Age of lying and suppression of truth
A basic tenet founded on the constitutional principles of a democratic society is open, truthful, individual freedom of expression, including freedom of the press. Conversely, a dictatorship has the adverse mandate: the complete, absolute suppression of the truth, as recently demonstrated around the world, by any means necessary.
But, it certainly seems that truth is far less valued today.
Reporters are investigative truth-tellers. Their mission is to find, write about and reveal the truth in order to protect our rights.
In today's world, increasingly, such a worthy, illuminating mission now attracts massive negative retaliations from those who would hide the truth to protect their own interests.
What do these words and phrases have in common? Fake news, biased, corrupt, harassment, threats, financial intimidation, disappearance, hostage, loss of livelihood, vilification, demonisation, reputational defamation, dangerous, denigration, treacherous, abuse of individuals and families, imprisonment, isolation, radical illness, physical and mental violence, torture, enemy of the people, death threats and yes, actual murder.
Answer: words and actions used in the present state of unprecedented hostility against journalists today.
Ordinary people who write, people who report, people whose jobs are to investigate and report the truth, exposing lies, corruption and crimes against humanity so that you, the public, can make informed decisions.
What better solution than to eternally silence the voices of truth. Death!
Reporters Without Borders states that deadly attacks and abuses increased significantly in 2018.
More than 488 journalists were killed (88), detained, imprisoned (348), held hostage (60), or were missing. Further, in more than half of the murders, these journalists were deliberately targeted.
Truth used to be the truth. For so many years ago, we trusted what we read and heard in the news. TV nightly news read by some famous, trusted newscaster was also the routine for millions of families.
What they told us, we believed. We had faith in their journalism — they would not lead us astray.
The so-called news has all changed, distorted by “reality” shows, fake news, fake people, bot influences, demographic social-media manipulation, sometimes providing us with only what algorithms determined we wanted to believe, based on our personally expressed biases, leaks of personal data, hidden cameras, recording devices, and so on.
Who and what can you believe? These manipulations of real data are alternately so blatantly obvious, or so cleverly sublimated that we ultimately must question, and independently verify, what we can trust to be true.
What happens when we do, however inadvertently, rely upon information that is not quite true, given the so many ways that it can be distorted and presented as such?
Watch out for: out of context, misleading, obfuscated, incomplete, exaggerated, outright lies, phoney manipulation, cherry-picked information, suppression, and vested-interest slants.
We have been had.
Invalid, misleading and downright deceptive information taints every personal decision: finance, investments, political choices, relationships, career paths, risk management, consumer products, health issues, and on and on.
Truth can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, disastrous in threatening our normality.
Have we, the people, become too complacent, too readily accepting of information without verifying the source or the independence of the news releaser? Because truth, at times, is just too overwhelming, we are mentally inclined to accept palliative untruths that sound so soothing, so comforting, so true.
Yet, we do want to trust: individuals, our relatives, businesses, officials, politicians, advisers, institutions, governments, the news.
But, here's the thing. The more those motivated by self-interest seek to avoid and detract from the truth, the more we should instinctively realise that there may a “smoothing over” of the underlying facts that “they” do not want you to know.
They can be anyone, anywhere, and their methods to prevent truth-tellers range within all of the above.
Those, that's us, without concerted vested self-interests, are basically good people. We have to become more alert to what we are told as truth.
We need to build up our “phoney facts” alarm detector. We do have built-in instincts for when situations “just don't feel right”.
Follow those instincts — they are seldom wrong.
Journalists do your job for you, most of them, with skill and integrity.
Yes, there are some self-promoters, but the majority of journalists adhere to a professional honour code to uphold the truth, the freedom of the press, to tell the truth in all things affecting the community.
We owe them our respect. So many have paid the highest price for their professional integrity.
How is it possible that any individual is murdered, just for telling the truth? A truly tragic commentary on our present societal values.
For what is a society if we do not cherish, and fight to uphold, the laws of truth, along with integrity, honesty, respect, personal convictions, ethics and a moral code?
It is no longer a democracy.
It isn't even a community.
It is a lawless morass of people with one sole objective: every person for themselves, putting their interests first.
Consider what Sisela Bok, a Swedish-born American philosopher and ethicist, states in her groundbreaking 1978 book, Lying: Moral Choice in Private and Public Life, the Principle of Veracity .
What, she asks, would it be like to live in a world in which truth-telling was not the common practice? Without the benefit of universal trust, you could never trust anything you were told or read — or anyone.
Guard the truth.
For when your last vestiges of the right to express yourself — because after all, each of us in expressing our opinion is a self-driven journalist — are taken away, only then will you realise what you have lost.
• Martha Myron CPA, CFP, JSM, Master of Law — international tax and financial services, is a personal finance columnist for The Royal Gazette