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Why the Truth Matters: We Need the Power to Tell It

Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

Harry Frankfurt wrote this in his book, On Truth:

"We really cannot live without truth. We need truth not only in order to understand how to live well, but in order to know how to survive at all."

Other writers, like Bruce Bartlett, are pleading with their fellow citizens, to pay attention to facts, to the specifics of our current affairs. In his new book, The Truth Matters, Bartlett explains,

"One problem every reader has these days is figuring out who to trust as an analyst or news source. It sometimes seems as if everyone is compromised, saying what is in their own economic interest or whatever suits their partisan point of view at that particular moment. Cable television is very much at fault here because it pretends that there are only two points of view on any given subject, and it seldom subjects its talking heads to much in the way of vetting."

Part of knowing the truth is knowing how reliable a source of information is. We count on people who are experts on the weather to tell us when we should expect extreme weather, rain, excessive heat, floods. There is a practical necessity to knowing who to trust. This connection seems to have been lost in politics. It has become fashionable to doubt reliable people, to ignore people who do their best to be accurate reporters of information, of data.

Information is less expensive than ever before to obtain in vast quantities. In some ways that is unfortunate, because it may have devalued the quality of information. It's too easy. And the cost of dismissing high-quality information and replacing it with dubious information may not be realized for years, when the opinions and attitudes formed from those mistakes come to fruition, when it is too late.

Older Americans know more about the costs of accepting lies, about wars that were not winnable, about drugs that caused birth defects, about pollution that made people sick, about tobacco and lung cancer. Younger Americans see a constant stream of contradictions, including refutations of the truth we knew about the lies we were told in the past. In the midst of these disputes about what is real, we are now in a social revolution with regard to sexual abuse, with bizarre claims being made about justifications, accusations, and behaviors that should not be entertained or tolerated.

Unfortunately, being able to express the truth is also a matter of social, economic, and political power. It is something we need to protect, for everyone. If we do not make an effort to protect the truth, and those who tell it, our civilization might not survive.

Recommended Reading:

On Truth
By Harry G. Frankfurt