In these fast and increasingly furious times in which we live, with a news cycle turning like the exercise wheel of a hamster on speed, does Truth with a capital “T” still matter? Observers of the political and business scene may be forgiven for asking themselves this key question.
And of course once that query is raised, the answer must come back loud and clear from all thinking citizens around the world: Of course Truth matters! It matters a lot! A civilization that doesn’t value Truth with a capital “T” should hang its collective head in shame, right? Truth! Lovin’ it! Can’t leave home without it! Guys who don’t put Truth first? Huge mistake. Sad!
The only thing is—just to clarify and be completely honest with you here—there are valid exceptions. While of course being 💯 with the Big T is important, sometimes we need smaller versions. It’s a good thing many small-“t” truths have been invented, like:
Political truth: Good for #winning. We can balance the budget and cut your taxes and build a tower to the sky! What? We can’t? I can’t hear you over all that cheering!
Opaque truth: This is the kind that needs to be clarified. So that’s what we’ll do! We’ll have our chief clarification officer get the job done. In the meantime? Take a hike!
Former truth: It vaporizes after clarification! #Convenient!
Unseasoned truth: True story: My pal Rossiter is talking about an acquisition he’s trying to close. Every now and then the other party evaporates for a couple of days, and nothing gets done on the deal. “I think he may be shopping the thing to another buyer,” he says, sighing. “He says he’s not. But I’m taking that with a grain of salt.” #Tasty!
For more on leadership, watch this Fortune video:
Actual truth: Watch out for people who say “actually …” all the time. #Justsayin’.
Business truth: If you go to enough conferences, you may find yourself amazed that the noses on the various Pinocchios up on the stage don’t bump into their lavaliers. You’re profitable? Really? Okay, you know what? I’ll wait for your quarterly call. #GAAP.
Partial truth: Better than none, right? But listen for the other half. Just last week, for instance, He Who Shall Not Be Named declared that one day the whole world will live as one, linked together on Facebook. Kumbaya. If you listen to this grand vision, however, what you won’t hear is that while humanity is being unified for its own good, every scrap of personal data will be harvested—the way the Morlocks harvested the Eloi—then fed into the giant maw of the marketing cosmos, all the better to control our flow of information, entertainment, and retail products. So the Vision is true … but it’s sort of, you know, half true. Because the other half is unmentionable. #Privacy!
Lies: Hey! How did they get in here? Because they’re everywhere. And they’re a completely effective Truth substitute, as long as we believe them. So we’ve got HGH juicers and startup-value overstaters, and résumé-mongers, and guys who say they’re selling steak who are selling somebody else’s beef that they just picked up from the local caterers and branded with their ubiquitous name, and Hoaxwagens spewing too much grunge into the ozone, and ozone-deniers, and kids selling insurance who aren’t registered to do so, and pompous heads of state around the world hiding money in Panama. And every single one of them will tell you he’s telling the truth. Until we call him on it.
And then, oh, yeah, there’s … Truth! The real thing. First and foremost, always! Anybody who doesn’t agree? #Idiots!
A version of this article appears in the May 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.