions in Iraq!
The ideal is that the message passes by itself. A sounding box, in good faith, is like the useful village idiot. The journalist relays the message sincerely. Here there is no need to look for a plot. It’s explained by the simple intellectual laziness and the will to agree or to bleat like a sheep along with the compact majority whatever the message happens to be. This fear of being different, of dissidence vis-a-vis the politically correct, is protected by an auto-censure which was most efficacious in the totalitarian regimes.
Fighting Rigorously Against Disinformation
An effort needs to be made in the language itself: many journalists today speak and write quickly and poorly. Few are those who express themselves with clarity. The terms employed are often blurred, ambiguous. We aren’t speaking of misspellings, but of the choice of the words. Many are taken from the English (foreign) vocabulary.
We must know that the thought is expressed in the word the verbum mentis or (the idea of the concept); the verbum oris or (the word which expresses the concept). But if the verbum oris is tottering or improper we can be sure that the verbum mentis (the idea itself), the conceptual tool is not very sharp, but rough. This is a pity for a journalist who must present the facts and analyze them. It would be best for him to do something else.
Doubtlessly, we must be free from slogans, from the weight of the words, the shock of the photos, of logomachia, of the Bamboo language and, today, the ecclesiastical soft language. Truly, we must make an effort to rise to the level of reason and diffuse a clear and precise message. This is not a luxury; it is an intellectual exigency and a moral responsibility. We must be wary of yielding to intellectual laziness and to the desire to agree without reflection which characterizes certain journalists. We must verify the quotes, cross check the sources, the facts and not just say, “Given what I want to prove, this enemy must have said that, therefore I reject him.”
We wouldn’t be achieving re-information, but rather inverted disinformation seen as information, by justifying ourselves with the sophisms of the type: “Well, but at least it serves a good cause.” No, the good cause can only be served with good arguments, i.e. with true arguments. This is what the popes have said all along. I’m thinking of Pius XII and his allocution to the reporters. I’m thinking also of a beautiful sermon by Cardinal Ottaviani pronounced on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.
On this subject, it is ironic to think that the holy patron of journalists is against what constitutes today, the ideal of all the journalists, all the medias of the day, the buzz. Indeed, St. Francis de Sales used to say, “Noise doesn’t make anything good and the good doesn’t make noise.” If this quotation was displayed in all editorial offices, there would be nothing of all these infamies presented so freely selling paper or trying to raise the audience.
This rigor is absolutely necessary without which we would be correcting some excess without touching the cause of evil which is disinformation. And without it, we would be in the symptomatic medicine which is softening the symptoms but would leave the root of evil, the infectious source intact. When inverted, this information, like the revolution against the revolution, is not true re-information because it’s not truly contrary to disinformation. We must understand that the motto of St. Pius X requests that we restore everything in Christ, that we recapitulate everything in Him. That is to make sure that Christ is truly the head, the leader of families and institutions, including the media.
Now, you are going to tell me that this is not possible, that I’m dreaming. You see me coming into an editorial office with pious medals brandishing on one hand a crucifix and on the other side the aspergillum. No, we’re not talking about that, we are simply talking about our duty of state. We can react against disinformation, but not become accomplices of the revolution, and work efficaciously for the restoration of the truth which is the correspondence of our mind with reality. This pertains to each person within his graces of state. It is not a question of going out to occupy Radio France but just where God has placed us with the graces He grants us to act in such a way that there is no room for intellectual laziness, for approximate language, for diabolization, or the short-circuiting of reasoning submerged by our emotions. This is why now I would like to offer you some examples which will show you that it is possible to do something concretely.
The question which is brought here is this: How can we bring a listener to the true events when he is disinformed by the media and he seems to be so brainwashed that there doesn’t seem to be one drop of common sense left?
Despite the gravity of the situation, we must know that this is not a new thing. Throughout history, there have always been minds contaminated by sophistry in such a way as not to believe in the truth. Everything was a matter of opinion; everything was based on a question of what pleased me, of what displeased me. I like this; I don’t like that. Today is represented by I like and the likes on Facebook. What a rich nuance of thought: one click, one like. The emoji thought, the smiley thought. What can we do when we are approaching the level of zero reflection?
In the 5th century before Christ, Socrates had to deal with Sophists and their leader was Protagoras who used to say that “Man is the measure of all things.” According to him, man is the one who decides what is true, what is false, what is good, what is evil. Everything is subjective. Socrates, by his irony, brought these false minds to reality—to objective reality. He reduced their subjectivist relativism to absurdity.
