Some tales – stories – lies become enshrined in people: families, communities, society. Santa Claus (other than “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” and department store and mall Santas) is an example. Modern commercial Christmas is the product of more than a century and a half of a steady drumbeat of tales about the jolly old elf. But government and all it has? Try millennia of stories and lies.
In 2020, we witnessed some of the most aggressive propaganda efforts perpetrated in American history, certainly as powerful and focused as any during the Great War or the Second World War.
If anything, in 2021 we have seen that campaign of lies, warped truth, misinformation, and denial of truth expand again and again. Look at any mainstream media article “news” or “opinion” about the so-called “uprising” on 06 JAN 21 or anything about election reforms. You will find that Trump is castigated for his “lies” about election fraud in 2020. Look at hundreds of MSM stories concerning COVID-19, masking, social distancing, lockdowns, and now vaccines and the Omicron variant. The massive 1619 movement started in 2019 is another example. The utter nonsense concerning human sex and gender is yet another.
Such things are not, of course, new. They follow a tried and true method for government and political and revolutionary activists and supporters to control others by denying them the truth and replacing it with lies. This is far more serious, of course, than telling toddlers lies about Santa.
We hide it by calling it “false news” or “fake news” and not plain, simple lying. And the problem is a growing one.
Our modern digital/electronic and other tools, make it easier than ever to create, edit, and publish writings and images to the entire planet. Too many of us forget the cost, however. There is nothing about the printing press, copiers, recorders, websites, blogs, text and photo-messaging, emails, or any sort of mass communications that filters out those lies: either flat-out false info or the other forms of misinformation. So it is easier to spread lies than ever before.
It is not just that governments and media lie. (And it is not just the mainstream media: the alternative media does also, as does the anti-MSM organs.) It is also that people seem to be more and more unaware of what they are being fed. Consider students. A recent Stanford University study reports that only 25% of high school students were able to identify an accurate news story when also given a fake one. And not just the written and spoken word: people find it hard to clearly identify real and fake images: both photographs and video.
(In a side note, preteen children in Bible studies often think that the Bible history and people are real, not imaginary or fairy tales. Not because of anti-biblical or anti-christian propaganda by atheists or non-“people of the Book” religions. But because of the materials used to teach the classes: cartoons, drawings, paintings, video and more. Even non-christian lovers of liberty take note: this same thing can be done with the history of the last 500 years. And IS being done.)
Do you find this news bleak and dismaying the way the Stanford and other researchers did? Such converting of history into fantasy – not just twisting it to support your view – was once attempted only by the most extreme partisans and change agents. Today, it is a common problem. One not going away but getting worse.
So, what do we do? Clearly we must do a better job of teaching ourselves and those around us – especially the younger generations – the truth.
But JUST as important? Teaching them how to approach – and evaluate – both truth AND fiction, reality and lies. Helping them to stop being mere consumers – but being at least critical consumers. The difference between eating whatever junk is served in the school cafeteria or the barracks mess hall, contrasted to a trained and experienced mother choosing what to feed her children.
An acquaintance suggests one process that works well with students – from age 5 on up to post-graduate college-level students.
(Note: it is not anywhere close to perfect. No doubt there are better ones. But let us start with something. He calls it the 5 C’s of critical consuming.
1: Context. Look at the context of the article. When was it written? Where does it come from? Has the situation changed since then? Is there any new information that could change your perspective?
2: Credibility. Check the source’s credibility. Does the site or publisher have a reputation for integrity? Does the author cite credible sources? Or is it satirical? Is it on a list of fake news sites? (And WHOSE list?) Is it actually an advertisement posing as really a news story?
3: Construction. Analyze the research and writing of the article from bedrock and foundation on up. What is the bias? Are they using loaded words? Any propaganda techniques? Any omissions in facts, views, or analysis? Can you distinguish between the facts and opinions? Or is it simply all speculation?
4: Corroboration. Compare the information with other news sources which are credible, trustworthy, and have integrity that can verify the truth – even part of it. Make sure it’s not the only source making the claim. If it is, there’s a good chance it’s actually not true.
5: Compare. Compare it to other (trustworthy) news sources to get different perspectives. Find other credible sources from other areas of the ideological or political matrix to provide nuance and get a bigger picture of what’s actually happening.
Clearly, this is NOT a cookbook solution: there are nuances and challenges – especially for younger people. Having successfully raised two very discerning readers of news (and everything else) who are still able to discern morality (right and wrong), who are skeptical of businesses and governments and everyone else – including the religious world – I know it is possible.
And very desperately needed – and not JUST for children.