Monday, September 15, 2008

Telling the Truth Shouldn't Be a Losing Game

Slate has a new article by Farhad Manjoo suggesting that Barack Obama should maybe try lying more. This paragraph I found particularly depressing:
But it wouldn't be surprising if McCain's lies worked. In my book True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society, published earlier this year, I argued that in the digital world, facts are a stock of faltering value. The phenomenon that scholars call "media fragmentation"—the disintegration of the mass media into the many niches of the Web, cable news, and talk radio—lets us consume news that we like and avoid news that we don't, leading people to perceive reality in a way that conforms to their long-held beliefs. Not everyone agrees with me that our new infosphere will open the floodgates to fiction, but it's clear that the McCain camp is benefiting from some of the forces I described.
What is profoundly disturbing about this paragraph is what I consider its core truth: that it is now possible to cocoon oneself with newsmedia that already agree with you. It doesn't matter if we're talking about the New York Times or FOX News, both have the same affect --- if either one is the only source you believe.

I have recently tried to balance myself out a bit. I'm reading the Wall Street Journal more in an attempt to ensure that my most conservative source of news isn't the Colbert Report. I've tried to read a few conservative blogs. I find that while I usually find the articles interesting and admit some of the editorials make good points, I cannot stand to read any of the comments. People on the internet are mean, plain and simple, and the "facts" hardly matter at all.

I have found to be an invaluable reminder of Reality. Everything else I read I take with a grain of salt.

I think our democracy is at stake here, and I don't think I'm an alarmist. If we cannot sustain decent, honorable, and truthful political discourse, we will be left to vote more and more on the basis of lies and emotion. The "truth" will become subservient to power, if it isn't already.

Obviously, we will always have differences of opinion, conflicting dreams for what America could be. But we do not have to have a politics of slander. I know we're sinners, all, but come on. We can hold liars accountable. We can be less cynical ("Oh, that's just politics") and more involved. We can quit believing that lies during a campaign will stop after the election; one who lies to get power will lie to retain it.

I think Christians, especially, should demand better. We are commanded to delight in the truth, and we are warned not to give false witness against our neighbor. I think our Christian witness is at stake, lest we leave ourselves open to the accusation that all we're after is power --- in other words, we should demand truthfulness even when lies might advance our agenda, lest we lose all credibility.

Furthermore, each of us should seek after wisdom at all costs, as the Book of Proverbs encourages us. The wise person, Scripture tells us, is not the person who has it all figured out, who knows all the answers already. The wise person is the one who listens to correction, who goes so far as to even love the one who rebukes her. Which is all to say that if we only listen to those who reinforce our own version of reality, we do so at our peril --- and I believe this to be the case whether we're talking about our view of politics or relationships or our own holiness. If we cannot admit when we are wrong, we are without hope.

Lastly, we should try to aim for truth because otherwise we can easily fall into hate. It's easy to demonize your opponents/their supporters if you don't listen to a word they say. And you have to actually listen to them --- not just listen to a report of what they said. We are told to love our enemies. That includes "commie pinko stuck-up fembots" and "racist war-mongering theocrats." Feel free to check my source on that.


bfine107 said...

Thanks for those thoughts. seriously.

Sista Cala said...

I check in here every now and then. This post was a good read. Thanks.