The debate today seems to be about who is telling the truth AND whether or not “Truth” even exists.
It is understandable that people are questioning whether Truth exists, yet the pursuit of Truth is crucial to a functioning democracy. So our goal should be to create a common understanding that Truth exists and on ways to discover it.
Why are we doubting the existence of Truth?
Many of our traditions respect and encourage questioning life from philosophical, spiritual, and scientific perspectives. In fact, the inquiry into Truth is an important part of self development. It can even be confusing to consider that some knowledge may be beyond our comprehension.
However, it is important to discern between the ethereal unknowns and discernable facts. These facts are an important part of being able to collaborate effectively – deciding what side of the road to drive on, knowing that stop signs mean to stop your car and so on are part of being able to function.
These challenges have existed for a long time, but now we are faced with additional hurdles that have added more complexity. Many studies have seen that social media adds to the problem through silos created by algorithms to keep us enraged. Our government scandals and lies over the last 100 years have also eroded trust. Our news has been attacked repeatedly by a President and yet we also see problems in coverage too. Then, we have a lack of Truth in advertising where profits come before people’s wellbeing.
Lastly, there are bad actors who exploit these vulnerabilities in our common Truth to attain power. Perhaps they are selling a product or they want political power. Maybe they just enjoy outraging others and creating division.
Phrases that whittle away at Common Truth:
- Fake News
- Flood the Zone with Shit
- Post Truth
- Everyone is entitled to their own truth
- Everything is neutral at a Spiritual Level
- Can’t Trust The Experts
It is important for us to take action now. We must decide that cultivating Common Truth is vital to the health of our democracy or things will continue to worsen. We are already seeing death threats to journalists. People’s ability to twist the truth is accelerating as they learn the tactics and exploit people’s sense of being overwhelmed. Soon, we will have deep fake videos that may be hard to detect from real videos. As the complexity increases, we will become even more overwhelmed and confused in what to believe.
How do we Cultivate More Truth
If enough of us agree that Common Truth is essential to a healthy society, we can do something about it.
We can start by declaring that Truth and Transparency are important principles. Then, we can hold ourselves and others accountable to those standards. We can discuss our standards for Truth openly and publicly so that people know what will be tolerated and what won’t be.
We can learn about the methods of creating doubt, so that we are less likely to fall for deceptive arguments. Understanding framing, discernment and propaganda would allow people the freedom to make up their own mind, but also be protected against unhealthy tactics.
When an issue of great importance arises, we can hold National Town Halls, Dialogues or Debates to discuss the details in a more methodical and conclusive way. Imagine the difference if at the beginning of Covid-19, we had structured discussions on the importance of Community Health and we talked through all the issues we argued about?
Lastly, we need to acknowledge what leads people to be attracted to ignoring facts or preferring to stay in a mode of seeking division. This has been well studied. When people feel threatened or have deep trauma, they are more likely to seek out unhealthy ways to belong. Dealing with denial and trauma are an essential part of our path to healing, unity and common purpose. A first step would be learning how to reduce our own reactivity, so we can provide more healing to those we love.
- Democracy in Danger Podcast Episode – Disinformation Wars with Nina Jankowicz
- Samuel Woolley of Propaganda Lab on The New Abnormal Podcast episode on how Social Media Algorithms distort information
- Rob Reimen – To Fight Against This Age book on Fascism and the importance of Common Truth
- Brooking Institute – Taiwan handling disinfo quickly blog post
- George Lakoff’s book on how political conversation framing works Don’t Think of an Elephant
- Kurt Eichenwald on How Divise Topics are used to Create Political Power – Sorry Not Sorry Podcast episode
- AP article on How far-right uses COVID theories to grow reach
- Media Matters
- Propaganda Labs
- The Frame Institute