Fox news couldn’t tell the truth about the election without losing its viewers. Try telling the truth in Russia and not getting imprisoned. Try being a teacher in Florida or Texas and not getting fired. Try being a minister and not losing members. Try telling the truth about your employer and not getting shut out of future employment, or a former employee and not get sued. Try landing major contracts or even meeting sales goals. Try telling the truth to your children and not getting alienated. Try getting a date, or a second date. Try staying married. Try getting hired or getting into an elite college.
So, when we decide to tell the truth should we just climb upon the cross and be done with it? Is truth telling an act of self-sacrifice? Some like George Santos and Fox News believe we can’t be successful without being dishonest and that everyone does it. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but nearly always it is an act of courage. There is also an art to it that can increase the chances of success.
We can tell the truth harshly or skillfully, as diplomats learn to do. Some of that is a soft startup, as relationship researchers John and Julie Gottman call it. You prepare the listener to hear what they don’t want to hear. There may be a way to do that with election results people don’t want to hear. How hard did Fox try? You do that because you care about people and you care about the truth. Also, according to research by Mary Gentile at the Darden School of Business, we are more likely to speak truth and values when we learn the means to do so, which addresses the courage aspect. It could also be that Fox News could learn to be a true and honest news organization and have a healthy audience if that is something they aspired to. If not, closing shop may be the honorable thing to do. Losing an election due to a less impressive resume may be as well.
It may be the case that telling the truth will always carry some risks we must be willing to bear. We owe a lot to those who do. Dishonesty need not prevail. Self-interest at the expense of the truth is an assault on society we should not tolerate.