Patheos.Com which says it “is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion” gave five reasons why the story could not be true.
- All media reports appear to point to the same source, a Nigerian news site that itself cites The Herald Zimbabwe. But the story appears nowhere on The Herald’s website. Furthermore, all the articles are carefully worded to say “reports say a pastor…”
- Sources that are known to be credible and reliable, such as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, haven’t mentioned this story. When a news story is big enough and generates enough interest, these news agencies will often verify and report it, too. We’ve seen nothing like that so far.
- A search for the name of Pastor Mthethwa only returns results for this story. I can’t find a single reference to a man of god named Jonathan Mthethwa anywhere online. Similarly, a search for his church — Saint of The Last Days — returns only results associated with this news story.
- There isn’t a single picture or video associated with this account. The reports point to eyewitnesses’ comments, but there is no way to verify that these people even exist (a search for alleged eyewitness and church member Deacon Nkosi turned up no results). None of them thought the event was worthy of a quick photo, it seems. Are we really supposed to believe that this pastor planned for a successful walk on water and no one was prepared to capture it on camera or video?
- The last reason we should be skeptical: common sense. Do you really think a pastor would perform a demonstration like this, knowing he would inevitably fail (and humiliate himself and lose credibility among his flock in the process)? Do you think he would do this in the well-known Crocodile River? Or is it more likely that someone created a potentially viral story to generate ad revenue? You be the judge.
The story was not carried by any of the mainline newspapers in Zimbabwe but by a few online newspapers which had a disclaimer on the authenticity of stories they publish.
Fake news is proving to be more popular, and is attracting more readers, than real news. It was popularised by United States President Donald Trump during his campaign but he used the term to discredit real stories which he did not like.