There is no universal truth. However, that doesn’t mean that all statements are equally true. Down that road lies trouble, and unfortunately, we’re walking right into the maw of this particular beast.
If there is anything we should revile Kellyanne Conway for, it is the introduction of the term ‘alternative facts’. The term implies that person A can hold to a set of facts, and person B can hold to a set of ‘alternative’ facts. However, facts are facts. There is no such things as an alternative fact. Facts simply are. There is only a degree of belief in the truth of a fact.
The insidiousness of this concept of alternative facts has crept into the discourse of populists world-wide. These people create a fictional world, with ‘facts’ that are clearly not true. However, by controlling the flow of information that reaches people, they can create filter bubbles of these fake facts, filled with people who believe the lies to be the truth. These bubbles become echo chambers where the fake facts are exchanged and strengthened.
The insidious part is that the best way to keep bubbles running on false facts, is to create strong barriers against the world outside the bubbles. Otherwise, the truth will get in. That means reviling all voices that could reach people from outside the bubble, and dehumanizing them until they are ‘the enemy’. This is best achieved by sowing conspiracy theories into the bubbles, that turn the ‘elite’ outside the bubble into evil masterminds that orchestrate pandemics and drink the blood of children they sexually abuse.
That isn’t to say that echo chambers breed conspiracy theories. It’s more that they strengthen them.
The need for Truth
So people disagree on what facts are. Does that matter? In the end facts are facts, they won’t change just because you don’t believe in them. Truth is truth. Right?
Facts might not change, but actions might. When Donald Trump lost the election in 2020, he refused to accept it. He created a big lie about it, claiming he had in fact won. That first resulted in a staggering number of doomed lawsuits. When that failed to yield results, Trump whipped up his supporters until they tried to violently gain entry to the US Capitol, to hang the legitimate government of the United States and take control. A coup d’état, in other words.
If a large enough group of people believe lies, and then act on them, they can create enormous damage. And the internet is very good at bringing those people together.
Wait, that rings a bell…
Oh, yes, climate change. Loads of companies deny the truth of man-made climate change. Almost half the world population doesn’t believe it exists. The fact, unfortunately, and verified by science, is that if we continue as we are now, we are going to make our world a dead husk and exterminate ourselves in the process. Companies and people that profit from it, are whipping up the masses against change. And by denying the facts and taking action we are killing the human race.
Unfortunately, humans don’t have a good track-record when it comes to facts. Our history is riddled with the corpses of ‘alternative facts’. The US-Spanish war of 1898, for example, riled up by unscrupulous media, but also as far back as Roman times. And let’s not forget Pogroms against Jews, and the Salem Witch Trials.
Climate Change is one of the biggest problems of our time, but in the shadows behind it hides a worse lie. That is the lie of neo-liberalism. Now, I’m no communist, and I think controlled capitalism is a good thing. The problem is: the wheels are off.
A number of people — mostly very rich — have been pushing the lie that unbridled capitalism is the answer to everything. They spread the lie of trickle-down economics, and the American Dream. In Europe, they call for deregulation, privatizing of government-controlled institutions so people can be extorted for basic needs such as fresh drinking water and health care. All in the name of ‘efficiency’. The problem is: it isn’t efficient, it’s dangerous.
All these things lead to inequality, and inequality favors only those at the up side of the inequality. And then only in the short term. Of course, those same neo liberals resist government intervention, citing equality and freedom. Best alternative fact ever.
With that, we come full circle. Neo liberalism is the bubble that most of the western world lives in. With alternative facts claiming that being rich is a virtue, and being poor is your own fault. Not that the communist bubble in China is any better.
So, provable truth is the weapon against being overrun by a rich elite. It is also our last line defense against climate change battering the human race into extinction. So pay heed, and learn to see the difference. Or prepare for a very bleak future.
And that is a fact.