Internet Truth Seeking
How to Deal with the Lies on the Internet
by Dave Brown
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The purpose of this article is to provide guidance to those who are confused by all of the conflicting claims that are so accessible to us now on the Internet. Let us preface this article by saying that there is only ONE source of truth that you can totally depend on, and that is God’s word, the Bible. If in doubt about this, there are many articles that provide ample evidence to those who seek the truth about the Bible.
Commands with Regard to Our Understanding Reality
The Bible is the source of all of the spiritual truth that we need for salvation. However, it contains commands for us in regard to our having a true sense of the reality of this world, some of which are given below.
Let God be found true, but every man a liar;
This expresses a very important truth on our subject. No doubt this is hyperbole, and while many good people have no intention of speaking falsehoods, from time to time we all fall short of the truth. However, the main thought being expressed is that we should be skeptical of all information where the source is only human. However, since dependable truth is only from God, we must also recognize His commands when it comes to understanding our world.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
1 Corinthians 16:13
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour, whom withstand steadfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world.
2 Corinthians 2:11
… that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Clearly these passages state that we should not be ignorant of the realities around us, and we need to gain an understanding of the devices of Satan. While it is true that much of this information is contained in the Bible, no book is large enough to contain all of the wicked craftiness that Satan can invent. It is essential that we understand what is going on around us in our part of the world (i.e., that which impacts us).
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit (to them): for they watch in behalf of your souls, …
It is the responsibility of elders to watch, and to be perceptive to changing and ever increasingly subtle threats to the flock. Those who are not elders are to assist and obey them in this regard.
Be thou watchful, and establish the things that remain, which were ready to die: for I have found no works of thine perfected before my God.
Clearly being watchful of Satan’s devices is a major part of our following Jesus toward perfection. Obviously, we can generally trust those who have proven themselves to us by their righteousness and their abhorrence for deceit. While no human is perfect, they should be given the benefit of the doubt. That is, the burden of proof is on those who would have us doubt the integrity of our reliable leaders.
While we must trust to the extent possible certain people who have proven themselves, we still have a personal responsibility to establish an accurate perception of reality for ourselves. Our elders and other reliable people cannot possibly know all of the things that we face, and so the responsibility with regard to our world falls upon us. It is also contingent on us to advise others when we are aware of things that they might not know. There is a sense in which nothing outside of God’s word can be totally proven. This is especially true with the modern methods of altering sound and video – no longer can we say that “seeing is believing.”
Dealing with the Lies on the Internet
There are two extreme positions with this issue: to believe everything and to believe nothing. We doubt there is anyone sane who would believe both sides of a contradiction, but there are some who are naive and have a tendency to believe anything that sounds reasonable to them. At the other extreme are those who, not knowing if a statement is true or not, will tend to reject any consideration of it. Both of these extremes reject the clear commands of God given above; it is contingent on us to be wise in discerning good from evil in our world. If not, we create a world of fiction that replaces our logical sense of reality.
We encourage truth seeking from Internet sources. But please consider the following tenets in this regard:
- Be skeptical of everything. This follows from Romans 3:4. ALL information regardless of the source (person, agency, organization, religion, etc.) is there to have an influence on you. This is a truism – it is true regardless of whether the statements made by the source are true or false. For example, we admit that the article you are reading right now has been written to have an influence on you – we will not lie about it – we just hope it is a good influence. So the truth value of the information depends on how much credibility can be given to the source.
- Make a list. Perhaps just a mental one. But when a given source has lied to you in the past, put them on the ignore list for the future. Don't keep going back just because they are saying things you want to hear. The opposite is true as well. If an incredible story or statement ultimately proves out, then this source can go on the "believe in the future" list. Not that you are going to believe everything, but at least you know there is some credibility there. Most sources, unfortunately, will fall in between, and you need to leave what they say open to further examination.
- There are degrees of credibility, and no writer is ever perfect. Let us deal with the worst case first: cleverly created lies that have been contrived, perhaps by groups of extremely intelligent people working together, with no other purpose than to convince you of a lie. Generally this type of deception will start with something that YOU KNOW is true. This is to get you warmed up to believing it all. Then a half-truth will be couched in very subtle terms so that it does not stretch the limits of your common sense. This works extremely well, and it takes considerable effort on our parts to resist it. A good rule: just because YOU KNOW that one part of an article/video is true does not mean that you should accept every statement in it. Recognize that such is hasty generalization on your part, a very common logical flaw. Your responsibility is to know when to turn your skepticism into non-belief.
- In order to put forth a believable lie, it is often essential to first destroy (or at least discredit) the truth. One method found successful is to impersonate the full truth with partial truth. For example, valid reporting could go on for months waiting for the right moment when the source credibility will be used to either cover up a lie or announce something that is deceptive. Many get hooked on certain personalities that they know have been telling the truth consistently in the past. Then, at a key time for which there has been given a tremendous amount of research and thought, the truth teller convinces his/her followers of a lie. You would think that such a ploy would destroy the credibility of the personality, and it definitely SHOULD! But our experience is that when people want to believe in a given individual, they will be more than anxious to forgive, so the personality can go back to re-building his or her honest image. Being aware of this ploy is the first step in being able to cope with it. Very little that is said on the Internet has not been thought-through for its ramifications.
