Shazam For Quran

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Fun for Fans

Shazam! from DC Entertainment/Comics is the follow-up to Aquaman (2018). On the surface it’s a silly fun little film about a teenage boy who gains mystical super powers from a wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Think wish-fulfilment fantasy. Like Aquaman it’s about as fun and fizzy as a soft drink and likely as nutritious and healthy!

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Teenaged foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) receives powers that transform him into an adult super hero Shazam! (Zachary Levi). Batson, a wisecracking loner, is constantly running away from foster homes seeking his mother (Caroline Palmer) whom he lost in a crowd at a street fair as a child. Focused on this quest Batson failed to fit in anywhere or with anyone. When placed in a new “last chance” foster home under the care of Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor Vasquez (Cooper Andrews) Batson is again faced with the challenge of fitting in. The difference is that Rosa and Victor were also foster kids and work to make a family for the kids they foster. Batson shares a room with Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) a comic book and super hero fan who refers to himself as “a disabled foster kid.” Freeman is the first to learn of Batson’s super identity and helps him understand and test his super powers. There are also other foster kids in the Vasquez home: Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), Mary Bromfield (Grace Fulton), Eugene Choi (Ian Chen), Pedro Peña (Jovan Armand). They all take a liking to Batson and welcome him into their family.

Batson as Shazam! doesn’t really know what to do with his new-found power. Had he paid closer attention to what the wizard who gave him his powers said to him he may have noticed that Shazam is an acronym: “The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the great courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. You must never call upon this power except in the service of right.” From his arcane lair the aged wizard, the last of the seven-member Council of Eternity, had sought a champion to be his replacement; someone who is pure of heart. Batson, although not perfectly “pure in heart”, is certainly more pure in heart than the failed candidate Thaddeus Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto). His covetous envy and greed disqualified him from being the wizard’s replacement in the council’s fight against the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, and sloth which are demonically personified in the film. As an adult Sivana, now Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) still seeks the powers of Shazam and becomes Batson’s enemy repeatedly attempting to steal the powers with the aid of the seven deadly sins. A large portion of the film’s final act focuses on a physical confrontation with Dr. Sivana and the seven deadly sins.

Shazam! is a film awash in religious and esoteric details and subject matter of which viewers may want to take note.

Shazam! is a film awash in religious and esoteric details and subject matter of which viewers may want to take note. Christian viewers in particular may want to consider that characters like Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury from whom Shazam gets his mystical magic powers are all part of Greco-Roman paganism. But wait! Wasn’t Solomon mentioned first? Yes, but while “the wisdom of Solomon” sounds biblical (King Solomon was King David’s son and the builder of the Temple in Jerusalem and there are accounts of his wisdom in the Bible like one in 1 Kings 3:16-28 where he helps resolve a dispute between two prostitutes over the claim of motherhood of a baby boy) the wisdom of Solomon presented in this film is anything but biblical. This Solomon is magical more in keeping with the Solomon of Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism or the Quran or the 14th or 15th century Italian book of magic spells and invocations “The Key of Solomon,” falsely attributed to Solomon,[1] which are favourites of Freemasons and other occultists. In Shazam! Batson uses these “powers” of Solomon for clairvoyance and presumably for the binding of demons. Does that sound a bit too dark for young kids? Most viewers won’t spend much time considering these points because the film generally comes across as goofy and immature. Also, the film’s more obvious theme is wrapped up in the lesson Batson learns that “it’s better not to go it alone through life,” and “if your real family lets you down you may find a new family more faithful then your biological family.”

On one hand this is positive; not everyone has a good family and many Christians know the joy of finding brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus in their local congregation and among fellow Christians. However, on the other hand the film reflects modern society’s notion that family is less about biology and more about bonding between like-minded people.

There is another surface positive. While many of these kinds of films champion the idea that anyone can become a hero if they simply meet their intrinsic potential to do so, Shazam! does not teach this idea. Batson is given the power to be a hero from outside himself and discovers he can’t win his fight with Dr. Sivana and the demonic seven deadly sins on his own. He needs the other kids in his foster family who also end up endowed with the power of Shazam! Together they set things right and Batson finds the family he didn’t realize he was looking for.

