Seeking Insight in an Age of Disinformation


‘Ike kūhohonu (n. Deep knowledge or insight.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

As I pondered what to write about this month, my thoughts returned time and again to the related concepts of insight, wisdom and discernment.

We live in what has been dubbed the “information age.” It is an era in which information has become a commodity that is widely and instantly available. “News” is no longer the exclusive purview of professional journalists. Armed with iPhones, ordinary people worldwide are recording events and within minutes uploading them to social media – along with their personal commentary – to an international audience.

But with a preponderance of content creators adding to the glut of information available online – many of whom have ulterior motives – the highly touted information age has instead become more of a “disinformation age.”

An epidemic of false and misleading information has spread rampantly online like a sickness becoming increasingly toxic in the past few years. Disinformation about COVID-19, the 2020 election results, the attempted insurrection, and vaccines top the list.

Unfortunately, too many people today mistake a Google search for research, giving undeserved mana to a search engine and, in the process, they fail to nānā i ke kumu – to carefully consider the source of the information they find.

Against an information landscape of lies and half-truths, it is increasingly important for us, as individuals and as a lāhui, to develop ʻike kūhohonu (insight).

In a world where too many people are lazy thinkers inclined to believe the person who talks the loudest or to count something as “fact” if it is repeated often enough, we are wise to seek ʻike kūhohonu in the silence of what is not said.

Our people must hold fast to the things we value and know to be true. Our ʻohana, our moʻomeheu and our ʻāina are real and tangible sources of wisdom and strength that can serve as puʻuhonua, a space where we can recalibrate emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.

Beloved Aunty Betty Jenkins, in her work at OHA and throughout the community, reminded us that hulu kūpuna, our precious elders, are vital to our wellbeing, the cornerstones of our social structure, and the transmitters of our culture. Our kūpuna are invaluable sources of wisdom, discernment and insight. As they do, we should listen carefully to what is being said and by whom. And then in the silence, consider the voice that is not speaking.

As we prepare to vote in the primary elections, we each have the kuleana to educate ourselves, to learn about the issues, and to carefully consider the character and qualities of the candidates asking for our votes.

In gathering information about the issues, we cannot simply accept what we read or hear at face value. As our kūpuna taught us to do, we must nānā i ke kumu. Examine the information presented and trace it back to its source. Consider the writer or speaker and their motives. Can the information be corroborated or confirmed by others? This takes effort. It takes time. But only when we find the root, can we determine whether the fruit is good.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer