The U.S. is in a bit of a truth crisis right now.
Getting at the truth has always been a challenge, even when everyone is playing by the rules and honestly seeking truth. But that isn’t always the case.
A lot of people out there are writing blogs, publishing papers, writing on social media, broadcasting radio and TV shows, producing podcasts and even speaking from positions of national power who are engaged in what I call “bold subterfuging.”
Bold subterfuging is when people knowingly lie in the hopes that they can create their own version of reality – an alternative reality filled with “facts” that fit only when you accept or are unaware of that alternative reality.
It’s the effort to intentionally mislead people to advance their own interests and agenda, putting into practical effect the old adage, “If you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.”
Some are pretty outlandish bold subterfugers. Though they can get some people to believe them (or at least be entertained by them), most of us can spot them a mile away and ignore them.
But some are more subtle. The lies are bold, but the approach is more difficult to detect. Here are two ways I try to sniff it out:
1. Find the bias.
To find the bias you have to know that it’s there, so it is important to recognize that it’s always there. There’s always bias.
When you read or hear something, you can’t just listen to what the person is saying. In other words, focusing on the content of their words isn’t enough.
You have to be aware that they have a bias that affects the information they are presenting and how they are presenting it.
This is true of anyone, even a person who is genuinely trying to inform you so that you can make the best decisions with your life.
A practitioner of bold subterfuging, however, isn’t interested in informing you. They are trying to move you to a certain position.
They don’t want you to make up your own mind; they want to make up your mind for you by withholding certain information, presenting information a certain way or – the essence of bold subterfuging – making up “information” that gets you where they want you to be.
2. Look for the self-interest.
Practitioners of bold subterfuging are after two things: power and money. Not for you, but for themselves.
They aren’t interested in you or your well-being. They aren’t interested in empowering you or increasing your income, unless that enables them to get even more power and even greater wealth.
But understand this: If they can increase their power or their wealth (or both) by taking away what you have, they will because that is actually their preference.
If what they are saying angers you and they sound angry themselves, it’s not because they really are angry. Rather, they want to use your anger to get more power and money for themselves.
If what they are saying makes you fearful, it’s not because they are afraid themselves, but because they want to use your fear to get more power and money.
They don’t want you where they are; they want you where they need you to be to get what they really want. That’s the endgame of bold subterfuging.
In Jesus’ day, when Rome conquered a nation, Caesar would proclaim to the conquered people that he was the “son of God” bringing in “God’s kingdom.” This was “good news” (or gospel) because as the “prince of peace” Caesar was the only one who could protect them and look after them.
It was classic bold subterfuging. Jesus exposed it for the lie that it was, to those at least who had ears to hear.
Jesus told his followers that, while being gentle as doves, they needed to be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16).
Larry Eubanks is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Frederick, Maryland. A version of this article first appeared on his website and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @EubanksLarry.