We live in a world where curated Instagram feeds filter the truth and where leaders who have a Trumpian-like fondness for falsehoods are rewarded. But I think (hope) we’re reaching a tipping point. Perhaps fashion designers are tapping into our cultural yearning for truth with the return of the newspaper print. We saw it at Balenciaga, Alexander Wang, Helmut Lang and John Galliano. At Sacai Menswear, they printed a New York Times ad on a black tee that read “Truth. It’s more important now than ever.”
In “Fit to Print” (page 30), our fashion features editor Isabel B. Slone writes that “political news has replaced celebrity gossip as the mainstay of currentday conversation…. Realism is replacing escapism as the appropriate reaction to what is happening in the world.”
But how honest are we with others and ourselves? If you think you’re not a liar, you’re just lying to yourself. You’ve been fabricating the truth since you were six months old, according to Dr. Vasudevi Reddy, a researcher and psychology professor at the University of Portsmouth in Portsmouth, England. “Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of decep- tion to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong,” Reddy told The Telegraph. “It demonstrates they’re clearly able to distinguish that what they are doing will have an effect. This is essentially [what] all adults do when they tell lies, except in adults it becomes more morally loaded.”
Well, morally loaded for some. As of May 1, President Trump had made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Washington Post. This averages out to nearly 6.5 #fake utterances a day. Before you get horrified (quite rightly), it turns out that most of us are only slightly behind the president when it comes to our per diem fibs. A study funded by WKD, a British vodka brand, found that men lie on average five times a day and for women it’s three. And if you think you can spot a liar, you’re also wrong. According to psychologist Robert S. Feldman, who did the research, there’s only a fifty-fifty chance you’ll suspect something’s up because we’re wired to want to believe what people are telling us—especially if it makes us feel better about ourselves. He calls it our “truth bias.”
While we may lament that we live in a post-truth era, Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler, authors of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, argue that we’ve always been biologically hardwired to lie. They even go so far as to suggest that we have a “limited budget for honesty.” Apparently this miserly appetite for veracity serves us well. In “The Dark Yet Life-Affirming Magic of SelfDeception” (page 48), they tell writer Katherine Gougeon that our brain acts like a “press secretary, constantly putting the most noble spin on our choices and behaviours while keeping our conscious minds in the dark.” But even if our inner Sarah Huckabee Sanders is spinning her best yarns, we still crave the truth—though, as Oscar Wilde said, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” And that’s the truth.