The Abandonment of Truth

January 2015

The subject matter expert was trotted out by the 24 hour news station to present his opinion. He answered some peripheral questions establishing his credibility and then had the audacity to say he not only didn’t know what caused the plane to crash but wasn’t even willing to speculate until more of the facts had been vetted and examined.

What a relief! He actually gave me reason to believe him because he didn’t know something and wasn’t willing to offer even an opinion. For me, his key phrase was ‘until I have more of the facts to vet and examine’.

But what happens when other experts aren’t as disciplined and spout off an eloquent sounding opinion that makestruth them look good and sounds like it might make sense? Assumptions are presented as fact and form a narrative. The faulty premise becomes the story and judgments are made. Lines become drawn and emotions incited on a mere assumption not based on truth or any real digestion of the facts involved. The media is happy to put it above the fold, devote Op-Ed space, and make it the headline story every half hour on the cable news networks. Why? Because they know you’ll believe it.

Consider the Duke lacrosse team fiasco a few years back or the more recent Rolling Stone Magazine article chronicling a rape culture at the University of Virginia. It made great press, sold tons of copy and gained national attention and invective. Only one problem: both accounts were fictional, pure untruth. Thankfully someone had the energy to discover the real truth and bring it to light; after the damage was done.

Truth: the state of being the case: the body of real things, events, and facts: in accordance with fact or reality: what actually is or was

Pretty amazing in this day and age that a subject as basic as truth has to be defined in order to lay groundwork but we have come to accept so much falsity as truth it has turned our worldview upside down and our sense of reason into disarray.

Truth is one of the main cornerstones of a free and self sustaining society. Without it there can be no trust or system of beliefs among its members. In the end, a leaders is only as trustworthy as his word. When people lose their ability or desire to seek the truth, they turn into gullible flock of sheep willing to follow the shepherd with the loudest voice that pleases their own self interest. Too often we find out after the fact that the shepherd was more than willing not to let the facts spoil a good story.

Where we get our facts makes a huge difference in our frame of reference. Whether it be from the Fox, MSNBC, CNN, elders, friends, educational pursuits, The Daily Show or Facebook; they all require a level of examination that many in our society have either abandoned or never developed. Long ago when elementary and high school curricula traded away developing a students’ critical thinking skills for focusing on test prep and results – our intellectual culture took on a tabloid worldview. Students blindly consumed what was fed to them, never questioning origins and rationale; never mind seeking cause and effect relationships. Learning data is easy but finding and correlating an underlying relationship between data bits is not. A fact became anything said by someone respected.

In Ferguson, Missouri a false narrative was formed by eye witnesses who initially lied about what they saw only to recant their account under oath. Activists stirred the pot while emoting about grand jury deliberations they never privy to. This abandonment of truth and total disregard for inconvenient facts led to senseless violence in the streets.

In the New York City grand jury case, a video suddenly made everyone an expert on police procedure as well as an eyewitness to an event where context was totally ignored. “Never mind anything else, I know what my eyes saw!”. Those eyes made assumptions on everything from police knowledge, intent, and training to the victim’s mindset, motivation, and medical history. In both cases our 24/7 media jumped on the storyline as commentators began choosing sides.

I submit that in neither case did any of the purported experts ever take the extra time to examine and analyze the hidden facts as intently as they did the public video. Truth and facts became secondary.

The media, internet, and the streets aren’t the only places you’ll find the abandonment of truth. The 2016 elections are just around the corner and we’ll be fed doses of rhetoric from those who would like to lead our country. Insincere and grandiloquent language that will pass for fact and truth will emanate as political apparatchiks stray as far from facts as allowed by law (sometime farther). We not only won’t blink an eye but will  accept it as part of the political game. Consider this: A campaign will do whatever it takes to get someone elected and then be expected to do the right thing once they’re in. How’s that for twisted logic?

We would be a much better society if we took the time to get ‘more of the facts to vet and examine’. Don’t abandon truth, it matters.

Handling the Truth

Do you remember the climactic and contentious exchange between Lt. Daniel KaffeFew Good Men (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in the 1992 film, A Few Good Men? I’m beginning to think he was on to something.

 

Jessep: You want answers?!

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

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Whatever Happened To Truth?

Mark Twain once remarked, “if you tell the truth you don’t have to remembertruth anything”. In these days of 24/7 news coverage, LexisNexis research tools, and the ubiquitous microphone, one might ask why anyone wouldn’t take Twain’s advice as untruths can be so easily exposed. Apparently politicians didn’t get that memo as they continue to speak as though no one will know, remember, or think to do some research.

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