Since the earliest days of civilization "truth management" has been practiced by governments and religions to further their own interests. Decades ago, the Soviet Union's disinformation and revisionist history activities stood out. Today truth management pervades international communications, with Putin's Russia, Iran, North Korea and ISIL among the standouts.
The practice of truth management has proliferated to organizations throughout the United States, too, and now pervades presidential politics.
Envision a persuasion scheme that integrates widespread publicity, rampant disinformation and tailored "truths." That's truth management.
Our Defense Department has long practiced "perception management" and "truth projection" to influence beliefs -- usually foreign but not always.
More recently, well-funded national policy institutes and research centers have emerged that propagate research and findings supportive of pre-conceived notions, i.e., they tailor "truth" to fit stipulated concepts. These perverted truths are shared with bloggers, talking heads, publicity organizations and lobbyists who adeptly use them to manipulate the public, politicians and policymakers into believing and proclaiming such as actual truths.
Consider this excerpt from a study of the tobacco industry published by the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing, University of California:
"This study adds to the growing literature that draws upon previously secret tobacco industry documents to understand the inner workings of the industry. Previous research has, among other things, revealed how the industry has deceived the public and policymakers about the harms of tobacco, manipulated science, used third parties to promote its agenda, targeted vulnerable populations, and interfered with regulatory and public policy processes. These behaviors are not unique to the tobacco industry; research on internal asbestos and chemical industry documents has uncovered similar actions."
The tobacco companies managed truth by getting institutes and research centers, which they funded directly and indirectly, to publish studies showing tobacco usage to be not very harmful. They then used these deceitful studies and powerful publicity to manipulate users and politicians into believing that smoking was safe.
Today's institutes and research centers funded by billionaires to further their agendas are expanding this approach. Social media, the Internet and talk radio thrive on their work product.
Senators, congressmen and their staffs are too busy to do much research. So, they rely on information from lobbyists who get their information from these biased sources.
Policy institutes and research centers actuated by pre-conceived notions have begun cropping up to shape "truth" at the state level, too. Legislators have even less time and resources than congressmen to research complex issues.
Folks, it's one thing to use facts that support arguments and overlook facts that don't. It's quite another to deliberately create and disseminate false truths that skew reality. And that's what insidious truth managers do.
So, whether it's Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the NRA or the AARP, big business or big government, or a state policy institute, realize their propensity to engage in truth management -- for their benefit, not yours.
Don't be duped. As Ronald Reagan insisted, verify.
Write Bill Crawford, a syndicated columnist from Meridian, at firstname.lastname@example.org.