Would you ever believe what you knew was a lie?
Overwhelmingly, most people would say they would never do such a thing.
But what if…
Your job depended on your belief in a lie? Let’s say your employer makes a product that could cause consumers to become seriously ill. Your employer tells you that part of your job involves telling the public the product is safe. But you know it isn’t safe.
Do you quit? Not in this economy you wouldn’t.
Do you challenge your employer’s message to the public? It would be a good way to get demoted or fired.
Or what if…
The truth is just too hard to take. Let’s say you have an interest in genealogy. You research your family history and discover that some ancestors held slaves. Family and friends start asking you what you have found out.
Do you lie or leave out this part of the family tree? Then you are acting in agreement with a lie and you are encouraging others to believe it.
Do you admit what you have found out? Maybe you would, but from my experience, this admission is not especially common.
Or how about if…
Something else was more important than believing the truth? Let’s say you are looking for an edge to get into college. You didn’t really serve as the president of your schools’ honor society or work on the newspaper, but mentioning these lies would help your chances with little chance of getting caught.
Do you put the lies in, figuring “everybody does it”? This would be a type of justification and, in this case, hardly likely to be true.
Do you ever admit the truth to anyone? If not, you perpetuate a lie.
These situations involve individuals and companies and failure to reveal the truth could cause harm to others. We know or hear of these types of lies and most people would be quick to condemn them. Why? Because there would be little backlash for calling out the liars. Not even the company that makes dangerous products is a match before the proper court or government agency.
So let’s raise the stakes.
What if the truth implicated the very pillars of our society? Actors such as the media, the government or the armed forces communicate to masses of people who rely upon the information they provide.
Despite complaints by members of the public about these institutions, polls show that most people believe the news they get from them. Is it because we believe we are receiving the truth or because of the possibility of backlash if we do not?
History tells us that our government has frequently deceived the public to go to war. The Spanish-American War, the Viet Nam War and the War in Iraq are three examples in which our leaders repeated lies over what started the war and why we were going to fight it. The mainstream media and the military joined the chorus and sold those lies as well.
Facts were brought to the attention of our leaders and the public (like the lack of weapons of mass destruction, for example) but support for the wars continued, anyway.
I go back to my original question: Would you ever believe what you knew was a lie?
If you supported wars such as the recent one in Iraq and you knew the reasons for going were false, then you have done just that.
Why did you do it? Was your job at stake? Were you afraid of your standing among your peers for coming out against something popular? Are you connected to those pillars that lie to us?
You know the answer. If you believe something is more important than the truth, maybe now is the time to explain to yourself what that is.