But when the president seeks to turn the Boy Scouts of America into his own brown-shirted Trump Youth Group with enough lies to put Joseph Goebbels to shame, when he seeks, with lies, to undermine public confidence in fundamental institutions of democracy like the news media, the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies, we feel compelled to slam shut the barbecue, crawl out of our yurts and scream into the wind.
Once Again Into the Breach It was more than seven years ago that we wrote:
Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.
A candidate couldn’t say one thing one day – like, for example, that they were opposed to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — and another thing another day – like they basically agree with an opponent who favors a path to citizenship. They’d be afraid of being called a liar in the papers, and that would actually matter.
But in the California governor’s race it now appears that we are witnessing the Death of Truth. From a cosmic perspective, this has come about because:
– The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically-sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.
– The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)
– It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.
All of this feeds the corrosive cynicism that infects our politics, demonstrated most visibly in low voter turnout. Even among those who vote, healthy skepticism is often supplanted with a smart-ass, know-it-all facile sophistication that assumes all politicians are liars (they’re not) and that everyone in public life only wants to do well (we still believe there are some who want to do good).
Cynicism, of course, breeds further alienation and disgust, causing a downward spiral of disengagement from the process, leaving voting (and caring) to the true-believing wing-nuts who are certain they know the truth because they read or watch it at one of the ideologically-determined web sites or stations that conclusively confirms their prior held beliefs.
Oh But We Were So Much Older Then That was then. Today, the mainstream media are working hard to expose the facts and even separate truth from falsehood, and Donald Trump, the Prevaricator in Chief, is so vile and mendacious that even Meg Whitman – who sparked our outrage back then – has, to her credit, emerged as an implacable critic.
We revisited the Death of Truth in September 2012, when the New York Times, in its news pages, called Mitt Romney out for lying, and again in March of 2016, when Trump was emerging on a multitude of mind-altering untruths.
What is so disturbing is that even with the news media continuously calling out the lies emanating from Trump and his malicious administration, the balance of power in Washington still has not shifted. And it won’t unless and until Republican members of Congress feel threatened by an imploding White House. Or the Democrats take back the House of Representatives and Trump is impeached for – at least – obstruction of justice.
What will happen when Trump, as he is bound to do because he is a criminal narcissist, fires Robert Mueller and pardons Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and anyone else he has to in order to shield himself from further exposure? How will Neil Gorsuch and the other Right Wing Supremes rule when Trump pardons himself? Will any facts matter?
Which is why we’d have been better off to stay on sabbatical.