I’m the kind of person who operates on facts. Frankly, I recognize that it’s irritating to people. People don’t like to be deflated by a request for facts when they’re all puffed up with righteous indignation. When a person is confident of a mic drop moment, the last thing they want is for someone to ask for more information. That’s especially true when all they’re doing is parroting something they heard on TV or the radio.
When one of my right-leaning friends posts something on Facebook that doesn’t ring true with me, my first move is to attempt to verify the claim by searching for corroboration on a mainstream news site or on a fact-checker site like Snopes.
We now live in a time where both sources are considered suspicious or untrustworthy by some. I’ve seen many references in online discussions to Snopes being a left-wing fake news site, and of course, the supposed bias of the “lame-stream” media (thanks to the eloquence of Sarah Palin) now gives people free reign to dismiss anything reported by them.
Only in this post-truth environment could someone like Donald Trump have risen to the highest office in the land. I’ve said frequently that Trump is like the drunk guy at the bar, railing about the idiots in Washington and offering supposed “common sense” solutions that necessarily need no fleshing out, no policy details, no plan for implementation … because they are just the rantings of the drunk guy at the bar. Now that guy has been elected President and he apparently thinks he can just keep tweeting out 140-character wisecracks and never has to actually govern.
Those were the words of Adolph Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, and one needn’t look beyond the right-wing reaction to the campaign and election of Barack Obama to find evidence that this is true. Donald Trump himself perpetuated the lie that Obama was not a citizen of the United States, to the point where lawsuits were filed to delegitimize his presidency, and he maintained that lie until it was no longer political expedient to do so.
“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
These words from New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to be hard to dispute. But no more. In the post-truth world, everyone feels entitled to their own facts.
For someone like me, who relies on facts in order to understand the world I live in, this is of profound concern. I have no idea how to operate in this world. It reminds me of the way someone once described an earthquake to me: The one thing you thought you could rely on, the ground beneath your feet, suddenly becomes unreliable.
Truth, apparently, is no longer reliable as a foundation for a position, because truth no longer has any authority.