Truth in Chains Fake News, Alternative Facts, and Losing Truth In Opinions

by Glen Pearson

With all the talk of “fake news” and “alternative facts” it should be increasingly clear to us that the greatest casualty of our penchant for details might be the truth. Truth still exists; the problem is that we can’t agree on it as citizens anymore. There is just so much information cast in our direction that the ability to sort through it is perhaps more than our brains, individually and collectively, can process without us getting lost in it all.

Nowadays the divisions aren’t between truth and falsehood, right or wrong, but between “my” truth and everyone else’s. There are now so many certainties that empirical, historic, and principled truth no longer seem to count as effective filters to what we are hearing and seeing.. What is important is what I believe and not so much what we need to build our future on.

The truth is still out there, but obscured

The arrival of the Internet was celebrated as the new means whereby a vast and complex world could come into our screens and expand our experience and understanding of one another. But the opposite has happened. We have used it to download, surf, and link to online supports for those things we already think. In fact it’s worse than that: online platforms now excel at limiting the greater world to shape only that which supports our own conclusions.

We have witnessed this tendency played out in party politics, where party position matters more than the ability of the other parties to refine it. Compromise and refinement has become increasingly impossible and we have been left isolated views of issues that show no ability to come together in commonality. This is also what is happening to citizens on an evolving basis. It has paved the way for turning the complexity of truth into the concentration of only those things that agree with “my” opinion. These developments are now turning modern progress into a collective and individual cul de sac.

Should this process continue the inevitable result will be the fraying of social cohesion, the loss of shared principle, the inability to build on common ground, and the loss of compromise. Everything becomes an issue in such a world and the truth behind those things that truly matter gets crowded out by self-serving news. In such a setting protest becomes easier than the collective pursuit of principle.

This has already become the legacy of the Donald Trump era. Without consensus, how will we collectively discover the truth that can set us free from the immediate, the crisis, the flourishing of opinions in a partisan world? Truth is now in chains and we are gradually becoming prisoners to that reality. Without a shared North Star, all that is left to us is an endless universe of stars and no way to be guided by them.

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Glen Pearson
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