This past year much has been written about Fake News and Real News. If this debate has taught us anything its that there isn’t much difference between the two. Like Fake News, Real News takes a morsel of truth, invents a story around it, and then, presents it as fact. Like Real News, Fake News is written to influence the reader towards a specific outcome – increasing web clicks, influencing votes, creating apathy etc. Like Fake News, Real News presents simplified ideas which fit neatly into the dominant myths of our culture. Like Real News, Fake News uses time tested methods to do the thinking for us, and we no longer have the intellectual resources to fight against them or tell them apart.
Our ability to know the truth is greatly limited in numerous ways, but here are three ways that are easy to see: 1. It is difficult to know the truth because of the speed at which news is made; there’s no time to fully investigate a topic. Truth and relevance are in conflict. 2. Knowing is hindered by our obsession with utility. If we cannot use our knowledge in a profitable manner, it isn’t worth knowing. 3. Finally, we are unable to know because the omnipresent technology in our lives has rewired out brains making concentration, reflection and silence almost impossible. Our inability to focus is most clearly seen when we site news headlines in conversations with our friends.
How can we recapture our ability to know the truth?
Embrace Boredom: Entertainment is so prevalent in our lives that the one place we are sure to come in contact with our own thoughts, our own person, is when we are bored. If there’s anything the internet age is trying to do is to remove all boredom from our lives. The door to exploring a world apart from the tutelage of Fake News and Real News is personal boredom. Next time, you feel the need to fill the empty passage of time by playing music, turning on a device, resist.
Trust Your Experience: Fear and anxiety are the defining qualities of our time. Judging from the news outlets catastrophe could strike at any moment. It’s natural to turn to enjoying life in the face constant danger. We self-medicate, get lost in social media, or watch sports to get away from the constant, invisible menace. Equally as troubling, our day to day problems, our real problems, are ignored because they appear to be less serious than what we see on tv. We worry about strangers breaking into our homes, while our marriages fall apart without our notice.
Now, if there are things in our lives that are worth fearing, we should work to confront the problems and remove the menace. If, on the other hand, we have little to fear, we can be open to the people around us, and together we can find the truth.