I don’t know about you, but lately I have not been able to shake off the feeling that certain changes in our society have reached a critical new level. Let me illustrate how they may have begun for any of us: someone forwarded a video of a personality saying something outrageous, only for you to later realize that the footage had been manipulated—a deepfake. Then, your next-door neighbor confronted you with irrefutable evidence that the earth is flat: “You just need to watch these YouTube videos; the evidence is all there that NASA is patrolling the icy ring (commonly called Antarctica) around the flat earth so that no one falls off into space! Oh—and gravity does not exist!”
You dodged the faked moon landing stories and 9/11 conspiracies while thinking, This is neither here nor there. It doesn’t affect me! Then, you hear on “good authority,” even though it’s anonymous, that a pedophile cabal of Satanists and cannibals are running the country. You realize that millions of people, including a few running for high political office, believe this.1 Meanwhile, on TV, you witness the informational tug-of-war played out publicly: media bias, experts squabbling, politicians lying through their teeth. Is this novel virus manmade or not? Are masks effective or not? Lockdown or not? And how about the vaccine coming down the pipeline? Is it the much-awaited cure or just a dirty means of controlling people? Are coronavirus tracking apps going to save us or invade our privacy for sinister motives?
Argh!! Confused? Join the club!
The age of information has morphed into the age of disinformation. The sobering part is that some of the information tossed around has real consequences for us—our health, our families, our future. Being able to divide truth from lies is not just a luxury or the preserve of epistemologists and philosophers. It can be a matter of life and death.
So, how do we find the truth, whether in science, history, society, or politics? How do we divide truth from lies and fact from fiction?
That's just a little taste from Antonella Pedley's article, “When Truth Has Fallen in the Street, ” in our latest issue, “Truth in the Age of Disinformation.” The good news is that you can follow this link to read the article for free! And share it with your friends!