Reality Ahead? -Truth-Seekers And Fact-Checkers Unite!
I am probably old-school and boring, because I am madly in love with the pursuit of truth.
Ha-ha… how funny is that? We all know that truth is relative, right? It depends on the vantage point of the observer: what is fact to one camp is simply unproven partisanship to another.
And yet, here I am with what now seems like a sense of post-modern, secular, truth-seeking fundamentalism: A fact-checker, a truth-seeker, someone who quietly vets historical and current sources as well as her news feed. I mostly do it quietly. It is a personal pursuit.
And while it is probably wise to stay silent, I now choose to jump in with both feet.
Because I am frankly horrified, and saddened at what is currently happening to the concept of historical, scientific, and communal sense of truth versus falsehood. My concern is that we are becoming more and more overwhelmed with convenient truths that mirror what we want to believe, feel, or hope for, or conversely distorted fact-manipulations that play to our worst fears.
As a result, like lemmings, we walk blindly on our track toward increasing inability to tell fact from fiction.
And the cliff’s edge of our blind allegiances is certainly in view.
What distinguishes us from all other known lifeforms on Earth is our ability to keep a record of our experiences outside of our bodies and minds.
Inherited, human information is not simply passed down to future generations through our genes, but exists in written, artistic, or electronic form that will outlive all of us. This information will allow future generations to inherit wisdom, ideas, inspiration, technology and scientific advances that are hard-fought results of many trials and errors.
Just as our generation started our grand explore standing on the shoulders of those who left us records of learning, expression, art, music, experience, empirical knowledge, and their stories of victory or defeat.
It is painful to watch this record get watered down, polluted, and distorted.
It happens when scientific findings and breakthroughs only get noticed if they can be spun in the glare of sensationalist media; it happens when historical records are carelessly misrepresented and falsified (Holocaust deniers anyone?); it happens when superstition and irrational beliefs are once again hovering over our heads; it happens when the deep wounds of racism and genocide are ignored, minimized, or flat out denied.
Technology has given us the ability to choose our reality.
Virtual reality headsets give us the possibility to travel through the universe and walk through Van Gogh paintings while sitting comfortably on our living room sofa. This is harmless fun, of course.
What is not so benign are news sources that are agenda-and profit driven, paid-for think-tanks that seek to discredit or misrepresent others’ serious, and reviewed scientific findings, and 24-hour news (and internet) cycles that profit from whipping up emotions. This kind of virtual reality is problematic when it is claimed by some as simply “reality.”
So what are people like me to do?
I am seeking company.
I have a feeling there are many fact-and truth-loving people all around me — and that you, like me, are mostly quiet in today’s onslaught of rapid-fire opinions and beliefs.
Well, if you relate, I am so happy you are there. I am grateful for every fact-checking, truth-seeking, analysis-based action that you do. I thank you for not re-posting easy talking points and scathing outrage seeking to further trivialize the trivial.
I admire your desire to accept that truth is a pursuit and not an acquisition.
I appreciate that you live by principles that honor the concept that truth is not absolute, but often exists in a space of withholding judgment. And while facts are being gathered, you uphold ethical values of kindness, compassion, and love.
I value your refusal to buy into the certitudes and platitudes that you encounter when interacting with the world. I salute your continuing quest for vetting, researching, and double-triple-and quadruple checking sources.
And that doesn’t make you, or me, better than anyone else, but it does help us identify when someone seeks to manipulate our thinking, our feelings, and our actions.
Let us proceed together: quietly, diligently, and persistently.