Why do countries modify the truth?

The obvious answer is because it makes them look good. Martin Gurri, author of The Revolt of the Public, has a lot to say in this interview:

The highest calling of true elites is to translate the flux of reality into a coherent story.  To most Americans, who believe reality must be approached “scientifically,” this sounds like spin or propaganda – but it’s much more essential than that.  Every society is organized around specific ideals and habits of behavior.  The institutions of government, information, commerce, even science, are erected on the basis of those ideals and habits.  That’s how they attain the authorizing magic of legitimacy.

The stories are essential, but they’re stories. So telling them effectively requires being the storyteller:

The stories are not necessarily false and not necessarily propaganda, but they are partial and perspectival – and they can be picked apart.  That is true of every explanation, including those provided by scientists.  Human knowledge is much more limited than we like to admit.  To shape the flux of events into a story that will persuade the public, therefore, the elites must control the means of communication.  When that control slips, the elite class lapses into a state of crisis.

There is hope, if the storytellers adapt to a world where fact-checking happens in real-time. But:

I would say that our institutions are structurally (and, I believe, catastrophically) mal-adapted to the new information environment, and that the people who run them are both unable and unwilling to reform them.

For those who’ve read Gurri, the storytellers behave as if we were still in the 20th century, and information is still their monopoly. Unfortunately that model is outdated.

Read the whole thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: