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What is truth?

Media competence and why Pilatus' question is highly relevant today

by Jochen Ressel

He is accused and questioned by the executive representative of the Roman Empire, Pontius Pilatus: “What have you done?” It’s Jesus from Nazareth giving his answer, bringing up his role as the guardian of truth, to which Pilatus replies ironically, probably a bit desperate: “What is truth?”

And the question is still valid 2020 anno domini, almost 2,000 years after Pilatus raised it. There are thousands of articles, posts, tweets and comments we are coming across every single day, which are mostly aiming to create opinion and indicating what we are forced to perceive as the truth. Though the question for each of us is an everydays challenge: What is the truth?

It’s obvious that the “truth” is probably not what is really true, but what got the most “likes” or “shares”. Complex logarithms selecting what is offered to us as the truth. More than ever we need to find our own ways how to create our own conviction of what is true and wrong.

From my point of view, there is no question, that we need to educate ourselves in the field of Media competence. Although we will never understand all the logarithms, some knowledge would help us to know, how our newsfeeds are filled with preselected content and which sources are relivable enough to falsify or verify the offered content.

Secondly, it’s my strong believe that a holistic understanding of geography, history and religion is key to find information which come close to truth. Hardly anything happens on our globe, which has no context to happenings of the past, of their religious backgrounds and the geographic changes of countries and movements of nations and ethnic groups. If we know about the links between these fields, we might be able to judge a headline to be true or false in the same second as it comes across, because of its historical, geographical or religious context.
One challenge still remains for ages: History is written by the winners. I haven’t found a path for me personally, how to judge the official historiography without the opportunity to hear the voices of victims and disadvantaged of historical processes.

How do you address the question “What is truth?” Which sources do you choose to find out, if you are misled by mass media manipulation? Your comments and views are highly appreciated.
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Jochen Ressel is a Board Member of the Austro-British Society The opinions expressed in this article are entirely his and reflect in no way the opinions of the ABS. He worked several years for a UK company and for its HQ in London.

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