The relationship between human beings and the truth has been especially complex throughout history. Maybe a little more nowadays. Not because we have necessarily reached it before, but because we are not approaching it today.
Our relationship with truth today could not be understood without considering the ambiguities of the VICA world – more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Everything can be or not be depending on our beliefs, paradigms and even emotions. It is no longer the search for truth as such, but rather the search to reaffirm our own cognitive biases. And one step away is relativism.
The worrying thing about this way of relating to the truth is that it has direct implications for societies – particularly democratic ones. in his book About TyrannyTimothy Snyder points out that the problem begins when truth and hard data become irrelevant in a society that has ceased to be factual and has instead become an oracular society.
This transition from factual to oracular societies has laid the foundations for disinformation – that is, the deliberate and systematic dissemination of lies – to be present in major national and international events. Whether during the most intense period of Covid-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, migratory flows to the United States, strategic competition in Latin America and the Caribbean, the conflict between the terrorist organization Hamas and Israel, or the devastation that Hurricane Otis left in Acapulco after its passage. In any case, it is the same scenario: an atypical or crisis situation, in an environment characterized by strong competition for power, in which multiple actors are interested in winning the minds and hearts of the audience-population. This has also made it increasingly difficult to know about a specific situation and, more importantly, to anticipate its results or consequences.
In a broader sense, misinformation remains an essential part of what the legendary George Kennan called the mid-20th century “organized political warfare“. Or newer and more subtle expressions of conflict and intermediate states of peace and war; such is the case of so-called hybrid wars or gray zone confrontations. In general terms, these are systematic efforts to undermine stability , integrity and permanence of a State, through information operations and fake newscoercive diplomacy, legal resources (lawfare), economic infiltration, political subversion, commercial blackmail, cyber attacks, in addition to traditional military actions, both conventional and unconventional – which includes the mobilization of violent non-state actors, such as criminal, subversive or terrorist groups.
It is of the utmost importance for democratic societies that we review and reconcile our relationship with the truth. Especially in the midst of global geopolitical transitions, global democratic recessions and increasingly polarized societies.
Discanto: In 1934, TS Eliot would write prophetically: “Where is the Life we have lost in living? / Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? / Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”.