People will believe lies. People will go so far as to destroy their own lives and the lives of others for a lie.
People are more likely to believe a lie from someone they view (rightly or wrongly) as having authority.
Conversely, people are less likely to listen to and believe someone who may be telling the truth but who does not in their eyes have authority.
Generally, people have a moral and ethical obligation to promote truth basically because there are real-world consequences for not doing so. By truth, I mean objective, verifiable fact, and not some clerical or political interpretation.
The First Amendment of the Constitution has been interpreted to mean that the government cannot prohibit a particular point of view. It does not matter if the point of view the government is prohibiting is true or not; it is barred from infringing on speech.
The position the Supreme Court has taken is that the cure for a proliferation of lies is to flood the “marketplace of ideas” with other points of view.
Unfortunately, many times the lies are more attractive, more comforting, and feel more “right” than the actual, albeit inconvenient, truth. And people believe them for a lot of very real reasons.
To be clear: an unintentional untruth is a mistake; an intentional untruth is a lie.
Lies do not qualify as “legitimate differences of opinion” or “political dialog”; they are scams, intended to mislead. Falsehood with just the right amount of truth to make them believable.
And the lies spread because people want to believe. They need to believe because often it goes to their very identity. Without those lies, they would lose their sense of self. Simply being given more information, or better information, will not overcome the deeply held need identify as a particular kind of person.
So, what is our moral and ethical obligation at this point, as a society? How to we approach situations where lies are being marketed as truth? How much do we owe to ourselves and to our family, friends, and neighbors to stand up to the lies, to call them out for what they are? How do we keep functioning and avoid descending into violence and chaos?
Freedom and liberty are good things, but an overabundance of individual freedom is essentially anarchy. I for one am not in favor of anarchy.
But that’s not really what’s going on, is it? What is going on is people with an agenda and a platform and a megaphone are feeding people untruths they identify with, the desired end result being more and more power to fewer and fewer people.
I am not in favor of fascism either.