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But there is a flip side to this positive family theme. The wizard Council of Eternity has seven members as does its enemy the seven deadly sins. What this means is that the film at its core has a kind of yin and yang, an equally matched and contrasting balance between light and dark, good and evil etc. This idea in near eastern and western religious thought is often conveyed in the Gnostic Christian heretical dualism of Manichaeism in which good and evil are equally pitted against each other. Is this a stretch? Not really. The dualism of Manichaeism is regularly portrayed as a struggle between a spiritual world of light and an evil material world of darkness. In Shazam! the wizard Council of Eternity has a lightning bolt as its symbol and a bolt of lightning is present each time Batson says “Shazam” which turns him into the magical super hero. Conversely, the demonic seven deadly sins are often presented as encased in stone or stone-like in appearance.

Sometimes faithfulness to a source material means the filmmakers are simply working to portray what was originally presented and they may not believe in the underpinning ideologies or beliefs.

Why do film makers and writers keep going down this road? There are two reasons that sometimes overlap. First, this yin and yang kind of Gnostic dualism is low hanging fruit for creating dramatic tension. “Who will win? The good guys or the bad guys? They seem equally matched!” The second reason is that the filmmakers may actually believe good and evil are equals. It’s hard to say outright without a public admission on the part of the writers or the director. Shazam is a pop cultural property that has been around since the 1940s when the character was also called Captain Marvel before legal disputes forced DC Comics to drop the name and settle on Shazam! Sometimes faithfulness to a source material means the filmmakers are simply working to portray what was originally presented and they may not believe in the underpinning ideologies or beliefs. Regardless, this kind of good and evil dualism is present in Shazam! as it is in countless other films and Christian viewers will want to take the opportunity to contemplate this and/or address it with kids who see the film. Yes, good often wins … or does it? Evil in these kinds of dualistic films is almost always left licking its wounds in the dark waiting for another crack at victory and the struggle continues. For Christians however, outside fictional stories like these, life is much different. There may be many battles with evil along the way but Christ Jesus won the victory at the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter morning. In Christianity God and the devil are not equally matched and there is no question about who has the victory! Perhaps this is seen as boring when it comes to developing dramatic tension in fiction, yet for Christians it is the source of ongoing comfort in life. Christian families will want to take the opportunity to look at Scriptural passages like the war in heaven as depicted in Revelation 12:7-17.

Keen observers may notice that while there are seven thrones in the Council of Eternity’s magic lair, only six members of Batson’s Shazam!-foster-family are endowed with magical powers. Where is the seventh? Perhaps this will be answered in a sequel. Even if there isn’t a sequel Shazam will certainly show up in future DC Comic films and when they add him to the Justice League he will likely serve the role of jester in Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman’s court.

With some frightening and crass moments Shazam! is too adult for small children and too immature for most adult audiences. However, if director David F. Sandberg, Warner Bros, and DC Entertainment were shooting for an audience of young teenage boys and DC comic book fans then they have it about right. It’s not a film with broad appeal but its target audience will enjoy it!

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Rev. Ted Giese is lead pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; a contributor to The Canadian Lutheran, Reporter; and movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio program. Follow Pastor Giese on Twitter @RevTedGiese.

[1] A Pseudepigraphical Grimoire

The hottest memes of 2020! The most viral videos of the year! The hottest hashtags!

The year-in-review lists from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were missing the biggest story of the year: their failure to stop the spread of misinformation.

The QAnon conspiracy theory found a shocking amount of . Black Lives Matter protests were exploited to spread lies about violence coming to Small Town, USA. And officials had to fight destructive wildfires and false stories about antifascists at the same time.

And, of course, there was the misinformation superspreader event: the COVID-19 pandemic.

The consequences have been dire. But we don't have to let it continue in 2021.

Misinformation epidemic

The 2016 U.S. presidential election gave social media platforms a powerful taste of what bad actors could do when weaponizing the tools they created.

Yet, the companies were still hesitant to act. Sure, some users were banned. But, as long as the content wasn’t illegal or causing immediate, quantifiable harm ... why would they take action?

Judging by the timing of some of this year’s biggest misinformation-related policy changes, it seems most of the major social media platforms gave themselves a “deadline” to do something before the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

Then, in March, the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. There were anti-mask demonstrations. People drank bleach. And some people refused to believe COVID-19 is real.

