A few weeks ago, a youngster decided to plunge the city into a bit of a cultural shock and, with the power of a connected smartphone in hand, intent and results are almost gapless. He spread a rumour that Shah Ghouse, a famous biryani joint with a reputation, decades old, for the finest mutton and chicken delicacies, was serving dog meat. The damage was done within minutes; and though contained, and exposed thanks to some great work by our cyber crime cell and police, it exposed our city’s cultural and economic structure’s vulnerability to any prankster’s imagination. The 108 Emergency too shared recently that way above half of their calls are from kids and teens indulging in ‘harmless fun’.
Post-truth has been the diagnosis globally, and accepted as a truism without adequate analysis. Has the power of lies suddenly reached astronomical proportions and the stock of truth nosedived? If so, what has happened for this extraordinary tilt of a civilisation scale see-saw of perception?
The hypothesis that mankind has always preferred, and loved, truth over lies is not backed by historical evidence, and ironically, quite the opposite holds. Socrates spoke about it, and by modern definition, lived in a Post-truth Greece, and consumed the hemlock for it. What about the centuries when almost everyone held it as a self-evident truth that the earth was flat and at the centre of the universe, and how did they respond to those who tried to set the record straight?
What about the ease with which monarchy convinced all of the men that they did indeed have divine rights to rule us?
Consider the war between science and religion? Imagine a mega-sized mythological wall of a Facebook page for science and religion since time immemorial – most of the mankind would have liked, shared, paid for and fought for the side that portrays heaven and hell as literal, than the side that established we evolved from apes, and are made up of a pair of 23 chromosomes. The following for pleasant lies has always beaten that of the inconvenient truth.
We must delve deeper to understand the truth about lies, and the lies about truth, but in today’s short-attention, tweet-era with 30-seconds sound byte, we can’t afford it.
TAILPIECE: The lies we tell adults is nothing compared to the number of lies we tell children. Drink your milk or the monster will come. Eat the fruits and be a good girl, Santa will reward you. Tooth fairy! Politicians, bureaucrats, spin doctors bankers and intellectuals don’t lie even half as much as parents and kindergarten teachers.
— Sriram Karri
(Sriram Karri is author of the bestselling novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation. He writes for international media such as The New York Times and BBC besides organising debates at Hyd Park)