The Amazon series The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, is set in a parallel universe in which the Allies lost World War II, leaving the Nazis and the Japanese Empire as the new world powers. The show takes a surreal turn when the main characters discover film footage depicting Germany and Japan as having lost the war.
As citizens of the real world, we should care about accuracy with history and current events. While the alternate history genre can be fun and fascinating, fake developments threaten our collective knowledge of the facts. Ironically, even a perfect quotation on this topic, observing that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” has likely been long misattributed to Mark Twain.
Fact-checkers have had to debunk some whoppers recently. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court in late February again refused to hear a case about false 2020 election fraud claims seeking to replace President Joe Biden with Donald. However, soon after the Court rejected a hearing for the second time, a website published an article stating the opposite.
Although the article was retracted two days later, the fake news already spread on social media. An Instagram post gained traction from sharing a screenshot of the headline, “Supreme Court To Hear Case To Reinstate Donald Trump Over ‘Rigged’ Election.” Subsequent Twitter posts attracted tens of thousands of likes and shares, according to a report from the Associated Press, further disseminating this nonsense to people who are likely to feed it oxygen.
As another recent example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been drafting a voluntary treaty that would feature recommendations for achieving international cooperation on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Although this seems sensible, noncontroversial, and even highly predictable, it has been widely distorted on social media.
From individuals on Instagram to conservative publications such as The Epoch Times, this “pandemic treaty” is being falsely portrayed as requiring the United States to hand over its sovereignty to the WHO. If we sign this treaty, the posts warn, we’ll become subject to lockdowns, supply chain issues, surveillance, and free speech infringement, all thrust upon us by the WHO.
In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the Associated Press that the envisioned treaty would not override the health or domestic policies of any nation. Indeed, the treaty reaffirms the “principle of sovereignty of States Parties” in its very first line, includes no mention of lockdown, closures, or surveillance, and in any event lacks an enforcement mechanism for noncompliance.
Trying to change someone’s political opinions can be a tall order these days. However, standing up for reality is a no-brainer. Despite what former Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested just two days into the Liar-in-Chief’s failed presidency, there is no such thing as “alternative facts.” The truth is worth defending every time.