Joseph Goebbels was the chief propagandist and a key advisor of Hitler known for his skills in public speaking. He advocated that a repeatedly told lie tends to be believed. Ironically, this was the biggest truth he gave to this world. That he committed suicide is another story. This happens with most liars. They keep on repeating their lies so often that they themselves start believing them. But we are not to debate over the psychology of lies. We are discussing how lies affect psychology of people. Lies are euphemistically called misinformation. Goebbels would have been astonished to find that in this era of post truth there is no need to repeat lies. Truth simply does not exist. Only lies abound. And sell. They are the truth in the present times. Call them by whatever name you want. Call them data, call them information, call them findings, or even statistical models. This reality of falsehoods has now been supplemented by a study. Though it is altogether a different matter that the truth behind most studies are equally questionable, yet this one seems to be believable. A recent study analysing 9,657 pieces of misinformation originating from 138 countries was recently published in a globally reputed journal brought out by Sage, an internationally acclaimed brand in the field of academic research publication. It was fact checked by 94 organisations to find out the prevalence and the sources of misinformation in different countries. India was found to produce the largest Quantum of misinformation according to the research. India was also the maximum affected by the misinformation. But the headlines usually do not show the real picture. Whether India produced misinformation or Indians disseminated misinformation is the issue that needs to be understood. High internet usage and lack of internet literacy may be the reason for the findings that suggest that obsession with social media is a favourite pastime for most Indians who spread messages without thinking. More out of enthusiasm than anything else. However, it is also important to identify the sources of origin of the misinformation which are more motivated than accidental. Gullibility and over enthusiasm are common Indian traits and the propensity to share information first due to excitement may be a weakness with most, yet the sources that generate such information that are more of disinformation have to be handled with a heavy hand. Nevertheless, the fact that infodemic was the cause and pandemic was the result can also be deduced. Indians also need to exercise caution and guard against the mischief mongering that such information are aimed at. Though the research was against the backdrop of Covid-19, India has proved to be a fertile ground for spread of false hoods. Fake news may be a term used in the specific context of social media but the fact is that news itself is fake in the sense that there is an inbuilt tendency to economise on truth. Marketing, branding, promotion are all different names of camouflaging the truth. Something that is a global trend and something that people in power use to gain and then retain power. Who succeeds will depend on the strength of the lies.
Pathak is a professor of management, writer, and an acclaimed public speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com