Facts and Falsehoods

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The accompanying front page headline from 1993 says it all. The truth is sometimes stretched WAAAAAY beyond belief. These days, with social media, it is far, far worse.

Twenty-five years after the first website went online, it is clear that we are living through a period of dizzying transition. For 500 years after Gutenberg, the dominant form of information was the printed page: knowledge was primarily delivered in a fixed format, one that encouraged readers to believe in stable and settled truths.

Now, we are caught in a series of confusing battles between opposing forces: between truth and falsehood, fact and rumor, kindness and cruelty; between the few and the many, the connected and the alienated; between the open platform of the web as its architects envisioned it and the gated enclosures of Facebook and other social networks; between an informed public and a misguided mob.

What is common to these struggles – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth. This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means, as this year has made very clear, that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.

Increasingly, what counts as a fact is merely a view that someone feels to be true – and technology has made it very easy for these “facts” to circulate with a speed and reach that was unimaginable in the Gutenberg era (or even a decade ago). A dubious story about any prominent person appears in a tabloid one morning, and by noon, it has flown around the world on social media and turned up in trusted news sources everywhere. This may seem like a small matter, but its consequences are enormous.

In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true.

As a trained journalist, I know it does not take long to check half a dozen independent sites to establish background elements, sources and ultimately…the truth of any matter. Sadly, people are so lazy and gullible, they simply assume the media or medium that they received their news from is the be-all, end-all without checking. Especially in terms of the political realm, knee jerk reaction to wildfire speculation or outright gossip proves wonderful for me. An extra five minutes of research allow me to let the tsunami of pseudo story tsunami reach me and suddenly the purveyors are standing there embarrassingly dry as their story evaporates under the light of fact.

Take the time, find diverse factions, look for the true and verifiable facts; then take the offensive in bold and clever ways.

And when false facts tear into you and your firm, call Blue Sand Goup. Reputations are won and lost in social media. BSG helps you survive the rip tides and heavy undercurrents that drown other firms. Contact BSG today.

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