From A Skeptic’s Guide to Believing the News – by Thomas Griffith
Who wants the truth and nothing but the truth? A steady diet of truth would sear the stomach lining; falsity is essential to our wellbeing and permeates our lives.
Businessmen tell the hard truths about their doings only to the extent required by law. Governments lie. Politicians dissemble. Trial lawyers, when they can’t challenge the facts, plant doubts. Whole industries live on pretense, by flattering your self-importance in exchange for your money, by rearranging reality.
The stewardess’s smile, the salesman’s heartiness, the test kitchen’s unnatural neatness, the headwaiter’s solicitude, the athlete – after the mayhem stops – giving locker-room interviews full of modesty and benevolence, the doctor’s tempered reassurances, the separate stratagems of aging actresses. The false fronts of buildings, and the false fronts of self: girdles, hair coloring, suntans.
There is also the falsity that is kindness; comfort given to buck up others, wounding truths unspoken; feelings concealed, spared or feigned. The useful falsity of office mateyness, exchanges without genuine feeling; the borrowed sentiments of greeting cards.
There is the falsity that is self-indulgence, since most people want no clear-cut verdicts on themselves and devise social strategies to avoid them. When reality is too unbearable, they drink to avoid it, travel to escape it, fantasize to deny it.
Friendship is often a mutually agreed upon assurance, sometimes against the evidence, of the meaning and importance of each other’s lives. Whole industries exist to provide solace, appearances, illusions. One must be able to eat the steak without thinking of the abattoir. Even in small matters people resist reality: they take pictures to remember how something was, but first tidy up the room, and neaten their clothes.
They want newspapers to print the truth, but as concerns themselves, only that part of the truth that puts them in a favorable light. Into all this comes the journalist, demanding on behalf of others to know the truth and to disseminate it.