Altering the Truth Without Altering the Facts

In the cold war era spy thriller I’d spent the past couple of days reading, a Russian says to an American ally, “You have a unique gift of altering the truth without altering the facts.”

Quite frankly, it doesn’t seem like a unique gift to me; it seems to be the basis for most politics, legal maneuverings, and news reporting nowadays. Often manipulation is propaganda, pure and simple, a way of interpreting the facts to put the best possible spin on what could be a damaging fact. Other times it’s a way of getting people to vote for someone or to approve of something that they would not normally go for.

It’s also called fake news. Not that the news item is necessarily fake, but if someone calls it fake news, then it immediately casts doubt on the truth.

I am currently staying away from all news sources, fake or not. There have been too many times lately where the facts were spun so much that nothing but mush remained. And there were too many times where the very people involved were the ones who vetted the news to prove it fake, which means the facts could be false or the vetters could be playing false with us. I have never, in all my years, been so confused as to the truth of anything. There were so many undisputed facts, false “facts,” half-truths, truth told as lies, lies told as truth, videos and photos altered to show a different story than what actually happened, as well as dirty tricks I’m sure I missed, that it was impossible to sort out the truth.

For example, when it comes to the disease I call the “The Bob,” we the people know almost nothing. Oh, we know a few facts — there is a virus running around infecting people because we all either got sick or knew someone who did. We knew people who died, but beyond that, all we have to go by is what the “authorities” tell us, and those very authorities are the ones who know how to alter the truth without altering the facts.

The so-called authorities are not the only ones with this not-so-unique gift. A lot of people on all levels of society know how to alter the truth without altering the facts simply telling only the facts that leave them in a good light. For example, someone can say, “Yes, I went to the store. I bought a few snacks and a couple of sodas,” leaving out the salient fact that they also bought alcoholic drinks or illegal drugs or that they visited the person they are seeing on the side.

To be honest, I wish I had that sort of talent, to lie by telling only part of the truth, but generally, I’ve found it best to tell the truth as much as possible. It’s a lot easier to remember what I’ve said that way! Now that I think of it, though, almost no one tells “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Unless you are a representative of the people, in which case you owe the people the truth (though the folks in power don’t believe that at all and certainly don’t act on it), you don’t really owe anyone the truth. Or the facts.

As I said, I generally tell the truth, though sometimes on this blog I alter things a bit to protect either the guilty or the innocent, or even myself. I also sometimes use false birth dates and such because I am — or at least was — so active on the social networking sites that I needed to protect myself.

As for “altering the truth without altering the facts,” it also works the other way around. Novelists do is all the time: alter the facts so we can tell the truth.

But however you look at it, in our current society, it doesn’t seem as if there is a whole lot of truth going on.


If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here:

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2 Responses to “Altering the Truth Without Altering the Facts”

  1. Estragon Says:

    Isn’t it odd. There’s more real information available to us, more easily, than at any time in human history. At the same time, there’s also more psuedo/erzatz/spun “information” flung our way which so often obscures rather more than it enlightens . The noise is pervasive and simple to understand, but the signal is harder to get and to comprehend.

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