“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde
Today in class we spent some time discussing propaganda and public relations. After some background was presented about the word propaganda many thought that the two terms were synonymous, but that propaganda now has a negative connotation due to Joseph Goebbels’ grossly sinister misuse of influence tactics. After reflecting on the discussion I began to think about the truth and how the public can really know it. A journalist is supposed to be a purveyor of truth, presenting both sides of a story objectively and offering diverse sources to corroborate the information presented. But this isn’t always the case. For example, people are drawn to news sources (TV, radio, newspapers) that reflect his or her ideological beliefs; therefore biased presentations of the truth exist in mediums that should be objective.
I decided to look up the definition of the word “truth” and found that the popular satirist Stephen Colbert added “truthiness” to the English lexicon in 2005, when he referred to those who take facts and twist them to suit their own viewpoint. Another gem that Colbert coined was “wikiality,” stating that Wikipedia allows the internet public to “… create a reality that we all agree on,” and went on to state in an interview with Wikipedia’s founder that Wikipedia brings democracy to information. I thought that sounded familiar, and looked back at my notes from today’s class.
Sriramesh and Vercic state, “The western definition of PR assumes a democratic political structure in which competing groups seek legitimacy and power through public opinion and elections.” I believe the idea here is that PR in the West is supposed to add to the “marketplace of ideas,” but isn’t the quote disturbingly similar to Colbert’s satirical comment about bringing democracy to information?
I admit that “truth” (whatever that is) might be a difficult ideal to actualize, but I think that it’s worth a shot. Or maybe I’m totally off the mark and Mark Twain was right: “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”