In the midst of this election season, I am ready to make my own projection.
I am now able to project that 2016 will mark the final demise of the era of substantiation.
It was a good era. Things you read or heard you could believe. It was an era during which I trusted a person the moment I met them and do so until they lost my trust. Sadly, I find that now I'm more likely to trust no one until he or she earns my trust.
I have seen the end coming for quite some time. It's made its slow but constant progress. In news reporting. In politics. In society. Everywhere.
I first began to take note of it as social media began its rise. All of a sudden, anyone with a keyboard and a connection to the internet could make a claim of any type and presto, it was news. You've heard the joke a thousand times (and probably even repeated it yourself): It must be true. It's on the internet.
Just like that—in the literal blink of an eye—everyone became a reporter and everything enjoyed equal truth-bearing weight. It was a early trap for many of us, me included. I'd see something and retweet it without checking it at all. Or I'd repost a story on Facebook from a friend who was trusted and, as it often turned out, too trusting of the anonymous authors. I'd find myself in that sad trap of looking stupid for not realizing that can't be true.
We used to enjoy something called journalistic integrity. It encompassed much more than this, but it at least started with get two sources before you print it. Was it foolproof? Absolutely not. Were there instances when a writer or reported ran on a hunch? No doubt. But what we have now can hardly be called journalism at all. You have to search long and hard to find good, solid, non-biased investigative reporting. It's more about ratings, or shock, or increasingly propaganda.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the coverage of politics (except maybe politics itself, which I'll touch on later). Coverage of politics is no longer neutral. Some would argue it never was. I don't agree. There used to be some measure of impartial reporting. No longer. Today, you choose your team and you hear the news as you want to hear it. Conservative? You're all Fox. Liberal? You never turn MSNBC off. Somewhere in the middle? Well, you're a bit lost with me and a lot of other people. The segmented news outlets can appear substantiated, especially if you love the flavor they're selling. But if you review their sources, you realize something rather quickly It's all spin. It's one side's slant on the issue.
It would already be sad if that were the extent of it. But the politicians themselves take it many steps further. They either substantiate nothing, or they substantiate with unverifiable statements.
- I have a plan to add 1,000,000 jobs. Sounds great. Can I see the plan? Of course not.
- I voted for this, or I voted against that. I'm sure you did. But there are so many ways for a politician to get what he or she wants without voting for or against anything that it's a safe claim. Besides - who among us has time to really review 1,000-page bills passed and who voted on them anyway.
- He's soft on XYZ and will not protect your rights as a citizen. Again, do you have any proof, or does it just sound good.
- She will gut the Constitution. I can't even go here.
It would be a happy day for me if somehow we could go back to a time when a politician's claim, a reporter's story or the general dispersing of information had to have some foundation under it before it could be made. I don't see it happening.
Our last hope.
The last bastion of substantiation may be business (you probably never guessed that). As owner of two businesses, I still have to substantiate my claims - day in and day out. I must say what I'm going to deliver, deliver it and if I do not, be held accountable.
I must be on time. I'll get that project to you by EOD on Thursday. If I do not deliver it, I am accountable for that.
By the same token, I hold others accountable, too. We'll have your packaging done by the end of the week. I can easily substantiate the promise. If I don't get the packaging delivered, I don't get coffee delivered, and I hold the packaging company accountable for its shortcoming.
Substantiation still matters in business. If the free enterprise system is to survive, it has to.
Has the imminent death of substantiation impacted you - in business, in the news, in politics, anywhere? If so, what are you doing to save it?