"Be true to your school." "My country, right or wrong." "Omerta." "Code of silence." "Blue wall." These and many other expressions reveal a drive to maintain loyalty to groups even if truth is compromised, disregarded, or hidden. These also contribute to opposition between groups or tribes in an "us or them" system. The philosophical word for this is "Tribalism". It can be found in families, communities, schools, churches, political groups, states and nations.
If your teenage son harms someone would you seek to hide the truth about this? Many families teach their children from early ages that if they break a neighbor's window that they should admit, apologize and seek a way to repay or restore. This is truth and integrity. What happens if the son harms someone on a more serious level warranting legal authorities to get involved, possibly leading to incarceration for that son? Would we hide the truth? Would we deny that the son could have even acted in such a way? Or would we tell the truth and encourage that son to admit, regret and accept the consequences? For many, the most intimate tribe is the family and the love that comes with that can lead parents to lie, deny, and seek escape from consequences for their child. Love does not trump truth.
A similar situation can happen at schools where the reputation of the school may be at risk due to the actions of a few students or teachers that have harmed others.
We have seen this also in institutional churches, who have protected, transferred, denied, and even discredited claims of harm by their staff.
We see this in law enforcement where the famous "blue wall" leads to a tribal culture of protecting each other through lies, denial, disinformation, etc. from exposing the truth, from consequences of truly criminal behavior.
Our legal system encourages all defendants to plead "not guilty" to all crimes, forcing prosecutors to prove guilt before a jury. "Pleading guilty" and admitting wrong is rarely seen and when it is, it is coerced as a deal to avoid more serious penalties. Where would our society be if those who have harmed others admitted, regretted, and accepted appropriate punishment? That would be truth and integrity. What we have is tribalism where few are willing to tell the truth. This has led to significant skepticism of the outcomes of many jury verdicts. Truth has been compromised.
Government, itself, is a type of tribe in opposition to the public that they are sworn to serve and protect. They use "classification" and "executive privilege" to hide their deceptions and behavior so as not to be held accountable. They collude with each other to keep any of them from being punished. They collude to deceive the public by hiding documents and evidence. Government agents are legally permitted to lie, while lies to the government are punishable. Whistleblowers are often criticized and charged and discredited by government agents and elected members in order to convince the public that those things revealed are not true. Where is truth?
Members of political tribes, called parties, will often maintain loyalty to their candidates and elected officials even in the face of piles of evidence of their deceptions and culpability in criminal behavior. Where is the commitment to truth?
Citizens of nations often promote claims of virtue and necessity for their nation and deny the evidence of wrongdoing by the leaders of their nation in the world. This includes motives for war and conflict and intervention. This includes expenditure of funds and policies of relationships like trade and labor. Whistleblowers sometimes have the courage to expose bad behavior and deceptions by leaders but are not always supported by the tribe who blindly accept their nation as good.
While tribalism can foster a sense of belonging and community, it can also lead to a compromising of truth when groups prioritize their collective interests over objective facts and evidence and truth.
What does God say about these things? The true people of God are committed to truth without compromise.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, Psalms 51:6
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight. Proverbs 12:22
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 (While this is generally believed to mean not making up false charges. False witness includes lying about our knowledge of the truth. )
How should we live?
When we have harmed others we must admit, apologize, and accept responsibility and consequences without denial.
We must not lie to protect wrongdoers, including ourselves, loved ones, colleagues, leaders, etc.
We must not deny truth, even if it conflicts with our tribal beliefs.
We must seek to know the truth, and speak what we know.
We must examine our beliefs and our tribe's beliefs regularly.
We must support those call out deception. (Whistleblowers.)
We must question all authorities, not with intention of rebellion, but with commitment to know the truth.
We must test whether the claims of our tribe or group are true and speak out when they are not. That includes families, community, schools, churches, businesses, politicians and governments at all levels, all forms of media.
We must be willing to depart from our tribe(s) if they are willing to compromise truth.
If we are going to belong to God’s tribe we must commit ourselves to truth, all truth, every day.
The Role of Tribalism in Distorting Truth:
Confirmation Bias: Tribalism often reinforces confirmation bias, the tendency to seek and accept information that aligns with pre-existing beliefs while dismissing or ignoring contradictory evidence. Group members may seek out media outlets, social circles, or echo chambers that affirm their perspectives, reinforcing a closed feedback loop.
Us vs. Them Mentality: Tribal identities foster an "us vs. them" mentality, where the out-group is perceived as an opposing force threatening the in-group's values and interests. This mentality can hinder the acceptance of alternative viewpoints, stifling open dialogue and constructive debate.
Groupthink: The desire for social cohesion and consensus within a tribe can lead to groupthink, where dissenting opinions are suppressed or discouraged to maintain group harmony. This conformity can prevent the group from critically examining information and arriving at balanced conclusions.
Implications of Truth Compromise:
Polarization: Tribalism can deepen societal divisions as groups become increasingly polarized. This polarization obstructs collaboration and problem-solving, making it difficult to address pressing issues that require collective effort.
Spread of Misinformation: As tribal groups propagate information that supports their ideologies, misinformation and disinformation can spread rapidly. In the age of social media, false narratives can gain traction, leading to a widespread erosion of trust in credible sources.
Undermining Rational Decision-Making: When truth becomes a subjective concept within a tribe, decision-making processes may become less rational and evidence-based. Instead, emotional appeals and ideological loyalty may guide choices, resulting in suboptimal outcomes.