In this day and age, with social media and politically biased news media, it seems that truth isn’t truth. Thus it has become popular to talk about ‘my truth‘ when people talk about their opinion. It’s interesting that people can believe wildly different versions of things that happen. From Russiagate to Uranium One, it all seems to depend what ‘our truth’ is for any particular group.
The alternative, unfortunately, is to have some version of a single, orthodox ‘right Truth’ that we all must agree on, possibly enforced by a Ministry of Truth or a Truth Force.
I’m okay with a US Space Force. But what we need most is a Truth Force — one that defends against all enemies of accurate information, both foreign & domestic.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 20, 2018
The problem with this is obvious: who gets to say what the Right Truth is? What are their motivations for saying that A is the Right Truth but B is not the Right Truth? Is it ever possible for one source to give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
And, there are more ways of controlling what becomes the ‘Right Truth’ than just lies of commission. There is also the illusory truth effect and lies of omission.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been blockading and bombing Yemen. This began in January-February of 2015 after a rebel group called the Houthis ousted the president of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The vast majority of Yemen’s vital resources, such as food, medicine, and fuel, are imported, so the blockade and destruction of the Hodeidah port, Yemen’s largest port, and Sanaa airport, is disastrous for the country.
The illusory truth effect being applied to this story is that the Zaidi Houthis are a proxy for the Twelver Ja’fari school Shiite Iran, with the goal of Iranian expansion. The Saudi lobby and their U.S. neocon enablers have had this narrative put on repeat for so long that it is uncritically accepted by the mainstream media, even if there is evidence that the connection is pragmatic at best.
The lies of omission is that this crime against humanity is being facilitated by western powers such as the U.S. and the U.K., that this support began under Obama (attempting to paint it as a purely Trump policy), and that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis gets such little coverage (it began getting more following the attack on a school bus in Dhahian area of Saada on August 9 killing 50 civilians, including 40 school children, but the blockade-caused famine still gets short shrift in U.S. media).
While there are certainly issues with the ‘democratization of truth’ that need to be continuously guarded against, if there was only a Right Truth given to us by someone (the government? Corporations?) we might not know the full truth of this story at all.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to just know the Truth without having it reported to us by someone else. What we need to guard against is having those who report the truth distorting it. This doesn’t mean outlawing things that are not the ‘Right Truth’ but by taking personal responsibility of what facts and reports we, as those seeking Truth, consume. Try looking at multiple sources from numerous different ideological angles (and, hopefully, sources that have as little ideological bias as possible). Know what agendas and personal biases are held by the person or organization reporting to you. Understand where funding and other conflicts of interest are occurring.
But most of all, understand why you might want to believe one narrative over another. Ask yourself why it is that you believe one thing but not another – is it facts or feelings? Try to understand where your own views and biases come from and how they were formed. Familiarize yourself with confirmation bias and bias blind spot, and realize that we all have this, including you. Try to decide whether you believe some bit of information because you found it convincing or because you simply just want it to be true. And always remember to find the sweet spot between being open minded and being skeptical.