Churches are – or were – places where people gathered to celebrate and mourn, to pray and to socialize, and to learn the truth as their denominations presented it.
Most people turned to religion to answer two big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Their religious institutions responded to them with dogma and the Scriptures.
Social media has eroded these functions for some time, but now, when we thought things couldn’t get worse, a disgraced former US president, currently banned from mainstream social media and ignored by most other outlets, claims the property of the truth or, as he typically puts it, the TRUTH.
The Trump Media & Technology Group will include TRUTH Social, a TV and radio station called TMTG News, and TMTG +, which is touted as a rival to Netflix.
A promotional video for TRUTH Social, an alleged Twitter competitor that can be pre-ordered from the Apple App Store, shows the usual social media rate of blurbs mixed with images of a dancing monkey. TMTG News promises to be FOX News on steroids. TMTG + is offered as a streaming site.
Former President Donald Trump’s choice of names for his new media ventures reminds us that while most people recognize the four types of truth (objective, normative, subjective, and complex), we are all in the throes of confusion.
To be clear:
- The objective truth can be simple: âThe sky is blue.
- Normative truth depends on our common custom. We agree that “blue” is the name of the color of the sky.
- The subjective truth is harmless enough: âI’m hot.
- The complex truth is where the going gets tough: individuals often focus on the truth that suits them best.
The objective truth is that Trump is no longer President of the United States, having lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a fair election. I suspect that TMTG expects to change normative and subjective truth, using complex truth.
That is, Trump intends to shape public opinion and subjective truth through TRUTH Social and TMTG News, to fabricate “objective” truth. His continued argument is that the current media environment is full of lies.
What does this have to do with religion?
Religious organizations once cornered the market on platforms where people discussed what mattered in their lives. Until the middle of the last century, the Catholic Church was the main presenter of Christian stories in color: Think of the Sistine Chapel, and centuries of sculpture, mosaics, frescoes and paintings.
Then, 1916 brought Technicolor to the movies. Color televisions began to arrive in homes in 1953. The Internet has worked steadily during the last quarter of the 20th century. We have become both more connected and more disconnected. The church that once had the most effective information command and control system – Vatican Radio was created by Guglielmo Marconi himself – quickly lost ground to these other platforms.
Today all churches have lost control over the truth as they see it. The truth is no longer a religious understanding. The truth is now a political question.
Social media delivers the truth through algorithms, which present information based on users’ existing biases – the definition, perhaps, of a complex truth.
Churches and church teachings are not in competition. The main religious teachings, correctly preached, are rooted in the belief in an objective reality: God. Over the years, subjective truths have interfered with communal belief, factions have formed, and denominations have emerged. But even then our ecumenical ties are greater than our barriers.
But while there was a time the unique opportunities to hear a famous preacher or see a breathtaking and awe-inspiring work of art were the rare exceptions, today they are mundane realities. Meanwhile, offers on radio, TV, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, Facebook (now known as Meta) and, soon to be, TMTG’s basket filled with deplorable lies are just a click away.
The truth, like people, is real. As the Velvet Bunny reminds us, reality and real people can’t be ugly, except for people who don’t understand.
We all need the truth, not the lies. TMTG’s incoming attack is an attack on reality itself.