In the 17th century after Christ, after the wars of religion, Bossuet, along with the other great preachers of the Counter-Reformation, worked to bring the Protestants back to the Church. Thus, he composed a remarkable work entitled History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches. Already, in his time, everything was in disorder. It is not the chaos of 1968, but rather the Protestant chaos, the free examination which turns each reformer into a pope. The Protestants do not know where the Church is. Is it visible, institutional, invisible, purely spiritual, has it survived throughout the periods before Luther? Visibly or not? In book 15 of the History of the Variations, Bossuet declares that now is the time to find out if a fact is or is not. The Church is or she is not. She is visible or she is not. So, Bossuet is bringing back his reformed interlocutors by a well-documented and very precise argumentation to recognize things as they really are. The Church cannot be and not be, cannot be both visible and invisible.
Because we must know that even in these brainwashed minds as we said before, human nature and reason always remain. Reason always preserves the self-evident propositions. As soon as you know the subject and predicate you know instantly whether the propositions are correct. So when I say the whole is greater than the part, we don’t need to be a polytechnic or a rocket scientist to know that; it’s obvious. As a whole, I see what it is. The part—I see what it is. And it’s obvious that the whole is greater than the part. Likewise, when I say an effect cannot exist without a cause, or that there is no smoke without fire. If you know what an effect is and what a cause is, and if you know what the smoke is and what the fire is, you know very quickly that there cannot be one without the other. The principle of causality is evident. We need to always return to these first principles.
Closer to us is Romano Amerio’s work Iota Unum. He wrote again a History of the Variation but it is those of the Catholic Church since Vatican II with all the changes, all the mutations which Bossuet called “the variations.” He minutely studied all the ruptures which were introduced in perennial tradition. And if you read Iota Unum, read it under the light of Bossuet by thinking that there is a reason why Romano Amerio gave the subtitle: History of the Variations of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century in the post-Conciliar Period.
Now, let us look closer at what the superiors of the Society of Saint Pius X are writing today and we’ll see that they do not proceed in other ways than those of Romano Amerio.
On the occasion of a recent address to the Roman congress on the roots of the crisis in the Church, Bishop Bernard Fellay was showing how Archbishop Lefebvre wanted that there be, in response to the Conciliar subversion, a doctrinal, theological response but also (and this is not exclusive of the other), a factual response. Touching on this response with the facts Bishop Fellay said this: “In the eyes of Archbishop Lefebvre this practical application of tradition, i.e. this experiment of tradition, is an efficacious remedy to relativism.” Why? Of course, Archbishop Lefebvre wanted to answer doctrinally to the doctrinal errors but also he wanted to reply pastorally. Because we must not forget the ideological dimension of the post-Conciliar novelties. “And we cannot respond purely speculatively to an ideology because it will see in it only a contrary ideology, that is contrary subjectivity, contrary opinion but in no way will it see the contrary of an ideology, the truth which transcends subjectivity. And Bishop Fellay specified by quoting Cardinal Ottaviani, “This is the way of listening which the subjectivist relativism eludes ‘the objective and absolute truth’ and ‘the objective rule of morality’.”
How can we return to this ‘objective and absolute truth,’ to this ‘objective rule of morality’? By returning to reality, to the first principles which rule reality, and here the principle of causality.” The reality today is the decline in vocations, the loss of vocations, the loss of religious practice. Just open the book of Guillaume Cuchet How Our World has Ceased Being Christian with the clear subtitle: Anatomy of a Catastrophe in order to understand the reality in these numbers. But to confront reality, it is necessary to appeal to the principle of causality. These facts have causes; they are not the fruit of spontaneous generation. Nothing in reality is produced without there being an explanation. In daily life, we know full well that an effect necessarily has a cause. When there is no religious practice, no vocations, no seminary, what do you say? Did it just happen by chance?
No! Bishop Fellay concludes, “That’s why Archbishop Lefebvre insisted so much that they [Rome] let the Society of Saint Pius X have total liberty to pursue tradition.” Confused with the relativist ideology and its terrorizing consequences for the Church—declining vocations, the constant fall of religious practice, etc., he knew that it was necessary to oppose experimentally the fruit of the 2,000 year-old tradition. He wished that this return to tradition would allow the Church one day to re-appropriate tradition. Getting back to the roots of the crisis is, at the same time, to get back to tradition, from the effects of the cause, from the fruits of the tree. That’s the way Our Lord invites us and, here, no ideology will hold. The facts and the numbers are not traditionalist, much less, Lefebvrist. They are good or bad as the tree which produces them.
