The Danger of False Narratives

At MPRM Communications, we are privileged to work with some amazing storytellers, from independent filmmakers to entrepreneurs who set out to change the world. But just like the proverbial shoemaker’s children who go without shoes, they often need help in crafting their own stories. Because it is our business, we are also keen observers of other practitioners of the art of storytelling, whether in service of an issue, business, promotion or simply to entertain. What we plan to undertake here is a weekly look at the different ways storytelling can be used from transporting audiences to motivating change to building a business or creating awareness.

Spreading lies can have dire consequences, and not just this week. Students of history know this to be true. From the fall of the Roman Republic, as Colorado Senator Michael Bennet so eloquently expressed on Wednesday night, to Nazi Germany and more recently Turkey and Hungary, populist demagogues can convert democratically elected governments to authoritarian nations. It is something we thought could never happen here but this week we came perilously close.

Over the last four years the President of the United States has repeatedly lied about everything from the size of his inaugural crowd to the coronavirus to the outcome of the 2020 election. Powerful acolytes reinforced and amplified the lies because it was in their self interest, either politically or financially. Instead of pushing back on spurious claims of rigged elections, they reinforced his claims of fraud. Social and conservative media amplified the lies. Fortunately for our democracy, election officials, judges, and governors did not buckle under pressure from the President to change the election results.

Unfortunately the barrage of lies resulted in a majority of Republican voters coming to believe the election was stolen despite ample evidence to the contrary, a belief that continues to be reinforced by members of Congress who questioned a valid election to show support for the President and continued to do so even after a mob desecrated the Capitol building.

False narratives are also responsible for the appalling number of deaths in this country because of COVID-19 — almost 400,000 with 4,000 in one day this week. It is unconscionable that mask wearing became a political issue instead of a simple way to mitigate a virus that does not care about one’s political affiliation. It is also why so many question the validity of the vaccine program.

America’s reputation as a beacon of democracy throughout the world has been tarnished. As those of us in the communications industry understand, trust, once lost, is very difficult to rebuild, which is why we are adamant about telling the truth. Our personal integrity is as vital to our clients as our strategic counsel.

So what can we do? To start we must insist on complete transparency and continue to question any claims that are not substantiated by actual evidence. We need to support great journalism and unfettered access to the halls of power. While we will continue to disagree about policy, we must find common ground on the basic facts.

Fortunately, despite the mob’s best efforts at insurrection, we are about to transition power to a new President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who have expressed their commitment to telling the truth.

The first week of 2021 should not be an indication of the future. Let us all look at it as a one week lag to the end of a terrible 2020 because we truly believe that the future is before us.