It matters. We can’t run around functioning on misunderstandings or lies; when you build from fiction you’re not on solid foundations.
There are many ways we compromise ourselves when truths are distorted. These range from us naively accepting things because they fit what we WANT to believe, to willfully positioning facts in ways that help make a case and unfairly influence others.
Truth depends upon the source. Individuals base their realities on their self needs, beliefs, exposure, experience and relative position. The written word is produced in much the same way.
Consider (say) the simplest situation where you might need to glean the truth by playing Solomon to resolve differences in arguments by interpreting from two direct individual inputs. Basically, you listen to both sides and as tactfully as is appropriate determine the most credible and realistic truth of the matter. Then you act on it as the situation dictates.
Some folks are better at this than others: Problem Solving, Communication, Diplomacy, Technical and other skills routinely come into play. Not everyone is optimally trained for the challenge(s). Many are ill-equipped. Others are biased towards desired or preferred outcomes.
But what about picking out undistorted reality (truths) in News Stories? Here you’re on your own; just you and the reporter at the outset. The latest polls are now saying around 70% of people in the US think the stories covered by MSM are questionable in some way… accuracy, bias, portrayal and so on.
Your political leanings and cultural origins should not affect your hunger for truth; unless you prefer just not to know? Some do; many are simply oblivious, unaware or unmotivated.
The need to search out reliable underlying facts is not new. Misinformation has been the way of the world since the printing press was available. Its’ earliest applications were steeped in misrepresentations and portrayals from vested interests wanting to control community perception(s).
Printing, Radio, Movies, Television have all been aggressively used to support agendas and bias opinion since their very inception. All that’s really changed through centuries and recent decades is the general proliferation of accessible sources and escalation of information more quickly available via mass outlet channels and most recently, the Internet.
And before these industrial communication mechanisms existed we used primitive images, speech and handwritings to accomplish the same end, albeit less efficiently. We have an innate desire to not only share information, but also specifically control how it is portrayed by ourselves and then perceived by others.
Today we even encounter fact-checking bodies getting caught biasing their supposedly neutral reporting.
There are political philosophies, institutions and social behaviors built upon leveraging misinformation and outright lies. This is often achieved by simply repeating an untruth until it’s eventually believed; be this through overwhelming exposure or fear of perceived threat.
And even revered historical records are normally based upon the writing and words of victors and survivors; those persons who prevailed. Not too many winners wish to generously heap praise upon those they vanquished. Nor do they extol the virtues of the losers’ beliefs, practices and culture. Why
would they, beyond offering comparisons and pointers that only further enhance images of their own cause, perspective and position.
No more do most individuals blindly believe the trusted reporter (news anchor or investigator) as an ultimate purveyor of truth. Things have apparently changed from the quite recent past.
Which brings us full circle. How can we know with any certainty when we’re hearing the untainted truth?
Well, it takes work. You must dig out the underlaying facts for yourself. Fortunately, there’s generally plenty of information access these days (if we’re not knowingly or unwittingly subject to censorship and bias in our search).
Yet even so, those golden nuggets of truth aren’t just lying around ready for harvesting.
And realistically we simply cannot practically hope to exhaustively research everything that causes us to raise our eyebrows and question. So, you must to pick your battles. Focus on the issues that directly affect your interests or are important you personally.
If you’re lucky you have a trusted friend or colleague that knows their stuff and/or checks carefully and reports predictably. If not, your own legwork is required.
My own trick in efficient research is to only start to believe reports when I see them emanate from a couple of known, at least usually–credible sources. When this information then appears to NOT be the exact same line repeated over (while stated differently) and has plausibly dissociated origins, then I begin to trust more deeply.
Above all, we must check both sides of any argument even when one view appears to be off-the-rails or somewhat incredible. In such cases there are still often embedded elements of truth that help complete a more plausible overall view of the jigsaw puzzle.
And naturally we should all tune out and temper what we WANT to believe, too. Most of us think we have great noses for sniffing out the truth. But, we don’t. Our own judgement is too often flawed even when generally good; we are biased and driven by our personalities, core beliefs, cultures, exposures, needs, prejudices and more.
So, watch out for your own agenda. Try and keep things in the perspective of likelihood… perhaps liberally apply Occam’s Razor where you might; even though sometimes, just now and then the seemingly unlikely is the actual reality.
Finally, when you believe you have the real story, then Review (R), Question (Q) and Validate (V) to confirm. When things really matter to you, fall back on the old RQV approach.
And never lazily skim over illuminating or inconvenient details that suggest you dive deeper.
This is what it takes to uncover what is important. Being spoon-fed can be a naïve and dangerous option, so check when you should. It’s the only safe approach when accuracy really matters.
Got any truths you’re buying into that don’t seem too credible; especially when you stand back and acknowledge the influence of what you want to believe? Are you unthinkingly buying into the positioning and agendas of others? Should you be questioning your sources?
Figure out what matters to you and seek out trusted purveyors. If they’re hard to come by, then do your own digging; but always reliably confirm what you find.