As 2017 draws to a close, many will reflect on the passing year with mixed emotions. Some may come to dread the coming year as Trump continues to show his unfitness for office, as opinions become even more polarized while the world tries to face down challenges that it is ill-prepared for. More than anything, the past year has been a reminder of just how fragile ideas such as truth, democracy, and free speech can be.
2017 was a year dominated by fake news, sowing discord and distrust on a global scale. From sharks in Houston to storing valuables in dishwashers amongst many others, fake news has become a new threat. The spread of fakes news is not only harmful as it warps perceptions and misleads unsuspecting consumers, but it can also be upsetting. They can also lead to dangerous situations like the aftermath of ‘pizzagate’.
This year, our new rallying cry will be The Truth Against the World.
The Poet’s Curse
The phrase comes from Irish folklore when a king dared to challenge the knowledge of the Chief Poet in Ireland over where a hero of the Fianna (a legendary band of warriors) was buried. To challenge any poet in Celtic times was a dangerous and foolish thing and the Chief Poet cursed the king, demanding that the king give up his queen in exchange for the curse being lifted. In the end, the king offered to provide proof in three days in return for the curse being lifted.
After three days, a stranger appears and claims to be a witness to the battle. He reveals himself to be the warrior Caolite who killed the hero, presenting irrefutable proof such as the weapon used to kill the hero. When the Chief Poet refutes this, claiming that he couldn’t possibly have been there centuries ago, Caolite explains in a moving speech that has echoes to today:
“Why have I returned? Because we of the Fianna ever loved the truth. From the vales of the Otherworld, we sit and watch the mountains of Eireann (Ireland) as through a mist; we are glad of its joys and sorrowful of its grief. When doubt arises as to the past in which we were nurtured, our hearts ache.
So sorrowful we were at the distress of the queen and the helplessness of the king who could not prove what he knew to be true, the Mother Goddess relented and granted me a body to return with these words of counsel and knowledge to those we left behind…The mouth of Caolite knows nothing of falsehoods and vain boasting. The rallying cry of the Fianna was-‘The Truth Against The World’ So let it be!”
Truth And The World Today
One can only imagine how our ancestors would consider the world we live in today. How many stories and histories have been twisted to suit petty purposes? Sadly, none of those figures from the past can come back and explain what really happened. And so the Chief Poets of our society spread lies and falsehoods while the rest of us are helpless to prove them wrong or correct them without inviting disdain and destruction.
The truth, like democracy, is a fragile thing. It must be nurtured and fought for. In an age where information can span the globe in a second, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant and well informed. We must all play our part in reducing the spread of fake news and offer up the truth, even when all against us disagree.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have tried to take steps in order to combat fake news and it is a decent start, but it is not enough. It will never be enough unless the rest of us take the load as well. We all have a part to play in fighting against false information and liars.
Read as widely as you can, as often as you can. Take every story you hear with a pinch of salt and always ask questions. Dig deeper until you hit the real truth. Reward those who tell the truth and point out those who spread lies.
Fake news is not going to disappear overnight. It is a trend that has come to dominate not just the USA, but the global community. But its power and influence can be diminished, given time and persistence.
That is why, for 2018, our rallying cry must be ‘The Truth Against The World.’
So let it be!