Image: The Telegraph, UK.
With fake news littering social media, legitimate news is a currency in high demand for those who care for genuine truth.
Many millions of likes, comments, and shares have driven unnewsworthy material (literally, stories) into every social media users’ newsfeed. This has caused every user to confuse fake news for real news, and vice versa, often with the added insult that sensational stories (the more untruthful, the more sensational, as general rule) have dominated the available space, gaining maximal coverage. And because social media algorithms favour popular stories, fake news has proliferated unimaginably.
The issue of fake news has caused some to become increasingly suspicious, and especially cynical, but the opposite is also true.
Fake news is written and propagated to favour our biases, so ‘the system’ knows how to pique our interest to rally us or to rile us; to generate an emotional response from us. From this context, what a torturously despicable playground social media has become!
The object of this short piece is to explore the wisdom that lies between the perception of truth and the temptation toward an attitude of distrusting suspicion, granting that there’s a role for appropriate suspicion, which is a type of wisdom I’m exploring.
An overweening desire for too much truth can lead us to be too suspicious. We may discredit truth because we don’t like what it’s saying. It doesn’t agree with our partialities. That’s the opportunity to hold ourselves to short account, but that can be a bar too high at times.
The opposite is also true. Too often we’ll be tempted to elevate material that agrees with our biases to the halcyon position of ‘truth’. Sometimes our prejudices are so strong, our thinking is deceived, and our secret predispositions are allowed to emerge, because we love the overall message of the ‘truth’ we believe and, therefore, espouse.
In this post-postmodern era, the strength of bias is very strong. The way the world couches information nowadays, it’s sometimes impossible to discern the difference between truth and a lie. Truths are exaggerated making them false. Falsities are sprinkled with truths to make them influential. Discernment is the task of wisdom; the object of truth.
A key task of life is to find the wisdom that is true to life. That wisdom seeks truth by balancing instinctual suspicion with a fair open-mindedness. That wisdom also discerns when suspicion bends into bias, when, through humility, thinking can be corrected.