The Pinocchio Syndrome – The Quest for Truth in the Age of Spin

 

pinnochios-nose

 

Under current law, it is a crime for a private citizen to lie to a government official, but not for a government official to lie to the people – David M Fraser

What’s wrong with that statement?

You know the story. Pinocchio’s nose became longer the more lies he told.

We live in a post-truth society. With the epidemic of fake news, boldfaced lies on many fronts, “alternative facts”, and runaway fact denial, we soon will see some very long noses in our country

To be fair, lies are equal opportunity villains when it comes to political spin. Someone once said that politics was like window cleaning. The dirt always seems to be on the other side.

Despite this alarming trend from all sides of the political spectrum the key is to take care of our own noses by being vigilant advocates for the truth. We also need to fight spin with truth and not sink to the level of invectives.

If we don’t, imagine the long-term consequences if,

  • A CEO concocted facts in the annual report to the board of directors and shareholders.
  • An employee fudged a weekly review to a manager on the status of a project.
  • A parent lied to his/her children.
  • A President lied to the people.

Intuitively we know that we should judge others by the content of their character. Most folks dare not

  • Rationalize a lie as a bargaining tool or a communication ploy to make a strong point.
  • Allow the retribution impulse to replace the need for collaboration.
  • Use lies as a political tool to manipulate others.
  • Make up ‘news’ either to hurt someone or improve our ratings.

So how then do we return to the true north value of honesty?

Consider these two actions. We need,

  1. Constant vigilance against confirmation bias

Research warns us against confirmation bias. Here the trend is to gravitate uncritically towards pundits and studies that support our point of view. We need to be like the Dalai Lama who said, “If a scientific discovery contradicts my Buddhist beliefs, I will give up my belief.”

Such humility and openness potentially protects us against untruth. It also helps us step back and consider the reliability of the sources of our information. For instance, a report by a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist is more likely to deal in facts that some private news website.

  1. Courage to speak to the truth of a position

It is difficult to speak up in the face of lies or a strong statement that seeks to manipulate us. With everything from death threats to other forms of retribution, many dissidents adopt the attitude “When they go low, we go away”. However retreating from the battle for truth insures the continuance of the mistruth. We should never underestimate the power of the protest any person.  We witnessed to power of “we the people” in the recent Women’s March.

Remember Rosa Parks.

We are in for a long and challenging season where truth will be assaulted on many fronts. Topics under the ‘truth’ microscope  include global warming, the place of torture, civil rights, the right of every qualified citizen to vote, and our place in the international community. Each topic will require an honest and unbiased look at the data, the use of critical thought, examining our conscience, and us having the courage to speak out and act with courage.

The challenge I give myself is “Each day, how can I advocate for the truth?

Why is the veracity of our information so important in the light of the fact that, according to Charles J Sykes of the NY Times, “The battle over truth is now central to our politics”?

 

 

 

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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