I just read an article in the Washington Post about Paul Horner, an internet fake-news writer who likens his work to The Onion’s, a satirical fake-news source. Horner now believes that his work may have directly enabled Trump right into the White House.
“My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.”
But this isn’t a Trump-supporter-bashing essay.
The moment I finished reading the Horner article I came to my computer to post a link to it online. When I logged onto Facebook, I was prompted to share a “Memory” of something I wrote four years ago, in 2012:
“I pointed out that part of an article posted on [Facebook] was wrongly attributed; things were added that were untrue and that the attributed author did not write. And one person's response was, ‘No matter.’ … Really? REALLY? It doesn't MATTER if the purported facts are untrue? It doesn't MATTER if the person who wrote it didn't really write it? No wonder we are so easily duped by marketers and politicians. And liars. And combinations of the three.”
Four years ago there were no Hillary backers, no Trump supporters.
But they were fully in the making. Because truth had already begun to lose its value to us.
Truth matters, even when it’s inconvenient or unpleasant.
When your child says a kid at school stole his lunch money, and the accused denies it, don’t you think the truth matters?
When your daughter is raped and her rapist claims she consented, don’t you think the truth matters?
When your co-worker steals from the petty-cash box and says it wasn’t him and in fact he saw you do it, don’t you think the truth matters?
The truth is not just valuable when it supports my side of the argument.
It’s valuable all the time and every single time.
A friend of mine recently posted this question on Facebook:
“It boggles my mind that we live in a world full of information, for most of us literally at our fingertips at any moment, but so many refuse to utilize it. How is it that we are reverting to a Dark Ages mentality when technology can shed so much light???”
One commenter had this to say:
“Agreed, but sometimes it's so hard to tell who is telling the truth!”
No, it really isn’t that hard.
First, you ask yourself, “Does this seem realistic?”
When the meme about Trump’s comments in a 1998 issue of People magazine surfaced, that quote seemed a little too perfectly worded and prescient to be real. Sure enough, it was not true. How did I figure that out? I typed “Trump People 1998” in my browser window and got an article from Snopes.com, as well as articles from no less than ten other actual news sources (as opposed to gossip columns, conspiracy sites, and opinions-framed-as-facts depots) that debunked it.
If all else failed I could’ve gone into the People magazine archives to look for the non-existent article.
It’s not that hard to find the truth. And here’s a much better article on how to do it (keep reading past the front image, it's just a teaser).
If we want the truth to be revealed about the things that matter to us, we have to make truth—in every arena and in all matters—paramount.
(An aside here to Christian readers: Christ said “I am the way and the TRUTH and the life”; the Bible names Satan “the Father of LIES” [emphases mine]. When we traffic in lies we abandon our reputation as those who would be like Christ, and we instead align ourselves with evil.)
Paul Horner said that he makes $10,000 a month via his fake news sites. He is selling lies. He thought everyone recognized that fact, and that he was actually pedaling humor. But the jig is up. As a nation we’ve proved time and again that we like lies, as long as they tell us what we want to hear.
There will always be liars, and there will always be suckers.
I, for one, hope to be neither.
How about you?