It seems to me, people love the man who tells them two plus two equals three, women will throw themselves at him, and men will die for him, but the man who tells people two plus two equals four… that man will be criticized and hated, spat upon and vilified, especially after he is proven correct. History is full of examples of both. This quality of human nature is as pervasive as it is destructive, since every aspect of the human condition depends on correct information, incorrect information leading to mistakes, mistakes that cost pain, economic loss, loss of freedom and lost standing, this penchant to prefer lies should have been weeded out of our psyche millennia ago, yet it persists… to our great detriment. If we really want to advance it is incumbent on us to actively counter this tendency in ourselves.
In The Republic, Glaucon asked Socrates, is it better to be so just, one is perceived unjust, or perceived just when one is unjust? Glaucon went on, the man who is perceived as unjust, even if just, will be hated, while the man who is perceived as just, even if he is unjust, will be lauded. What Glaucon meant was that the perception of the masses is more important to the individual than reality. In this example, the just man, the truth teller, is hated, scorned and put upon, while the unjust man, the liar, is glorified, raised up and helped in all his unjust endeavors. This historical anecdote shows the tendency of people to love a liar and hate a truth teller is at least as old as Socrates.
After a long diet of such cultural, social and economic poison, you would think people would long for someone, anyone, who will tell them even a hint of the truth. Sadly that isn’t the case. Edmund Burke correctly predicted the outcome of the French revolution. He also provided the reasons why it would end in bloodshed. He was vilified, hated and condemned for telling the truth, and when he was proven right, he was hated even more for being right. Glenn Beck is another example of someone who told the truth and is hated for it. Now that Beck’s predictions have come true, proving his hypothesis, Beck is loathed almost universally. The more one tells an ugly truth the more that person is hated.
This is because people want a glittering lie to be true. In this we will ignore facts and instead turn to emotion. People so wanted the Arab spring to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and freedom to the Middle East, when Beck told the truth, those people who had invested so much emotional capital, turned on him with vitriol not even given a monster. When Beck turned out to be right, the Arab Spring so loved by people the world over turned out to usher in a new era of bloodshed, genocide and tyranny, all that emotional capital was destroyed. Instead of blaming themselves for believing the lie, people turned their hatred to Beck, for being right.
This is because of cognitive dissonance. That is the psychological theory that we think and feel in ways consistent with our past thoughts and actions. If I ridicule someone who has a different belief than I, then that person is proven to be right, my past actions will force me, subconsciously, to dislike that person. My past belief forces me to feel this way, because otherwise I would have been wrong in my ridicule, and to ridicule someone undeservedly would make me a bad person, since in my mind I can never be a bad person, therefore that other person had to have deserved it… so I hate him. Our cognition of ourselves cannot be dissonant from our self perception.
Since we so want to believe in pixy dust, when someone tells us pixy dust is nothing but dust, we become angry. When they are proven right, we become enraged, because we have been proven to be stupid or bad. Since in my own mind I cannot be stupid or bad, that other person must be stupid or bad, justifying my original belief. Sadly, this tendency has not served us well in the past and certainly will not in the future. Since it is impossible to force change on others, we can only change ourselves, we must self examine, look at how we tend to believe glittering lies while condemning ugly truths, so that we and our children, will not have to suffer so that we can feel better about ourselves. If enough of us do, liars will be vilified and truth tellers will be glorified, reversing a negative trend that has visited so much evil on the human race.