Optional Truth

Has truth become optional?

All you have to do is look through Facebook, listen to politicians or talk to someone who is passionate about a topic and it seems as if truth is unimportant. The truth has become so optional that websites like Snopes.com have become increasingly more important. While stretching the truth has always been a part of our language and culture, outright lying seems to be much more accepted and even defended.

In the 1600s the philosophy of “the end justifies the means” was brought forward by Niccolo Machiavelli in his treatise entitled “The Prince” as a philosophy of how to gain and keep power. While the philosophy has been utilized by tyrants throughout history, it seems have become the mainstay of argument in America. It appears as if there is no fact that can have the weight, or impact, of an emotional rant. Regardless of the topic, or the view of individuals, both sides of topics such as gun control, abortion, socialism versus democracy, religion versus science and any number of other topics where people are passionate, truth seems to have become optional.

The apparent lack of the need for fact to voice an opinion is rampant, even in the news media. Far too often I hear a news anchor say something akin to “even though we don’t have the details what is your opinion about that ____________ (shooting, airplane crash, fire etc.)?” Formally reputable professional news people have been forced from their post for inventing stories or embellishing to the point that truth is lost.

Misleading the public, which I believe is the same as replacing fact with opinion, has become so commonplace that it casts doubt on virtually all forms of media. The public has become increasingly uneducated and cynical as a result of a basic lack of honesty not only in the general public but in our leadership.

It has become acceptable in general conversation to intentionally mislead in an attempt to “keep the conversation going.” In my opinion this is a gross position of arrogance and is completely unacceptable. Since it occurs so often general trust is being destroyed. Even seemingly small things like failing to keep a confidence, or gossiping, has become a source for entertainment and is used in reality shows as a matter of course.

We are coming to a crisis amongst voters in that the most emotional are the most likely to vote. Many thoughtful and well informed individuals have stopped trying to interact or educate. I believe that America is reaching a significant point of declining leadership and trust as a result of the replacement of fact with opinion following the Machiavellian belief that “the end justifies the means”.

Each of us has the responsibility to be factual even when stating an opinion. Information is so readily available on the Internet that there is virtually no excuse to pass on information without at least doing a minimal amount of information gathering. Often, in fact probably most often, we reach conclusions without having all of the facts. We need to be able to discuss those conclusions but it would be beneficial to admit that a conclusion is an opinion based on fact not necessarily a restatement of previous assumptions.

The take-home message here is if you can’t be factual it is even more important to be honest. Start by holding yourselves accountable and those close around you. One of the easiest ways to verify whether someone is using opinion or fact is to inquire of them, “Where did you get that information? I would love to learn more about that topic.” Although they might not be able to give an exact citation they should at least be able to provide some general information about their source.

Remember life is built on choices. Choose facts over opinions as the source of your conclusions.