I’ve spent a lifetime seeking the truth; it’s an obsession.

That’s thanks, in part, to growing up in a small town. Because in a small town most people know a person’s name, family, and business. Reputations are formed. Rumors spread quickly. And it can be really tough to figure out what’s true and what’s utter nonsense.

Also, my parents deserve a lot of credit.

For example, my dad would tell me stories to see if I was gullible enough to believe them. Since he was an history professor with a Ph.D., he made some really compelling arguments. But it was up to me to spot the nonsense. It became a fun game we played.

My mom had her own ways, too. Whenever I asked what a word meant, her automatic response was, “Go look it up!” It was infuriating but, in hindsight, I’m so glad she encouraged me to find answers on my own.

These things are really helpful for me as a filmmaker.

In this line of work, I may know the reputation of a particular crew member, but I typically give them the benefit of the doubt when we first meet. Or I may be interviewing someone but I suspect that they’re embellishing a story, so I keep prying to get to the real heart of the matter. It’s really helpful in the research stage, too.

Researching a story is one of my favorite parts of making movies. It gives me complete permission to fall into a new world, consuming almost everything I can to learn the lay of the land. Making connections, piecing together information, and drawing conclusions is so much fun to me.

While researching, I rarely accept something as a hard truth – especially from a single source. Instead, I look at multiple sources to piece together a story. Commonalities and patterns become easy to spot. Eventually, the most accurate version of the truth begins to take shape.

This can be really challenging in a world of misinformation, though.

Mike Benge, one of the men featured in Abandoned Allies, drinks rice wine with his Montagnard friends in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Mike Benge.)

While working on Abandoned Allies, for example, I met a lot of Vietnam War veterans. Many of them are very suspicious of the Communists to this day. (For good reasons, too.)

Montagnards, the tribal people from the highlands in Vietnam, are still persecuted in their homeland today – mainly for being American allies and Christians. It doesn’t get coverage stateside, though. So while working on the movie, I read a lot of news coming out of Vietnam. It was tough to find the truth of a story because the Communist government controls what gets published. There’s no free press.

Over time, with help from a lot of the Allies cast, I began to see the truth in the subtext. I looked for the things that don’t get printed in black and white. By reading news from lots of different sources worldwide, I learned a lot.

After a while, I began to see the bigger picture.

With every article and segment, I studied several things:

  • Who benefits from this news coverage?
  • How do the dollars flow among the companies in the news industry?
  • Do today’s news outlets follow the same “unbiased” pledge for reporting as I learned eons ago, when I wanted to be a journalist?

It was incredibly eye-opening.

Photograph of a soldier during the Vietnam War. (Courtesy of Maj. John Plaster.)

Now, of course, these aren’t scientific methods of proving a hypothesis on a grand scale.

Seeking truth comes in many different shapes, sizes, and situations. This post is mostly about instinctual ways of seeking the truth.

We’re challenged to seek the truth on a daily basis at home, work, and play. We’re called to seek the truth when we shop, vote, and speak our minds. And, I personally think this is a very good thing because we’re not blindly accepting of what people tell us to think, say, feel, or do.

Plus, I think this conversation is an important one – especially right now. Misinformation and distractions abound. It can be overwhelming to try to get enough info to form an educated opinion on a single matter, much less handle the barrage of breaking news coming at us every day.

It’s an important time to take a close look at how we consume information, make up our minds about issues, and take action on those things.

What about you?

So, I’m curious, how do you seek the truth, especially in current affairs?

Do you take the time to get news and information from many different sources, including outlets that are overseas? Or not?

Use the comments to share what’s on your mind.

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