“There was just so much conflicting information about the virus and the fact that everyone had time on their hands [due to lockdowns] to actually look at it all,” explained Gita Johar, a professor at the Columbia Business School. “People were sharing everything just trying to make sense of what was going on.”

In a recently published study, Johar found that people who “feel a sense of exclusion and uncertainty,” perpetually or during an unpredictable time, like a pandemic, are more likely to spread what they see on social media.

“In fact, we found that people seem to be able to tell what’s true and false apart, but they still share information regardless,” she said.

And there were plenty of trolls, conspiracy theorists, and politicians willing to flood scared, confused, and angry users with false information.

“All the COVID misinformation actors have to do is sow doubt,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. “They adopted the Steve Bannon tactic: ‘flood the zone with shit.’ And that's what we're seeing now. Actors are flooding the zone with nonsense.”

Fadi Quran, campaign director for the nonprofit activist organization, which has done extensive research on disinformation online, agreed, saying, “Trump and others within the Steve Bannon network have been pushing claims about voter fraud for years.”

Facebook, too afraid of offending conservatives who accuse the company of having an anti-conservative bias, basically let Trump, Bannon, and others on the right do whatever they wanted.

The wrong actions

Big Tech companies took plenty of half-measures this year.

Facebook limited political ads in the week running up to the election. The Trump campaign found a way around this new policy.

Facebook also slapped fact-check labels on rampant misinformation, an approach Ahmed called 'disastrous.'

“That's what the social media companies want,' he said. 'They want the debate on the platform.”

That's because the more time a user spends interacting with content, no matter how false or toxic it is, the more opportunities there are to serve that user ads.

“We know the people behind this misinformation and we know that what they're saying is untrue,” Ahmed continued. “Yet for the social media companies, it's an economically productive market for them.”

And there's a lot of content that falls through the cracks on Facebook, a site with nearly 2 billion daily active users. Facebook has around 15,000 content moderators working for the site through third-parties. A NYU report found that Facebook should have double the number of content moderators, who should be in-house employees.

And if Facebook misses something? A MIT study found that users believed that misinformation that hadn't received a fact-check label must be true.

“When it comes to labeling, they did not implement it the ways experts in the field of debunking disinformation recommended that they implement it,” said Quran.

According to Quran, Facebook, for example, doesn’t retroactively “correct the record” for users who saw misinformation before it was fact-checked.

Too little, too late?

Shazam For Quran Translation

In a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which has studied anti-vaxxers and coronavirus conspiracy theorists, volunteers flagged 912 posts on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter for misinformation. Only one in 20 were removed.

Social media companies have 'been engaged in a process of gaslighting the world with the idea that they're taken these incredible unprecedented measures when in fact they're doing very little beyond spin,” Ahmed said.

In October 2020, however, Facebook did do something major. The company QAnon. It was a welcome move.

But QAnon has existed since 2017 and has sparked numerous incidents of real-life violence. As a major spreader of conspiracy theories during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, imagine how much less shit would have flooded the zone if Facebook took action earlier.

“My estimate is that if Facebook implemented that ban two years before they did, it would have prevented between 5 to 10 million Facebook users from joining QAnon conspiracy groups and pages,” said Quran.

2021 and beyond

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To fix the misinformation epidemic, the social media companies have to want to fix it, something they've shown little appetite for.

“Indiscriminate sharing can become a bad habit,” explained Johar. “Unless we take steps at the source of the problem, which is the supply of misinformation, I don't think that you can just rely on consumers to be able to disentangle and make sense on their own.”

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With coronavirus vaccines on the way, attacking this problem has never been more important. Avaaz’s Quran believes that there are some extremely simple steps to curb misinformation, especially when it comes to public health.

One proposal: Facebook should change its algorithm to stop promoting pages that frequently spread misinformation.

“There are repeat misinformers still creating viral content,” he said. “Facebook could easily just stop amplifying them.”

While it’s too late for the social media companies to fix the problems misinformation created in 2020, it’s not too late for 2021.

“Action now could still save lives,” explained Ahmed. “If you take away those voices in the very cynical, very organized, very disciplined anti-vax networks, it would give an opportunity for health authorities to get their message across clearly.”

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TOPICS: Tech, Social-media-companies, Social Media Companies, Big-tech-companies, Big Tech Companies, 2020, Misinformation