Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene shares his insights following a forum held in mid-December 2021.
“Michael Ondaatje, the Sri Lankan-born Canadian poet, essayist and novelist, once wrote, “In Sri Lanka, a well-told lie is worth a thousand facts” – and how perceptive he was!
That remark, tucked away in the acknowledgements of his memoirs Running in the Family, first published in 1982, is worth revisiting today as our society struggles with a deluge of fabrications, distortions, conspiracy theories and other abuses of facts.
Is it the rising levels of internet use and especially social media proliferation that has caused this, as some claim?
For sure, the web allows falsehoods to spread faster and more widely than ever before. But as Ondaatje pointed out, cooking up tall tales and taking liberties with facts seem pervasive in Sri Lanka.
Indeed, many of us seem to straddle two worlds: one of verified facts that are used as evidence for reasoning, and the other based entirely on conjecture, beliefs, or collective imagination.”