In his NPR article ThereIs Such a Thing as Truth, Errol Morris asks what truth is. There are some things that are facts. One of them, from Morris’ article is that Reno, Nevada is further west than Los Angeles, California. He continues explaining how truth is not relative of subjective. He says, “There is such a thing as truth, but we often have a vested interest in ignoring or outright denying it.”
I’ve often felt that while there is absolute truth, often the details and nuance get lost or skewed and truth becomes confused. This became a topic I started following a long time ago, but during an environmental biology class I took last year, I learned that the real truth is much more difficult to reach. There are many documentaries made about the environment, and it seemed that arguments on both sides benefitted greatly by not looking at the whole picture when it comes to climate change and global warming. I came to the conclusion that climate change is a real problem enhanced, if not created by man, but the very best way to save the environment is to go back to the stone age and live in caves while the majority of society dies off. So what did it take for me to reach that conclusion? Spending a semester studying it under the guidance of a professor.
But then over this past election cycle, I began seeing how some of my friends on facebook and social media became absolute experts on the candidates and all of the hot-button topics from the environment to terrorism to immigration and beyond. They would cite sources that to me didn’t seemed frankly shady. So I began a quest to try to find truth in that mad house, and came to another conclusion – to get to the actual bottom of the story, I would have to dig, dig, dig, and dig. I would perhaps have to fly to D.C. and interview the candidates themselves along with family and friends. I would have to become the expert, and it would be my full time job from here on out. I don’t have that kind of time or those resources.
When it came time to share what I believe in for our fireside chat, I immediately gravitated to this subject. I started out by combing through facebook looking for posts that seemed off to me, and trying to dig deeper, not to find an answer, but to see both sides of the argument. What surprised me the most was that by taking this approach, I actually found that both sides had interesting arguments, some that seemed valid, and some that seemed not quite so valid. I then tried digging deeper finding facts supporting what those arguments were based on. Again, I found other posts. As it turned out, we have arguments built on what some call “facts” which are built on posts about facts which lead straight down the rabbit hole. Interestingly enough, I even found people trying to make legitimate arguments based on memes, as though someone thought, “it’s legitimate because I see a picture next to words in quotes”. My head was spinning.
I found a couple of examples where fact and fiction crossed lines – one from a current event, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and one from the past about Khrushchev and Kennedy, and a mysterious picture of the two and what it means. But to make a point about the absurdity of where some people turn for information, I made a meme of myself, and closed the presentation by saying that my meme proved everything that I said in my presentation was fact. Basically my point was that truth does exist, but it’s not always in our face. We have to work for it and earn it. And that I feel as creators of art, media, and stories that we have an obligation that when we are dealing with things of a factual nature, to work a little harder for the truth. I just hope that with all the false information, real truth doesn’t become some mythological creature.