Let’s move on to the one who succeeded Bishop Fellay at the head of the Society, Fr. Pagliarani. Responding to an interview at the end of the Congress of the Courrier de Rome in 2011 where it was a question of the hermeneutic of continuity. With much common sense he said that, “the hermeneutic of continuity is trying to appeal to tradition in order to prove that there is a continuity with tradition in the Council and if there is a rupture, it’s only a matter of interpretation, of hermeneutic.” Fr. Pagliarani asked them: “it is rather surprising that there is such a disproportion between the cause and the effect. How can we explain the universal rupture since the Council manifested by a liturgical, catechetical, etc., change because everything is in rupture today and the cause would simply be an error of interpretation?” His answer is no! The cause is in the fact that there is no continuity de facto and not only in a later error of interpretation. In other words, there is a rupture in the continuity ab origine, from the beginning.
Fr. Pagliarani continues: should we think of a reciprocal fecundation of the new Mass by the old Mass and the old Mass by the new? Benedict XVI wished it happened. He says that this doesn’t make sense, it is absurd, and therefore contrary to the principle of identity and of non-contradiction. A thing is what it is, it cannot be its contrary. The new Mass is what it is, it cannot be its contrary. Fr. Pagliarani explains that the Conciliar liturgical reform which introduced the new Mass involves an intrinsic problem; it cannot be anything else. It cannot be a hermeneutical problem—an exterior and posterior interpretation. It’s an ontological, intrinsic, problem.
It’s important to underline this principle of identity or of non-contradiction, and the principle of causality. We see that our superiors are always bringing to their interlocutors the first principles which are not only the necessary laws of the human mind, but also the laws which rule reality itself.
Don’t Open the Cat Door!
In conclusion, here is a last example drawn from an editorial which appeared in DICI in June 2018 which also tries to show the contradiction of the progressivists and remind them of the exigencies of the principle of contradiction. In the present case, these are the German bishops who have decided to admit Protestants to Communion who are married to Catholics. Some bishops have manifested their disagreement with their confreres and they appealed to Rome. The pope responded: “work out a consensus among yourselves.” Because he didn’t want to make a decision and recall the Church doctrine against the intercommunions. In his name, Cardinal Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith just said that the German document presenting this project was not ripe to be published. They would have to think about it. There might be some particular cases to study.
We see that it is really the principle of non-contradiction which is suffering from the statement of Cardinal Ladaria. This is what we need to show the reader even if he doesn’t have a great theological or philosophical culture. He can easily understand that one thing cannot be its contrary. That goes against elementary common sense. The cardinal says, “The document is not ripe.” The use of this adjective on such a clear question, such an obvious thing, is revealing. The Catholic Faith teaches that we cannot authorize intercommunion by saying to Protestants who do not believe in the real presence, that they can receive communion along with Catholics who believe in the real presence.
Thus, when the cardinal says, “The project is not ripe,” what he really means is that it is not opportune. But, at the root, the question of intercommunion is not a question of calendar, but of the perennial doctrine of the Church. Is intercommunion opposed to the Catholic Faith on the real presence? Instead of a doctrinal reminder more than necessary, this declaration of Cardinal Ladaria is only objecting to a premature publication of the documents of the German bishops, making it understood that ripening is not excluded. In reality, this project of intercommunion is much too ripe, it is the fruit of a softened theology and really in full decomposition.
A little further down, Cardinal Ladaria has this extraordinary sentence: “It seems particularly opportune to let the diocesan bishop judge the existence of a grave necessity.” Let’s translate: it’s not ripe, we cannot give you permission, but let each diocesan bishop judge the existence of a grave necessity in the name of which, out of pastoral mercy, most likely, he will be able to free people in his diocese from the universal doctrine and discipline. This again is a suspension of the principle of non-contradiction. Intercommunion is generally forbidden, but it may be permitted in certain cases. They call this a pastoral overture. No: let us give the names their true sense. This overture is not pastoral, it is a breach in the unity of the Church. In naval terms, it would be a hole under the ship’s floating line, which means certain short-term shipwreck.
We have here a typical illustration of the tactic of the cat door. This image is here to draw the curiosity and to draw the interlocutor to think a little ahead about what a cat door is doing here. A door is closed but we have an opening at the bottom to let the cat out. This is what has been done since Vatican II. Without any doubt, Cardinal Reinhardt Marx, the president of the congregation of German bishops will know how to exploit this situation. Marx, “the expert in all cases,” will open the cat door while keeping the doctrinal door closed and thus, what is doctrinally false will become pastorally true. What is universally forbidden is authorized locally.