2018 – Most Philosophical 8th Grader in America
Tess Boutin, California.
Truth or Deceit: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?
Imagine having a team of fully armed police burst into your house at night for a crime you never committed. This is the result of deceit in the form of swatting, when a fake emergency is reported, resulting in law enforcement dispatching unnecessarily. I believe that deceit has a greater impact on society than truth, because it can disrupt societal security and strengthen fallacious opinions and beliefs. Deliberate misinformation can cause misguided and even dangerous actions. The effects of deceit are insidious whether the motivation is triggered by disrespect for individuals or by a desire for systemic (and nefarious) change at the societal level.
In our highly connected world, it is alarmingly easy to ruin an individual’s reputation through deception. For instance, false information can be instantaneously spread via social media, causing lives to be flipped upside down. During the aforementioned sswatting, the targeting of an individual extends to deception of emergency personnel, expanding the issue of deceit into the community. Swatting endangers the victims and prevents law enforcement from serving where they are needed.
At a broader social level, people often receive news only from sources that reinforce their existing world view and provide perceived moral ground. These sources justify existing and convenient lifestyles and actions that may be harmful to individuals and communities. Groups interested in spreading false information take advantage of the human tendency to avoid change by propagating stories that serve their own purposes. Since unreliable sources can report essentially any information, people often receive and believe entirely false reports that fly across the internet without verification. The disseminators hope that people reading their mendacious stories will respond by further supporting their agendas.
Deliberately deceitful reporting can manipulate people to take action based on incorrect beliefs. For instance, preceding the presidential election, a false report emerged claiming that a candidate was running a child slavery ring out of the basement of a pizza shop; this news resulted in a gunman opening fire on the shop! Also, it was fallaciously reported that the same candidate’s assistant was found dead, with the implication that the candidate was responsible. In addition, a story with no basis in reality, claiming that pre-marked ballots for the candidate were found in a warehouse, was circulated. With no attempts to verify these reports, later judgment was erroneously influenced.
Truth has less of an impact on society than deceit because it is often easier for people to believe, and the fact of its veracity often does not cause a groundswell of change. Despite its potential to unite and empower, it is a weaker force overall. When people act based on false information or are affected by fabrications, however, the consequences can be detrimental to society. Basing decisions on falsehoods can harm individuals, damage reputations, invoke detrimental policies, and support a society that operates based on fundamentally flawed convictions. Hopefully, the future will bring more support for evidence and truth. In fact, outrage over deceit often has the impact of sparking movements supporting truth!
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