Bob Pointer - CFIL Global
In 1983 German magazine Stern paid £2.33 million for journals said to be the work of Adolf Hitler. Although initially authenticated by Historian Hugh Trevor -Walker the so called “Hitler diaries” were, after forensic examination, proved conclusively to be the work of master forger Konrad Kujau.
History is littered with highly skilled charlatans, con artists and bare faced liars. Whilst many are “professionals” using their deceptive behaviour for financial reward, others, for instance politicians, are often creative with the truth in an attempt to gain or hold onto power -Richard Nixon (Watergate) and Jeffery Archer (Daily Star libel action) are just two examples that spring readily to my mind.
Current US president Donald Trump dismisses all negative personal comments as “fake news”, while himself often being somewhat economical with the truth. Take for instance the claim that his Inauguration crowd was larger than that of his predecessor Barak Obama’s despite clear photographic evidence to the contrary.
We all can, and do, to a greater or lesser extent lie. Perversely our capacity for dishonesty is as fundamental to our day to day interactions as trust, it really is true that to lie is to be human.
Humans are emotional and impulsive decision makers prone to accept some well presented lies even in the face of contrary evidence. Furthermore, there is a school of thought that in the age of social media our ability to separate truth from lies is diminishing.
Consequently, our proclivity for deceiving others, and our vulnerability to ourselves being deceived are becoming more and more prevalent aided and abetted by the immediacy of this online world.
Amongst other things the Trump presidency is a prime example of how online social media is, for many, becoming the news provider of choice. Where would Trump be without Twitter?
Should we be surprised. Not really research has shown that deceptive behaviour is part of our DNA traceable back to our very beginnings. All our connected world has done is accelerated such behaviour.
In both our primal, virtual and real worlds manipulation and subterfuge have helped in gratifying our our most basic of human needs. Separating a “fool from their money” by the use of persuasion and manipulation is much subtler and more successful than any full frontal “smash and grab”.
Our curiosity and even admiration towards those who use charm and mistruths to gain an advantage highlights the duality and perversity of our nature.
So what are the psychological and neurobiological drivers that underpin our behaviour.
We all have our own individual world view. It is formed through the lens of experience and knowledge gained from our interactions with others. We are by nature “herd animals”. Without the implicit trust and belief, we place in our interactions we would be both physically and mentally isolated. This would not be a positive experience.
We all routinely use mental shortcuts and unconscious apply rules-of-thumb thinking to make sense of the world around and those in it. We do tend to give people ‘The benefit of the doubt.Inevitably, these instant mental shortcuts will on occasions misdirect us. Our inclination towards trust in others makes us especially prone to the lies of less scrupulous predators that affirm our worldview.
Frequently despite exposure the lies of those we feel connected with are coloured by inbuilt beliefs, perception and bias and often ignored, ridiculed or attacked.
So the two Russian citizens seen recently in Salisbury at the time of the novichok poisoning are depending on your world view either agents of a foreign state or innocent tourists.
“Alternative facts” and “fake news” abound and there is little doubt that our new shiny technological enabled world provides a new frontier for lying and deceit.
So what does all this mean? It may be very negative and depressing but the fact (sic) is that the truth is not universal it is personal. Humans may have evolved but our primal inner battle between lies and trust are the same as they ever was.
Or is just my own personal truth.
“...but no one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention because this invention expressed and corroborated their hates and fears so perfectly.”
James Baldwin (1955) Notes of a Native Son
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