I recently watched former President Barack Obama’s interview with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes. Former President Obama spoke about the state of the nation and gave insights from his memoir on his presidency, “A Promised Land.” Pelley asked Obama a series of questions. There was one question and response that really caused me to take notice.
The question was, “You write in the book, ‘Our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of a crisis.’ What do you mean?” Obama responded by saying, “We have gone through a presidency that disregarded a whole host of basic institutional norms and expectations. And maybe most importantly, and most disconcertingly, what we’ve seen is what some people call truth decay … the sense that not only do we not have to tell the truth, but the truth doesn’t even matter.”
I decided to delve deeper into the concept of truth decay. The Rand Corporation defines truth decay as the diminishing role of facts and data in American public life. They also propose that there are three trends of truth decay:
Trend 1 — “A disagreement about objective facts & data, in places where we have clear data, clear evidence, and people continue to say the opposite is the case.”
Trend 2 — “A blurring of the line between opinion and fact. Online, it’s really easy to mix opinion, facts, analysis and falsehood,” Dr. Jennifer Kavanagh of the Rand Corporation said in an interview with Yahoo News.
Trend 3 — “And then the final trend is declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts,” Dr. Kavanagh said. She went on to say that “people feel not only is it hard to figure out what’s a fact and what’s not, but they’re not sure where to look to find those facts. And so, those trends together is how we would describe this phenomenon that we call truth decay.”
The popularity and rise of social media are a major driver of truth decay. All it takes is one click. One simple click of a Facebook or Instagram post or a tweet on Twitter and misinformation can be spread to millions of people around the world. And if it goes viral, the sky is the limit. Faster than a speeding bullet. Spreading like wildfire.
Today, truth decay has developed a mind of its own. It’s larger than life but not in a good way. Why? I believe one reason is because of the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects free speech. But at what cost? There is a very fine line.
Never have I seen a time when the news is less reliable than it is now. People know better, but they aren’t doing better. They are going along with the truth decay. We are living in an age of anything goes, especially if the end result is power or allows someone to get their desired end result. This is not at all who we are supposed to be. Now, we want to win at all costs. Winning has become priority No. 1.
Call me crazy, but I still have hope. I still have hope for a better day. A day in which truth decay is no longer the norm.
Allow me to share some modern day 2020 examples with you: the presidential election results and all of the claims of voter fraud and the lies that have been tweeted. There has been no evidence of fraud. There is also the severity of the COVID-19 health pandemic. There is not enough time or space to go into further detail on that one. The last one: the most recent presidential legal team press conference.
You might be saying, how does this affect me or what can I do? You can help rectify the problem. Call people out when you see them contributing to this truth decay. Call people out when you hear or read others spewing lies and misinformation. You must separate the truth from fiction and opinion. Take a stand for the truth. Be a truth-fighter.
Until the next time.
Starla Trigg is president of the Indianapolis chapter of the National Black MBA Association.