- Recognize your prejudices. Are you sold that certain people always tell the truth? Be skeptical. Do you reject certain positions because of who it is that is espousing them? This too is a sign of prejudice. You are not going to add to your knowledge if you reject certain people or positions before giving them a fair hearing. If nothing else, it is good to know what the liars are saying and what evidence they are purporting to be presenting in their support.
- Pretend you are on the jury that is trying a case in a court of law. Convincing facts are being presented to you from both sides by both truthful lawyers and paid liars, both of which are extremely skillful in the art of persuasion. If you were on such a jury, how would you determine which side is telling the truth? The methods for determining truth from the Internet are very much the same. Consider …
- First recognize that it is highly likely that neither side is telling the complete truth – i.e., they both have ulterior motives and are being self-serving. Or perhaps they both believe that their position is the truth, but they do not realize that there is a third party involved whose main interest it is to keep the two sides in conflict indefinitely. On Internet conflicts this is often likely to be the true position, but most people do not even have a clue that they could even be part of such manipulation. For example, a third (unknown) party is fanning the flames of both sides behind the scenes, and regardless of who is perceived to “win,” the only winner in the end is this third party. History is clear that over the centuries certain parties have profited exceedingly from wars per se – independent of who won or who lost. When you think of what a country has to lose even if it “wins” a war, it is mind-boggling that any country would ever engage in such foolishness. But with this third force using its massive resources to convince the masses on both sides of the sordid and evil nature of the other, war has become virtually inevitable in our world. The resources of some such agents has been estimated into the hundreds of trillions of dollars, so this is not a trivial force to reckon with. Think seriously about this question: who has the most to gain from this conflict continuing independent of who “wins.” Chances are quite high that neither of the parties at conflict will ever really win, but the one fanning the flames will benefit just by keeping the conflict in high gear. Follow the money. Who is financing the conflicts? That will tell you who will eventually come out on top.
- Putting this strong possibility aside, let us just consider the validity of any given article or video. As the jurist, here are some questions you should be asking:
- What motivation does the source have for persuading me and others – money, power, favor of others, creating another conflict, or further heating up the conflict that already exists?
- Has this source been consistently accurate in the past? What evidence do I have that this is still the case? How strong is this evidence?
- When was the last time this source came out something that was either questionable or a blatant untruth? Why did s/he do that? Did they apologize for their “mistake,” or did they make excuses?
- Is this an original source, or is it someone telling you how convinced s/he is that SOMEONE ELSE has had some experience. Where are the original sources? and why are THEY not testifying? In a court of law this is called hearsay evidence. When you identify it as such, it is time to shut that video off and go on to something that is reliable. The Bible was written primarily by those who were direct eye witnesses (Acts 10:39-41) or those who had direct guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), as contrasted with second-hand testimony.
- Is this source acting consistently with the law of love given by Jesus Christ, e.g., to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44) and pray for them that persecute you? Is the source constructive of anything?, or just being totally hateful and destructive to that being opposed? This is important because the bias of witnesses skews what they believe to be the truth.
- Finally, do not give up your common sense. If something sounds like science fiction, it probably is. The heavy burden of proof in such cases is on the source to convince you of its validity. Make THEM prove it with convincing evidence; it is not your responsibility to prove them wrong (you are not making any assertions). Until then, remember: let God be found true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).
The Internet provides sources of information that we had no access to as little as five years ago. But remember: Satan controls the lies on the Internet, and he is a crafty and exceedingly intelligent being. He cannot temp us beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), but all we have to do to allow him to control our minds is … do nothing. We owe it to our society, church, nation and our love for mankind throughout the world to prevent this from happening by thinking independently for ourselves and discerning good from evil (Hebrews 5:14).
While Satan is the inspiration for all lies, his control over influential writers and actors is subtle, and they are usually the last ones to recognize what they are doing. There are what we recognize to be well-intentioned persons on both sides of most issues who have a very strong desire that things have happened in a certain way. They feel so strongly about this that they act to "help reality along." That is, in their minds it is no longer important if the event actually happened, or if the details are exactly they way they want them to be. Their feeling is: It should have happened that way! Thus, they believe that their reporting that it did happen will have a positive effect, even if it did not happen. Of course, such reasoning is just a rationalization for lying, but Satan will take it. In fact, the sincerity with which well-intentioned people express their falsehood is far more effective than the blatant our-right liar. So Satan delights in it. Being aware of Satan's tactics if essential to our distinguishing between truth and error on the Internet. A person does not have to have malicious intentions to lie; and ALL lies produce evil effects.
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