By Jim Towey
The great enemy of human relations is the lie. The oath taken in court adjures the witness to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” From the time God etched in stone the commandment, “Thou shalt not lie” to Pontius Pilate’s parsing of the truth when he questioned what it was, generations have struggled with the reality of objective truth and the temptation to cancel it.
Yet, when truth is not honored, sought and protected, society breaks down. There must be a public consensus that propaganda, disinformation, deceitful conduct and all the manifestations of lying, are anathema. Human dignity and truth need each other.
But when truth is parsed, halved, or otherwise manipulated, bonds of trust fray and eventually tear away. Who wants to live in a world where you don’t know whom to trust? When bedrock institutions and leaders in all sectors of life stray from truthfulness and instead advance a particular agenda, bitter division arises.
This is why “fake news” claims resonate with voters. This is why “gaslighting” has become a household word. And this is why the government, mainstream media and Big Tech – to name three American mainstays – are roundly distrusted.
Trust in government and the media
First, government. The Trump and Biden administrations mishandled the Covid pandemic so badly, misleading the public on how the virus originated in Wuhan, exaggerating the danger the virus posed to children, dismissing the biological facts on natural immunity, and purposefully misstating the effectiveness of vaccines. This may be why the Pew Research Center last year found trust in the federal government about as low as it has been in 70 years of polling.
The mainstream media is in the same leaky boat, perpetually spinning the news to its advantage. In general, its coverage of the October 7th massacre of the innocents in Israel, the astonishing and reprehensible anti-Semitism now playing out on American campuses, and the reckless blaming of Israel for the explosion at the Gaza hospital (the New York Times was the first, but not the only, media source to disseminate the falsehood that Israel was at fault), provide ample justification for such distrust. Holocaust deniers now have new imitators on many campuses across America, and even in Congress, as many who question what actually happened on October 7th now downplay it, morphing into Hamas apologists. Small wonder a recent Gallup poll showed trust in the media at an all-time low.
Trust in Big Tech
Big Tech’s credibility is following the same low road. Modern technology, including artificial intelligence, has the ability to instantly deceive and inflame millions of people anywhere in the world. So-called “deep fake” videos and photos will be to lying what the advent of nuclear weapons was to conventional weaponry. Imagine if immediately after the Gaza hospital blast there had been a deep-fake video of an Israeli plane dropping the bomb on the hospital. Does anyone think the Arab world, or Ivy League elites for that matter, would believe American or Israeli claims that the video portrayed events that didn’t take place? No, they would believe their own eyes and rush their outrage to social media, just as they did after the bogus New York Times headline. Brace yourself for the time social media broadcasts footage purportedly from American hostages that uses avatars, advanced simulation and ChatGPT-stylized confessions to manipulate public opinion.
The technology industry not only fell the fastest in public trust over the last five years, one of its chieftains now finds itself in court. Facebook – Meta – is being sued by a coalition of 41 states and the District of Columbia for intentionally building its products (Facebook, Instagram) with addictive features that harm people, including kids, and particularly teenage girls. In response, Meta denied and lied. But Meta knew from the beginning it was psychologically manipulating young users and addicting them to its platforms, making them compulsively consume its content. Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s founder, knowingly did this to make money. After all, lying, in this life, often pays off. Hopefully, the lawsuit will make Meta pay. Lawyers, tee-up the TikTok trial!
Trust the real Almighty
Meanwhile, Amazon announced this week that new AI-equipped sortation machines and advanced robotics will be used alongside of humans, to speed up deliveries, of course. When asked if human jobs might be lost as Amazon makes this transition to robots, the company said that “it doesn’t see automation and robotics as vehicles for eliminating jobs.” Ha! Liar, liar, Amazon plants on fire! Ditto with its advanced technology moves at its Whole Foods stores.
Say what they want about efficiency and safety, these moves are driven by the almighty dollar.
Truth, however, is the domain of a different Almighty. Those who “live not by lies,” as Alexander Solzhenitsyn exhorted, pursue the truth, and will prevail. The truth always prevails.
Always has. Always will.