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FIRST-PERSON: Dressing up fiction as fact

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Whenever scientists, researchers or reporters want to advocate for a position that lacks credible evidence, they will use less than precise language when conveying information about their position. This is especially true when the subject is a supposed medical or scientific discovery.

Press releases and reports concerning “new revelations” or “discoveries” will be peppered with phrases like “the findings suggest,” “the evidence might indicate,” “could be” or “those involved believe.”

George Orwell, in an essay titled “Politics and the English Language,” addressed such word usage. The choice of pretentious and imprecise language “are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments,” wrote the author of the classic works “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

Before the “startling findings” that “could change the way we view” a certain subject are revealed, the one crafting the report will lay down a pretentious veneer designed to establish credibility for the revelations to come. The public will be told that the research was conducted at a prestigious facility and that experts were consulted. The intent, while subtle, is meant to silence skeptics and undermine critics.

The aforementioned is nothing more than propaganda masquerading as news. And the goal is to seduce the unwitting to embrace the “new information,” even though it does not qualify as fact.

The recent revelations concerning the so-called “Jesus family tomb” provide a classic example of the propaganda-as-news technique. And while not all reports have been blatant in advocating for the acceptance of the tomb as legitimate, many have strongly suggested the evidence is credible and some have unashamedly pushed the findings as fact.

“The Jesus tomb,” which is the subject of a book and an upcoming Discovery Channel “documentary,” is touted to be the final resting place of Jesus Christ and His family. If the discovery were legitimate, it would have crippling implications for Christianity.

The big problem that advocates of the “Jesus tomb” have is that they can only suggest that their conclusions are correct. At best their claims are nothing more that speculation. And no group is more aware of this than reporters. However, that does not keep them from promoting the “Jesus tomb” positively when reporting.

Various news reports have insinuated the tomb is a new discovery. The truth is that it was found in 1980. For the mathematically challenged that was 27 years ago.

“It’s a joke. It’s a beautiful story without any proof whatsoever” Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine and report on the tomb, said concerning the claim.

Many reports that have touted the legitimacy of the tomb have described it as being validated by “new scientific evidence,” “DNA evidence conducted at one of the world’s foremost laboratories,” and “studies by leading scholars.” These impressive statements have been carefully positioned at the front of the reports in an effort to persuade the reader that the information to follow is more than mere speculation.

When the “facts” are then presented, they are accompanied with less-than-precise language to describe their significance. The “evidence,” the reader is told, “suggests” the burial place “could be” the final resting place of Jesus and it “might” even indicate that Jesus had a son.

The reader is then told that the so-called “evidence” is compelling and that taken together raises “seminal” and “profound” questions. If there is any mention of critics, they are quoted once or twice and often in the later half of the report.

Propaganda masquerading as a news report is not new. It has been deftly employed when reporting a “new study” that supposedly “establishes” a biological origin for homosexuality. The studies always “strongly suggest” or “could indicate” that sexual behavior, once deemed aberrant, is actually rooted in biology.

“The goal of modern propaganda is no longer to transform opinion but to arouse an active and mythical belief,” observed Jacques Ellul. And tragically the French philosopher was right. While there has never been a definitive study establishing a biological basis for homosexuality, scores of people the world over now believe the myth that people are born homosexual.

Much reporting concerning the “Jesus tomb” is nothing more than propaganda in disguise. Through the use of imprecise and pretentious language, as well as the positioning of so-called evidence, many reporters are advocating for the truth of the tomb. Don’t be deceived. At best, all the proponents of the Jesus tomb can offer is assumption and speculation.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears Fridays in Baptist Press, is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, online at www.baptistmessage.com.

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  • Kelly Boggs