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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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The Church & Tactics of Deception


This questioning comment was recently posted:

Dear Fr. Joe,

I am a political activist and I am trying to see what tactics I can use that would still be considered moral under Catholic teaching. What I seek to accomplish may appear quite odd and perhaps even sinister to many who are not acquainted with the nature of politics. Nonetheless, I simply wish to spread views that support Catholic social teaching and to make enemies of the faith look bad through the manipulation of public opinion and perspective. The most effective way to do this is a duel tactic involving evangelizing those who have a chance to convert and to make the enemy look bad through the usage of sock puppet accounts and Astroturfing.

What I wish to ask is if Online Sock Puppetry, Astroturfing, False Flagging, and overall Psychological Operations and Covert Actions are sinful?

Sock Puppetry is when I make an alternative account online that either spreads my views or is a strawman of my ideological opponents without people knowing it is me using this alternative account. Astroturfing is when I pay people to protest or support me in a way to make it appear my belief system is more popular than it actually is without them knowing they are paid protesters. False flagging is if an operation or action is done in which observers blame someone who didn’t do it because the action implied that it came from them, most often an outright verbal lie is never told as people assume who the perpetrator is. (Imagine someone drawing a swastika on a Synagogue and people assume a Nazi drew it instead of another person attempting to get attention and sympathy for Jews there).

For all of these I know they appear bad and deceptive, but why I am asking this is due to the fact that I never see the Church ever condemn these actions, especially if they are done by many corporations and government intelligence agencies. A person told me that though misleading, these actions are not intrinsically the same as the sin of lying as many of them can be pulled off without necessarily telling someone a falsehood but simply through concealment it leads people to incorrect conclusions in matters not critical to the faith.

With all Due Respect,


Wikipedia definitions:

“Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.”

“A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term, a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock, originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an Internet community who spoke to, or about, themselves while pretending to be another person.”

First of all, any who would be political activists should do so under their own names and not under any form of alias.

Second, we do not need pro-faith vigilantes (with secret identities) distorting or manipulating messages within the public forum.

The first might be criticized as a capitulation to fear. The latter lacks transparency and does a disservice to the truth. The manipulation of persons is from the evil one. The Gospel of Christ and our values must be witnessed in the light of day. Yes, that makes one an easy target for the enemies of the Church. But that cannot be helped. It makes a person into a genuine sign of contradiction within a non-Christian culture. Our Lord knew this and commanded us to take up our crosses and follow him.

The faith is a gift freely given and it must be freely received. We transmit our holy religion and its values both through our witness and in our proclamation.

One Response

  1. Tell the truth is always the answer.

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