The episode titled “Truth and Lies” of the TED Radio Hour podcast delves into understanding the grey area between fact and fiction. Why do some people believe in false information despite lack of strong evidence? And why can facts still be deemed fake when clear evidence is presented? The online world has given us the convenience to communicate and socialize around the globe, but it also seems to be depleting our ability to distinguish between what’s true and what’s false.
The first speaker of the episode is a historian and professor of Emery University, Deborah Lipstadt, and her discussion revolves around the Holocaust. She mentions how some deny the Holocaust had ever occurred. Amongst those misinformed is author David Irving, who has written articles using illegitimate and falsified information, claiming that Nazis couldn’t have completed massacres of Jews in the closed camps of WWII. He brings up nonsensical claims such as the impossibility of gas chambers and that survivors made up their stories to appear as victims. Lipstadt guides us through how she traced back the evidence written in the references of his articles and exposes his falsities. She makes a significant point wherein “lies aren’t just made up in bare feet but are truths that are perversely rewritten and entitled as reality.”
The second speaker is Michael Specter, a staff writer for The New Yorker. He wrote a book called Denialism, in which he points out that “everyone is entitled to their opinions, but no one is entitled to their facts.” He talks about various popular denials on viruses and vaccines, genetically modified food, and climate change. He goes on to discuss how vaccines have saved many lives and admits that although there are small numbers of people who may have encountered the unfortunate side effects of vaccines, we shouldn’t forget the statistics that have shown the majority of people who have been saved from deadly viruses.
Next up is cybersecurity expert, Laura Galante, who suggests that “people are more fused into smartphones than what’s happening on the street, as the cyberspace is all the reality.” As Galante continues, she highlights that we are increasingly cherry picking what we believe in as the world moves rapidly towards to the Internet. People are more inclined into believing things that seem contradictory and striking, as it stirs controversy. Galante mentions the Russian intrusion of the US presidential election as an example.