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Fake news? We must restore the yearning for truth

We need to know that speaking the truth is possible, and we must do our utmost to make it happen. We need to recover our motivation to call a spade a spade, and verify the truthfulness of what others are saying. It’s not useless, it’s not impossible. In fact it’s a fundamental feature underlying our interactions with other human beings

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

Fake news has become a widely-debated issue. The Internet and its power to disseminate information and news, without leaving time for their verification, is given major responsibility for it. On top of that, it is widely believed that a specific verification is not necessary. “Facts” and “the like”, real news and plausible information, which are blatantly false, end up being ascribed the same amount of credibility. If we accept this situation we will ultimately be living – more or less resignedly – in the so-called “post-truth” era.

At a closer glance. It’s not only a question of finding ways to establish the truth about a news item, to recognize it as such (namely, as a piece of news, and not as a hoax). The question has deeper roots. It involves the motivation that prompts us to seek the truth. In other words, it involves the ways in which we approach the facts: taking them seriously, trying to understand and to share what we know.

In fact it appears that for some time already this motivation – that could be best described as a “passion” for the truth – has fallen through. Some people believe they can renounce the truth. Accordingly, everything becomes narration (the so-called “storytelling”), and the ability of the narrator is the only thing that counts. Others claim that the only way to know the facts depends on the angle through which information is perceived and thus, to put it plainly, a shared world is but the result or of the imposition of a given perspective on another perspective.

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

Given this situation, it is no surprise that fake news are considered an unpleasant  – albeit inevitable – occurrence, which in turn furthers growing indifference towards the information we have access to, since that information could be equally true and false, according to the angle through which it is viewed. Moreover, there is growing lack of interest towards the people who relate that information, as they convey stances that are all equally valid, deserving the same degree of attention.

There ensues that we believe everything and we believe nothing, and that the glimpses of emotions are the only thing that stirs us.

Finally, we are faced with a paradoxical situation that is rarely reflected upon.

We should ask ourselves, what is it of the very notion of “fake news” and of the accusations of disseminating fabricated information motivated by particular interests?

In most cases this accusation is made on ideological grounds, so as not to restore an authentic relationship with what surrounds us. Those whom we accuse of spreading false information are not asked to give us evidence that they are speaking the truth. We refuse discussion, we fail to address the heart of the matter. We merely limit ourselves to recover a slogan, we condemn our interlocutors for having spread fake news, either directly or through their associated communicators.

In order to ask this question seriously, we need to restore a

Given the public debate we witness every day, it’s easy to find various examples of this. But there is something that we forget to ask, as we put up with witnessing a ping-pong of statements and denials.

We forget to ask whether the accusations of deliberate misinformation are true; whether the contention that they are spreading fake news is true.

In order to ask this question seriously, we need to restore a

Yearning for the truth.

We need to know that speaking the truth is possible, and we must do our utmost to make it happen. We need to recover our motivation to call a spade a spade, and verify the truthfulness of what others are saying. It’s not useless, it’s not impossible. In fact it’s a fundamental feature underlying our interactions with other human beings.

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