Honesty: Expressing your feelings and opinions accurately.
Truth: Accurate representation of reality.
We mistake honesty for truth and we mistake earnestness for honesty.
It’s easy to fake honesty with earnestness. You just have to pump up the rhetorical words and gestures. Just say, “No, really! I mean it. I’m absolutely sure.” Gesticulate emphatically, raise your voice, or lower it, using your best condescending mansplaining or womansplaining tone. Make what you’re saying sound heartfelt or like it’s the product of judicious unbiased research. And those are just some of the many ways we have to sound honest when we’re not.
Such earnest fake honesty is easier for some of us, of course. There are professionals who make their living through fake honesty, whole professions that favor that talent—politics, for example (not statecraft, which is different from politics. Clinton was lousy at earnest fake honesty).
Earnestness is profitable because fake honesty distracts people from the pursuit of unprofitable truths. Fake honesty is especially profitable with the gullible and people who have the same emotions and opinions that the professionals fake.
Gullibility is largely a product of failing to notice the difference between honest opinion and truth. You may recognize the difference, but we’re all gullible in the company of people who share our honest opinions.
We’re much more likely to spot a fraud who disagrees with us than one who’s on the same page. We’re much more likely to notice that honesty and truth are different when someone’s honest opinion conflicts with ours; but when someone’s feelings and opinions are just like ours, we’re both in touch with the truth. How could we not be? We both agree? That’s a consensus!