Fake news is not new. The only difference is that the average person through social media can get the same traction established media and government get. So how exactly do we declutter in a world of competing ideas to arrive at the real, unadulterated truth that we can trust and share?
President Johnson, President Bush, corporations, churches, and many other institutions have lied to Americans with fake news that changed the course of history. We must enlighten ourselves to mitigate the weaponization of untruths. If we understand the difference between perception, experience, and truth, that will help solve our confusion.
I ran across Cody Pogue’s post that did not get much traction on Facebook, but it should have.
A good rhetorician uses emotion, half-truth, and other tools to fool people into accepting easy answers. He does this because he will benefit by convincing people to accept his argument. Maybe he will gain power, money, or esteem from convincing people, or maybe he will just boost his self-confidence and feel like a “winner” by winning the argument and defeating his “opponent.” What his skillful argumentation doesn’t pursue, however, is the truth.
Truth is much more difficult to come by. It is so difficult that most people simply give up and rely instead on opinion, which is merely their experience. Experience is great, but it is not the truth.
Experience is just the history of what a person has gained from their sensory perception, which can often be flawed (our senses fool us every time we see “magic tricks”) and are based upon our position (the experience of a wealthy person is different than the experience of a poor person, black person different than that of a white person, healthy person different than that of a sick person, etc).
Because we all have different experiences in life, the easy temptation is to say “well, some things are true for me and other things are true for you,” but that is irrational because contradictory things cannot both be true.
To find the truth, we must look beyond our own perspective and try to understand reality from the perspectives of people who are different than us. If something is actually true, it will be true from all perspectives. Truth must be universal. If it is true from one perspective and not another, it is merely an opinion. It is only true if it is a reality from all perspectives, in all places, and at all times.
A person skilled at argument can manipulate us to believe their opinions, but their opinions are not true regardless of how many people believe them. Skilled argumentation does not create truth. It only convinces people to believe lies. Only careful searching for the universal reality that is correct in every situation can bring us toward truth.
The best way to find that something is true is not to try to prove that it is correct, but to prove that it is incorrect. If we are unable to prove it to be incorrect, then we just might accidentally prove it to be the truth.
Pass everything you hear through a discerning filter. It works.
Also published on Medium.