Recently Wes and I had dinner with a group of mostly twenty-something friends. During a light conversation about jokes and exaggerations, someone remarked, “Everyone lies.”

Recently Wes and I had dinner with a group of mostly twenty-something friends. During a light conversation about jokes and exaggerations, someone remarked, “Everyone lies.”
A discussion about the types of lying ensued, with opinions expressed about harmless lies versus malicious ones, whether a white lie should be counted as a lie, etc. The general consensus seemed to be that lying is the norm.
However, our justice system is based on truth, and our society depends on it.  We expect honesty in our family and business relationships, in statements from our leaders, and in media reports.
Most of us believe what we’re told is factual until it becomes evident to us that it isn’t, so
inaccuracy in television and newspapers can be perplexing. Many Americans may question something they see or hear but find it inconvenient to check to see if it’s true.
 Even though reliable news sources have reported the widespread practice of phony click-bait stories being posted on Facebook and other social media, the tendency to believe and share them prevails.  Occasionally someone will fact check and share but most go along, allowing false stories to continue spreading.  Mark Twain’s often repeated quote, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," can seem more like truth than humor.
Some readers may reach a wrong conclusion because they didn’t read past the headline, or stopped reading because the story was too long.  Click-bait stories grab attention with intriguing headlines but often wear out the reader’s patience because they require several clicks to move through the story, and each new segment requires a long wait while reloading.  
On Oct. 13, 2017, the Associated Press ran a feature entitled “A look at what didn’t happen this week”, a report of some of the most popular, but bogus, headlines from the week.
Some of the stories were: San Juan City Council Votes Unanimously To Impeach Trump-Hating Mayor; NFL Introduces New Rule to Ban Players from Protesting During National Anthem; President Trump signs executive order stripping NFL of ‘non-profit’ status.  None of these widely shared stories are legitimate
But if lying is so common, why do we tend to believe everything we’re told? Often it’s because what’s communicated aligns with what we already believe, so we’re more likely to accept it as truth.  Others of us might not want to be confused by an idea that conflicts with what we already regard as true.  And some may be truthful folks who believe everyone else is too.
All of us have an obligation to contribute to a truthful society.   We can cut down on the spread of fake news by checking out those compelling stories before we pass them along.
A good place to start is looking for a byline, date and a named source, and checking obscure sources.  Spelling and punctuation errors and lack of contact information are red flags.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. Search to see if other news sites are reporting the same facts, and look up the story on Factcheck.org, Politifact. com, Snopes.com,  or Washington Post Fact Checker to see if it has been verified or debunked.
It’s not surprising that our young friends think that everyone lies, but white lies are far different than the click-bait stories that are spread with malicious intent.
 It’s imperative that we see the world as it really is, because “hell is truth seen too late”.  We cannot allow our nation to become a basket of gullibles.


Vera Nall writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.