Monday, December 28, 2015


Like lying—only better

Perhaps you have heard we are now living in a “post-truth” era, but it hasn't disturbed you too much because it's merely a manifestation of the low quality of today's politicians. Sure, Donald Trump spouts random nonsense all the time, but he's as undisciplined as a spoiled toddler, so no one is surprised. Carly Fiorina is, by contrast, a conscious liar, but she's an unimportant fringe candidate without credibility, so who cares? Ben Carson's relationship with truth seems pretty strained, but he's always a little spaced-out and detached from reality; besides, his star is fading.

I could go on in this vein, but I think the problem is worse than a simple matter of our candidates being worse than usual during this unfortunately prolonged election season. (It's not even election year yet, dammit!) The post-truth virus is spreading among us. I've seen this post-truth attitude affecting mere mortals, too. People I used to know as classmates, back when they seemed sane and responsible, are in its grip.

One of them posted an inanely patriotic meme from a website she follows. She was sharing a Facebook post:

It was clearly a specious quotation: “When government takes away citizens' right to bear arms it becomes citzens' duty to take away government's right to govern.” How could anyone take seriously a claim that George Washington ever sounded like a spokesperson for the NRA? I looked it up, verified it was false, and let her know with a simple declarative statement:
These words were never spoken or written by George Washington.
She soon replied with a charming lack of concern:
Ah, but they are so true!
I thought she was missing the point:
I think false attributions should be discouraged. Mainly because they're false.
She remained serenely unfazed:
But truer words were neer spoken, no matter by whom.
See? True or not, it doesn't matter. The fundamental lie at the heart of the statement is irrelevant because she agrees with the statement. We have a problem.

And that's the truth!


Kathie said...

Would she feel the same if she were on the receiving end of such a falsehood?

Kathie said...

Presumably she won't recognize PolitiFact as a reliable source, being that they're a Pulitzer Prize, but...

"...We contacted Edward Lengel, editor in chief of the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia. He said 'there is no evidence that Washington ever wrote or said these words, or any like them.' Lengel cautioned that it’s impossible to prove a negative, but he added that he’s ; as certain as he can be' that the quote did not originate from George Washington...

"The closest statement [that PoltiFactTexas] could find was one Washington made in his first State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1790: 'A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined...'

"The academic consensus is that Washington was referring to a trained militia to defend the new nation, rather than anticipating citizens seeking to head off perceived governmental tyranny..."

Kathie said...

Erratum: Pulitzer Prize winner.

Steve Watson said...

I don't know that this is a new phenomenon (though the current Repubs and their fans seem to be pushing the envelope. Harper & Co. were doing it a bit, too, shortly before we turfed them from office back in October). A few years ago I was arguing with a local guy who'd "invented" a perpetual motion machine. When I pointed out that his claims violated fundamental physical laws, he replied "Well that's my opinion, and I'm entitled to my opinion!"

Gene O'Pedia said...

If we're wondering just how post we are in terms of truthiness, need I mention Lance Armstrong? The 2000 election? The war in Iraq? Enron? Yes, the truth has become irrelevant, or maybe it's become simply relative to whoever wants to create a truth.

Oh, and how about Bill Cosby? Yeah, if it turns out this American icon is the dastardly fiend so many claim he is, well, I'm ready to hang up on this century.

Kathie said...

Now the Trump campaign is fobbing off video of people rushing from Morocco into Spain as migrants racing across the border from Mexico the the US:

Their justification, upon being caught in a lie, is that this is what could happen at our southern border (never mind that there are already walls on the Morocco-Spain border). Truthiness, indeed!