“The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
When George Orwell wrote this quote into his classic novel 1984, he wasn’t commenting on modern politics, or our current landscape of lies in the press. Yet still the point he made is clear even today, and maybe today more than ever; When information is controlled, the truth loses all meaning.
Today we see this control of information by politicians, though not exactly as Orwell envisioned it, today this comes in the form of bad science, limiting free speech, & control of media. This is a problem for all of us.
It has been recently unearthed, that in 1965, studies claiming that sugar was not a cause of heart disease, but instead fats were funded by the sugar industry to bias results, and shift the blame away from sugar.
This research was funded by the SRF, The Sugar Research Foundation, though this may at first seem like an unbiased source, when you take a deeper look you may notice that the entire board for the company is full of sugar industry tycoons.
The SRF is not the only company attempting to skew the results towards the sugar industry. In an interview with Nestle, The Verge was told by a UCSF researcher, “Why would [the sugar industry] want to fund research that would be against their interests? There’s no reason why they’d want to do that.”
Yet even with understanding of bias surrounding these studies, the lies they taught the public worked, but why?
This is because bad science is often portrayed to the public as reputable, and trustworthy. This makes it tempting to believe every scientific paper. Though in reality this often isn’t the case, this is because of bias which can be introduced when a research team attempts to gain funding by supporting large corporations, in doing so skewing the results to be more favorable for the company.
These examples demonstrate how bad science, funded by the wrong people can skew results, & public perception. This leads to mass misinformation, and a modern world in which even ‘scientific studies’ can be full of lies.
Finally, possibly the most important way in which the truth is subverted, and lies are spread is through modern media, as it can cause echo chambers which cause lies that support pre existing biases to be reinforced, and cuts off opposition ideas.
Modern media makes sensational headlines much more impactful and successful than the truth. This causes much more extreme stances. Destroying any chance of logical and reasonable debate in exchange for a yelling contest where the loudest side wins.
One way this extremism can be seen is in an incident involving the democratic party in the US, in which rumors were spreading of illegal activities taking place in a pizza restaurant basement in Washington. This caused someone to fire off an assault rifle in the restaurant. Not only was this rumor wrong, and could have led to serious injury, but the shop didn’t even have a basement which likely would have been checked by a quick search.
This incident highlights the issues brought on by increased extremism caused by the modern media causing the widespread acceptance of lies.
Overall it can be seen that the subversion of truth in our modern world is a monumental issue, caused by the modern media, inhibition of free speech, and bad science. This is leading to a world run by bureaucracy, and deception in place of the truth and hard facts. A world where the most important part of the debate is who is best able to manipulate the public for gain.
“Errors, Hoaxes, and Just Plain Bad Science.” Aerospace Micro-Lesson #41 : The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, www.aiaa.org/microlesson41/.
Gray, Richard. “Future – Lies, Propaganda and Fake News: A Challenge for Our Age.” BBC, BBC, 1 Mar. 2017, www.bbc.com/future/story/20170301-lies-propaganda-and-fake-news-a-grand-challenge-of-our-age.
Guest, Thomas. “TRUST THE LIES NOT THE ‘TRUTH’.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 7 Nov. 2012, www.flickr.com/photos/thomasguest/8165172604.
“Board Members.” The Sugar Association, www.sugar.org/about/board/.
Potenza, Alessandra. “How the Sugar Industry Tried to Hide the Health Effects of Its Product 50 Years Ago.” The Verge, The Verge, 21 Nov. 2017, www.theverge.com/2017/11/21/16684448/sugar-industry-health-effects-research-funding-project-259-heart-disease-cancer.