In public relations courses, seminars and conferences, teachers and professionals tirelessly emphasize the importance of telling the truth. Facts are placed front and center in our lessons; without truth and facts, there’s little hope for credibility and success when representing an institution, client or individual.
Time magazine columnist Joel Stein believes we’ve moved past telling the truth, noting that Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” its word of the year. “Lying used to be dangerous,” Stein wrote in his December 19 column In 2016, lies, the whole lies and nothing but the lies. But this year, lying proved profitable, even for those who got caught. From Ryan Lochte to Donald Trump, “It was the kind of year, ” he observed, “when you could even lie about being cheated after you won.”
We were also bombarded with “fake news,” published hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation online designed to embarrass and discredit its targets. False stories were spread by political supporters, and often the politicians and candidates themselves. (More on fake news in an upcoming post.)
Stein gave examples of 2016’s lies: “Senate Republicans…wouldn’t vote on confirming Supreme Court appointee Merrick Garland because, Mitch McConnell said, ‘it is necessary to let the people decide this,’ even though the Constitution specifically says the American people should not decide this…Hillary Clinton spun such an enormous, complicated web of cover-ups about her email server that no one person had understood what she had done.” But Stein gave top honors to Trump. “Trump mastered the lie,” he wrote. “He saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrate the falling of the Twin Towers. He claimed that Clinton started the birther movement instead of him. He vowed to save $300 billion a year from Medicare’s prescription-drug program, which costs $78 billion a year. After he won the presidency, he lied that millions of people had voted for Clinton illegally.”
We’re in for a whole lotta crazy these next four years, and we’ll be digging through seemingly insurmountable piles of bullsh-t to seek out what’s real. All of us are obligated to enforce the heightened importance of authenticity and facts in our post-truth era. Your thoughts?