By the Rev. Ken Howard
Falsehood flies and Truth comes limping after
– Jonathan Swift (1710)
Jonathan Swift’s comment seems just as relevant now as it was when he wrote it in 1710. Both lies and truths tell a story.
Why is it that a lie and a false story travel so much faster than truth? Why do people seem to latch onto lies so much more easily?
I think it’s because lies always have better stories. Lies are stories: false stories but stories all the same. Their stories are often better because they are free to create them from scratch. Human beings are pattern seekers and meaning creators. We want there to be a reason for things. We don’t like chaos, unpredictability, or lack of control. And we much prefer it when the reason comes wrapped in a simple story that ties everything together and puts a bow on it.
People who spread lies are free to create them from scratch, free to write a convincing narrative, free to write emotionally satisfying script at plays to their own biases about good guys and bad guys, and to give the listener the satisfaction of being one of the good guys. As H. L. Menken once said, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”[Read more…]