We had some friends at our house a few weeks ago, and one of the topics we discussed was the prevalence of lies in our lives. My contention is that we have become so numb to all the lies that are presented to us on a daily basis, that, not only can't we discern lies from truth, we are losing the desire to even care about what is true. Or, better put, we are losing the will to find what is true because it is becoming just too hard to do so.
Since retiring, I have a lot of time on my hands. My goals are to write more, Nora and I have a lot of plans for the house, we are researching and finding many new places to see, many new parks and land preserves to walk, and I am attempting to communicate with my friends and family more. And we have binge watched a few TV series. Still, I have lots of time, and, so far, have not worried if I spend it playing games on my phone, something I rarely did before this year.
Since the games are free, they include ads. Many of the ads are for weight loss products, and one in particular promises to "melt away" fat overnight simply by taking a pill before bed. The ad shows various people who have lost 40, 50, 60 lbs in a few weeks, and, of course, it does not require any real work on one's part other than taking this wonder pill. Of course, the ad doesn't mention that rapid weight loss has all sorts of negative consequences, let alone that this miracle pill is not certified by the FDA, but it does mention that it was shown on the TV show Shark, so it must be good, right?
That pill, and the vast majority of commercials on TV, the internet, etc, are, at best, gross exaggerations, at worse, flat out lies. There are many groups out there, with good intentions, that rail against violence and sex on TV, but few, if any, that fight against the constant bombardment of lies that we, and our children, are subject to from the business community towards selling us their products.
Have you see the Free, free, free ad by one of those tax companies? I would bet they say the word free at least 20 times, in addition to scrolling the word across the screen another 20 times. But is the service really free? Yes, the first year. After that, you have to pay if you want the program to remember your data from last year. The ad is total bullcrap, yet it is run, over and over again.
Lies are a part of the business model for the vast majority of companies, yet we just accept it as normal. At least the ads for all the new drugs are honest about the side effects, everything from nausea to death, but that is only because they are regulated; they have to display a modicum of honesty. Virtually every other product can be advertised with very little concern for truth. What is truly sad, is that most people know commercials are a bunch of lies, yet they work. Advertising works, despite the lies, despite our knowledge of the lies.
And then there is politics. Nothing is off limits, there is no truth meter, no federal regulation that restricts speech, regardless of accuracy. Donald Trump tells people that President Obama was not born in America, knowing that that message will resonate with a certain demographic, and he faces no consequence, cannot be sued for libel. Even worse, the lie is packaged as some sort of truth that nobody wants us to know, and it is believed by even more people, less racist that the original bunch, because it appeals to their sense of distrust in the system, or the government. Imagine that, a flat out lie told to attract the most bigoted of Americans, becomes a secret truth that only those wise to the lies of our leaders believes.
Is it any wonder why lies about massive election fraud, that climate change is a hoax, that green energy programs will kill our economy, that children wearing a mask is child abuse, that teaching the good and bad about our history is unpatriotic, that we can't afford to spend money on child care, enhanced senior benefits and education, yet have plenty of money to spend on a bloated military budget, that the young are lazy and don't want to work, that immigrants are killers and rapists, and that it is OK to willingly travel into a dangerous situation with a loaded automatic weapon, kill 2 people and claim self defense, are so easy to accept?
Conventional wisdom says that all great countries and powers, were defeated from within. Whether you attribute it to losing the edge that made the country great, or a lack of desire to persevere despite the obstacles, and to invent, innovate, improve on what was achieved by those who came before, it is undeniable that history is filled with great civilizations that are no more. My fear is that we are neck deep in a time which could mark the beginning of a decline in our great experiment in government, in our path to understanding true freedom. Not because our leaders are weak, not because we are no longer intelligent or inventive, not even because we are on a path which seems to be elevating selfishness as a defining virtue of patriotism.
Our rot is much more subtle, much more simple. We are allowing the line which separates lies from truth to be blurred to such a degree that it is becoming harder and harder to see. And worse, we are becoming less willing to sharpen those lines because seeking the truth is so much more work than checking out facebook, or tuning into our favorite source of propaganda.
Even deeper than this, I worry that the path we are on will lead us to a place where we can no longer identify the truth, even should we find it.