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post truth

We are officially in the era of post truth; the period which celebrates falsehoods and where faithful adherers to a cause do not wince when they are stated. The point is to have them work and fulfill their purpose.

Objective truth exists of course, but in the arena of the humanities it is easy to bend intent and purpose and have them mean what you want. We can interpret an action or an utterance by a politician as we wish and have no one be able to debate us with enough convincing counterpunching to topple our belief system.

Lying used to be something politicians always did but it was bending meaning instead of actual events. But with the advent of this presidency we have had crowd sizes exaggerated and statistics invented which are easily fact checked and yet the faithful don’t care. They have found a messiah to believe in and will forgive the exaggerations as tactical bluster.

Post truth is scary because in the echo chamber era of the internet people can be manipulated in ways we never dreamed possible. You have at your disposal your own media outlet with sycophantic reporters who do your bidding and pass on your political message to an audience eager to hear it and who can’t (or won’t) be bothered to fact check you; because they desperately want to believe you.

The Trumps and Putins of this world know this of course. The former is an imbecile while the latter is a cunning and deceitful manipulator but they arrive at the same finish line. They can say and do as they please until something or someone catches up to them. The difference today is that a beacon of democracy like the United States has been proven to be susceptible to autocratic rule and, without those razor thin checks and balances, it could be easy to enter those dangerous waters we thought they would never face.
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  1. I think the post truth era began on Sept. 11, 2001. The George W. Bush, already having ascended to the White House through shady voter purges and pursuading the Supreme Court to order Florida to stop counting ballots and certify his “victory,” hired a team of liars so brazen they would literally deny saying what their interviewers just showed them saying on tape. And it didn’t matter. Once Americans - who cherish the right to remain ignorant more than any enumerated in the Constitution - saw their homeland was vulnerable to attack by the foreign outside world, they were ready for the post truth age to begin. To this day, many persist in the belief that Saddam Hussein toppled the Twin Towers, and that even if he didn’t, he was Muslim, so he did it anyway. Their left wing counterparts persist in the belief that the Bush Administration itself committed the attack, and though their language is not “faith based,” their pseudoscientific reasoning might as well be.

    Having grown up in the 1970s in a Jewish household, I was warned of what happened to my extended family just one generation back in Europe. But strangely, “It can’t happen here [America]” was an oft-repeated phrase. I began to study politics early in life, fascinated by human relations, and proudly encouraged by my grandfather, who would no doubt have had his life ended in an oven or a gas chamber had his parents not serendipitously left Germany when they did. And in my young adult life, I worked in professional politics. I soon became a thorn in my family’s side.

    “What in the world makes you think it can’t happen here?” I intruded on family dinners. There wasn’t much of an answer besides the desperate need to believe that to be true. Oh, sure, they could spout about how the checks and balances work in theory, but I always had uncomfortable retorts. It even revealed a xenophobia and racism within my family as cousins and aunts would say that only Germans were that evil, not Americans.

    I witnessed the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 with my own eyes. I stood near my apartment by Grand Central Station, wondering whether my local landmark was next. It wasn’t. Thankfully. But I Knew everything had just changed, especially with the dolt who was ostensibly in charge of the executive branch. The news became rife with Orwellian doublespeak; emotions governed and cooler heads did not prevail. We were discouraged to fear only fear itself, and to believe what we felt we needed to. And even as those who cling to objectivity spoke as loudly as they could, the inmates were re-elected in 2004 by scapegoating gay people, and putting anti-gay marriage amendments on ballots in almost half the states.

    American institutions have been strong. They have helped to prevent the outright atrocities that have happened elsewhere (you know, if you don’t count the endlavement of an entire race of people and the virtual obliteration of another native to the continent). But their foundation has been steadily eroding, especially as corporate control over them has wormed its way through our governmental apple.

    Sentiments of white supremacy have been steadily eroding as well, but they are restoring themselves faster than the rest of us are refurbishing our system of government.

    I feel like I have been warning that it can happen here my entire adult life. As a trans person of Jewish descent I have always felt particularly vulnerable, only moreso when those of similar lineages scoffed at me. If there is any saving grace, it’s that I’m no longer being scoffed at. Which is good because it’s not too late.

    May peace and love prevail.

  2. No it is not too late and you are correct to point to the ascension of Dubbya as a precursor to this even worse one. He got in using Karl Rove's antics nd then after 9/11 proceeded to suspend civil liberties. Valerie Plame's unmasking wasn't far behind and let's not forget Abu Graib or Gunatanamo Bay. Without this first one Trump would have had it harder. Manipulation of public opinion had a big hand to play in that presidency.


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