Caption: Image saying “Unfakery,” from the organization founded by the author (Courtesy of the author)
Have you encountered fast food chains where they promise that if you don’t get a receipt for your order that your food is free? Or noticed those signs on the back of company vehicles asking “How’s My Driving? Call 888-DRIVERY To Report”? Why do they do those things? Accountability.
In the case of the restaurant, the completed receipt is a part of procedures that prevent employees from pretending to perform a transaction, but actually pocketing the money. And that sign on the truck provides a mechanism for other drivers to report reckless driving by company drivers. These procedures broadcast to the public (and to the employees) that management holds its people accountable for honesty and safety. It reminds them that someone is monitoring their behavior, and also provides the mechanism for doing so.
As a conservative, I’m very interested in accountability. I want my elected leaders to be accountable; I have elections to help with that. I want corporations and businesses to be accountable; the market and (some) government regulations perform that function. I want government programs to be accountable; oversight and elections help make that possible.
And I also want individuals to be accountable, especially for the information they pass around. The only mechanism we really have to do that is social pressure, and that’s difficult to employ these days.
I deal with fighting fakery online every day, fakery that specifically targets conservatives, and sometimes it really does feel that we’re in a post-truth society.There is plenty of outright fakery for political and financial gain, and that’s bad enough. But there also seems to be an increasing number of people who are willing to interpret information only in the light most favorable to their causes. They spin and deflect and move the goalposts in discussions, with the goal of scoring points against the other side. They frequently and aggressively hold out opinion and supposition as fact. And yet if you asked them, most would probably declare themselves to be honest people.
Part of the problem is that a lot of people are more interested in “winning” than in promoting the truth. You probably recognize this in some of the people you encounter online; it’s a hazard of an increasingly partisan culture. Some of the symptoms might be:
- Labeling opinions as facts
- Sharing unverified information as true
- Only telling the part of a story that’s most favorable to their view
- Refusing to retract or correct false information they’ve shared
- Using excuses like “it’s true enough” or “it’s real even if it isn’t exactly true”
- Failing to challenge the slander of someone with opposing views
Just about everyone has done one of these things, or done something like them. It’s easy to hit the share button on a headline that resonates with us, without reading the article. It’s a pain to get into a fight with an ally over a slanderous story about a political opponent. It’s hard to be fair to the other side of an argument when you’re trying to win that argument.
We can all agree, though, that those behaviors are not at all truth-oriented, and we probably feel a little dirty when we employ them. We might appreciate the short-cut in the short term, but we still know we aren’t upholding truth in those moments.
But what if we could hack our brains towards more accountability? What if we could do what those business owners did? What if we broadcast to the world that we want to hold ourselves accountable, that we’re enlisting the help of others to do it, and providing them a mechanism to do so?
We can. That’s exactly what the Pro-Truth Pledge is – a social hack to hold ourselves more accountable. It’s a public promise that we intend to share, honor, and encourage truth, and that we expect the people we interact with to help us uphold that pledge. And so far, the research says that it works.
And there’s an added benefit for conservatives like me who appreciate accountability: it provides the solid platform from which to hold others accountable. It says to the world “I’m trying to live up to these values myself – I’m not asking you to do anything more than I’m willing to do myself.” There’s a moral authority there that elevates the discussion above the partisan hypocrisy that’s running rampant these days.
I’m absolutely a passionate conservative, eager to advocate for my beliefs and views, and hoping to persuade more people to hear those views and agree with them. I also deal in debunking fakery of all kinds, and my reputation depends on accurately seeking out and defending truth. I’m working to be an even more effective advocate by recommitting myself to an orientation to the truth with the Pro-Truth Pledge. I’m aiming for a reputation as:
- An honest information broker
- A credible and dependable source
- An accountable conservative
- A truth-seeker
- A person who puts the truth over any agenda
- A source people can trust
I believe that people who build accountability into their lives have a better chance of staying on the path they’ve set for themselves. Dieters do better when they are monitored with regular progress checks. Kids do homework when it’s checked, or clean their rooms when they are inspected. We know this, and we behave this way in other aspects of our lives. So read over the behaviors underlined in the pledge, and ask yourself whether you’re willing to put that kind of accountability in writing, whether you’re ready to put that sticker on your social media vehicle. Invite the world to be your accountability partner, and invite others to take the pledge with you.