We now have another type of news coverage to misinform us: Fake News! Why now? Why is this plague visiting us at this point in history? Do we have an irresistible attraction to believing lies? There are at least two issues to examine that might give us a better idea of what's happening to us.
One is our willingness to believe and the other is our inability to discern the difference between a lie and the truth. Regarding our willingness to believe, the reason lies somewhere between how many times we hear the lie and how closely it matches our worldview. For instance, if I already believe it, all I need is to hear it once. I then respond with something like, "yeah, I knew it."
Much of our inability to discern the truth from a lie is the absence of grounding or a baseline from which to judge. The public domain has been creating this void for years; this void being a "post fact" society: Advertising, Public Relations, news for profit, flailing educational system, graduates who can't read, do math, or think critically.
I've not done the study, but I wonder how many lies we're are exposed to every day as we are bombarded with relentless marketing campaigns, echo chamber cable news programs, talking heads for profit, government obfuscation, and political campaigns that last longer than the anticipated office terms.
It's really no wonder that fake news has launched itself as our next growth industry. There's a ready market of buyers and the barrier to entry is small. If you have a computer and Internet access you're in business. How could a society being poisoned with so much propaganda not lose its bearings? But let's look a little deeper.
Several years ago, I learned about the linguistic topic of speech acts. There are remarkably few needed for people to coordinate their actions effectively -- the supposed reason for language. The two that have application here are assertions and assessments: Assertions requiring evidence and assessments being opinions with or without grounding. As I remember, when a person gets these two mixed up, they have a good chance of screwing up their lives.
We have a bigger problem. Our whole society has these two mixed up. And up until most recently, the damage seemed to be contained. At least so much so that those, as Scott Peck called them, "people of the lie", didn't feel safe to go public with their venom.
In his book, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, he "characterizes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness in which there is an active rather than passive refusal to tolerate imperfection (sin) and its consequent guilt. This syndrome results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims."
We now have a president-elect who not only ignores the distinction between facts and fantasy, he has unleashed the people who project their malignant self-righteousness onto anyone who doesn't meet their standards: People of color, homosexuals, immigrants, the working poor, Muslims, and Jews. Couple this with the absence of facts as a baseline for grounding our own worldview, and we have the perfect season for the growth of fake news.
This issue goes beyond politics. This speaks to the health of our society; the future or our children and grandchildren. The bad news is we can't fix this problem internally. The good news is the rest of the world is awake and aware of our illness. The United States has enjoyed its best days. You know, "when we were great".
Kicking and screaming we are being dragged into being just another player in the global game of survival. We are only exceptional for our military and the belief that we're exceptional. Like it or not, we belong to the greater community of nations on this planet. If we don't clean up our mess, they will by out competing us. We are about 320 million people on a planet with over 7 billion. Seeing the picture yet?