Friday, December 02, 2016
Our post-truth world
I don't want to think it was always this way, but maybe it was. I'm enough of a Calvinist to believe that even our fanciest duds are filthy rags--and that the only way we wash up clean is an eternal love far beyond our means and grasp, a God of grace who stoops to conquer.
Maybe it was always this way. Could be. Think about it: what was going on in Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago had Pilot's head spinning. "What is truth?" he asked Jesus. Ever wonder what tone of voice he used? Was he pleading? sincere? I don't think so. I think he was exasperated. That overheated crowd of choleric Jews outside his window made no sense. "What the heck is truth anyway?" he might well have intoned. "Sheesh."
Maybe lying is a constant we've always lived with. I'll buy that.
But it sure seems that right now there's more of it.
After all, the people who create Oxford dictionaries determined that their Word-of-the-Year this year is the hyphenated rookie "post truth," an adjective to which they've given this meaning: "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."
This year, they say, that yearling word created a life all its own.
Now to those of you who believe that what I'm saying is just the prelude to some "dump Trump" effort, Oxford had more in mind, specifically a 2000% rise in the use of that word "in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom." They also mentioned the U. S. Presidential sweepstakes.
Hillary's about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreements, supporting them as models for opening markets around the world before the primaries, then doubling back and stomping on them once she realized Bernie was painfully close to taking out her achilles tendons--that's vintage post-truth too.
And what are we to make of former Presidential candidate Mitt Romeny. Just six weeks ago, Donald Trump was "a sniveling coward," and "a serial philanderer" as "entertainer-in chief." Little more than a month ago, he was "a con-man"; yesterday, Trump was the man who can lead America "to a better future."
But the President-elect himself is Prime Minister of the post-truth world. After the election he tweeted that millions of people in this country voted illegally--millions. When all kinds of people, Republican and Democrat, laid bare the silliness of that claim, his staff put out a 42-page catalog of facts that proved nothing at all but supposedly documented the truth of his word. It failed. Our President-to-be flat-out lied.
Maybe you've seen the CNN segment in which Allison Camerota asks a gallery of long-time Trump supporters about the election. Incredibly, they simply repeat the President-Elect's allegations, convinced they're right--millions of people in this country having voted illegally, all of them, one would suppose, for Hillary. When Ms. Camerota asks them where they heard it, they said, simply, "the media."
And when they insist President Obama had deliberately and specifically instructed undocumented workers to go to the polls and vote, the CNN panel claimed they discovered that he did it on-line.
Allison Camerota couldn't believe it. "Where?" she said.
"Just google it," one of them insisted.
This old Calvinist finds that scary.
Yesterday, one of the President-Elect's long-time surrogates told a panel on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show that there's a whole new world order right now: “One thing that’s been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts. They’re not really facts,” Scottie Nell Hughes said. “It’s kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”
I guess that's the brave new world.
What the heck is truth anyway, right?
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:01 AM