I see this as fodder for a “great debate”, but it’s not the type of thing that posters in Great Debates seem to be looking for — i.e. it’s not calculated to provoke political outrage. So I guess it goes here.
Our culture has a strong bias against untruth. By that I mean that we tend to regard false belief, or lack of awareness, as an inherently degraded condition, irrespective of any particular harm it may cause. People argue violently about what is true, but they do not disagree that everyone should know the truth. This very board, with its motto of “Fighting Ignorance”, affirms this bedrock cultural value.
Consequently, popular psychology deems denial (the tendency to avoid perceiving uncomfortable realities) to be an evil. Denial must be punctured, shattered, or dissolved, we believe. Hard truths must be confronted and acknowledged. Comforting fictions must be stripped away, to save us from the darkness of ignorance.
This attitude ignores the fact that denial is a coping strategy, and often a very effective one. People avoid harsh truths because to do so makes them feel better; challenging their denial tends to make people feel worse. Feeling worse is suffering, and to cause suffering is to do harm. In other words, when the truth hurts, confronting people with the truth hurts people.
Now, there may be benefits to knowing certain truths, and the good of those benefits may outweigh the trauma of disillusionment, but I do not see why we should assume that this is always the case. Shouldn’t we be hesitant to combat denial, lest we wind up, in some cases, with all pain and no payoff?