These are trying times. As if the situation were not bad enough, social media is even more full of conspiracy theories, political points-scoring, racism and plain old scaremongering. Fake news (actual fake news, not just an opinion I don’t agree with, or fact that doesn’t reinforce my prejudices or support my agenda) is travelling at the speed of the internet.
‘Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it’, as Jonathan Swift noted in 1710. The means of communication may have evolved, as have the phrases to describe it. Perhaps it is best summarised by Abraham Lincoln, that famous truth-teller, who warned that you ‘can’t believe everything you read on the internet.’
Many people believe that, through the fog of war, we can only glimpse the truth occasionally, handed down as it is to the select few who can see behind the curtain.
Of course, this is nonsense. There are major organisations dedicated to speaking truth to power (and to you and I). The truth is out there. That it is in the interest of some individuals and groups to undermine objective truth should not sway us. This is a test of character.
In these days, the ability to value truth and facts, to be open to new information, to rely more on objective sources than agenda-driven propagandists is a test of character. It is a test that, as my wife recently observed, many are failing – including some we know and thought strong. As a lawyer, she is trained to both identify the truth and to use it selectively. As a marketer, I am trained to set aside theory and focus on what works. Both of us have been surprised by who has been swept up in the wave of conspiracy theories breaking over the world; by who has failed this test of character.
In the end, character will tell.
Stay safe – and be strong.