Resolving the Quandary
Yesterday I posed the following question:
Let's say something happened which caused many, many people to feel greatly inspired and happy. (No further effects beyond that.) And let's say one were to find out that it didn't actually happen, or that it actually happened in a way that wasn't so inspirational. Should one tell people?
The question wasn't theoretical; it was regard to something that actually happened recently. It received an enormous amount of responses, on the blog and especially on Facebook.
Some people didn't even appreciate the question. They said that truth is obviously the most important thing, and that's that.
Personally, I disagree strongly with that approach. Certainly within classical Judaism, truth is not the most important value (there's a long out-of-print book by my cousin's cousin, called Lying for Truth, which discusses that). And if one is talking from a non-religious perspective, who's to say that truth is more important than happiness and inspiration?
Other people said that it's more complicated, and there are all kinds of different factors to consider. For example, if it's something that is part of religious faith, then discrediting it has all kinds of effects to consider. I tried to preempt that in the way that I phrased the question, when I wrote that in this case there are no further effects to consider.
Eventually, after reading the comments and thinking the matter through further, I came to the following realization: There is no such question. That is to say, there is no real-life scenario in which one is choosing simply between inspiration/happiness and truth. There are always going to be further ramifications. Sometimes even disillusionment can have positive effects, as well as negative effects.
In the particular situation that I was thinking of, there are certainly ramifications. Right now, people are feeling inspired and happy about a certain event, in several different aspects. If I reveal certain truths about the event, one of those aspects will be blown out of the water. But on reflection, I think it's an aspect that deserves to be negated. On the other hand, other aspects, which still deserve to be a source of inspiration, will naturally suffer a hit. Yet at the same time, I think that I can provide a report of another event which will provide comparable inspiration. All things considered, I am leaning towards it. But I haven't reached a final decision yet.