Disinformation spreads when people become overly dependent on supposedly authorized sources for truth. Confusing authorized with authoritative makes the disinformation spread worse. Authorized is not the same as authoritative. To be authorized simply means to be endorsed or to hold an official position. To be authoritative means to be trustworthy and reliable for accuracy. These are not the same thing. Anyone authorized to dispense information ought to be authoritative. Then, disinformation would disappear. Herd immunity to lies would be a done deal. This is not the case.
An example from the typical church experience
People obtain information, curated and packaged for consumption, with too little investment in its gathering, and therefore too scant a regard for its veracity. I often think of the words of Luther who famously said, ”Don’t tell me what the Bible means, tell me what it says.” He was insistent to work out the meaning on his own. Today, many a churchgoer is content for their ministers to tell them not only what the bible says and means, but also how they should think, feel, and act as a result. It is apparently more agreeable to be spoon fed divine nuggets of scriptural insight, than be personally responsible to crack open the big, dusty book with the red letters. Having somebody else do all that bible study and prayer, and report the findings is so much easier. Especially when the somebody is a paid, authorized professional.
I’m only being half-facetious. People are that way with all types of information, not just the spiritual variety. We look to authorized experts to tell us what is what. But we never fact-check the ones who tell us what we want to hear, or already believe. A talking head’s popularity with our social clan is more important than their reliability. We are contented to accept that which everyone else like us embraces. The fear of ridicule is far greater than the fear of personal poisoning from swallowing falsehoods.
Consider this hypothetical
Imagine yourself dropped into the Amazonian Rainforest. How do you stay alive? How do you know what will kill you if you eat it? Not, truth or dare; but, truth, or die. In the jungle, you’d be better off watching one monkey’s dietary choices than to read ten books about the Amazon from award-winning authors who have never spent a night alone in it. There, swallowing a lie may be manifest as swallowing a deadly mushroom. In matters of life and death, since authorized is not the same as authoritative, which one will you trust with your well-being? Do you want authorized, or authoritative?
And therein lies the problem. Our protected lives make us soft. We live at ease. Truth, for its own sake, isn’t seen as a matter of life and death. We come unglued if a lover lies to us, or friend betrays our trust, but we look the other way in the face of lies of national proportion. What is it that makes us like those who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel? Are we really too lazy to think for ourselves, research for ourselves, listen for ourselves? Or do we just believe the authorized can be trusted to do all that work for us? Are we their beneficiaries? Aren’t we sheep vulnerable to fleecing when we don’t demand accountability from the authorized?
I believe authoritative, verifiable Truth is everywhere. It all comes from the same Source, though it presents and resounds from countless outlets. It wants you to find it. But you have to want to find it like your your life depends on it.