The Truth is Out There - Somewhere... Author: BobRDate:2018-02-22 12:00:00
"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." - Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects
There's a saying we on the left have used in the past that goes: "You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts". The notion is that truth is absolute, despite one's political leanings. It seems like decades ago when TV news programs and newspapers reported facts, and that was what the general populace used to formulate their opinions. There were ideological differences as to what those facts meant, but everyone started with the same base set of information.
Sure, there were paranoid conspiracy peddlers, distributing leaflets looking like they were hastily printed in a college dorm, or broadcasting on late night AM stations. They were considered amusing entertainment by most.
That all seems so quaint.
We were already on a precipitous edge when tRump came crashing on the scene, bringing his used car salesman bluster yelling "Fake news!", and bolstered by a fine-tuned Russian propaganda machine using the internet. They muddied the waters to the extent that truth is not only no longer absolute - it's nearly indiscernible from all the noise posing as news and fact-based reporting.
It began with what Stephen Colbert labeled "truthiness" - the opinion-based discussions that pose as reporting on all of the cable news channels. "Hard" news is almost non-existent. Newspapers still carry a certain weight, because they are subject to libel. Those who disagree with the facts (or how they are presented), however, can simply find another outlet - reliable or not - online to provide them confirmation bias for their preconceived notions. It's legitimizing and giving steroids to the paranoid conspiracy theories that once provoked bemusement.
This is the world we live in, where no one can really know what is truth and what isn't. This was presented beautifully in a recent episode of the "X-Files". The entire episode is a bit silly, but this scene is perfection - all 4 1/2 minutes of it:
Even if you are not an "X-Files" fan, I highly recommend seeking out this episode (episode title: "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat") and watching it (Hulu or YouTube - you can find it; the Video Is Out There . The tRump-mocking scene at the end is hysterical).
The Russians meddling in our election is overt cyber-terrorism. However, what they and tRump have done is far more insidious and dangerous - they have made it extremely difficult (if not impossible in some cases) to separate truth from fiction and opinion. Memes with statistics that are completely made up go viral before the fact-checkers can shoot them down, and the fact-checking does not generally have the same infectious power as a post that reinforces one's beliefs. Even the fact-checkers themselves are looked upon as "fake news", so compelling is the propaganda.
This is a dangerous world we live in. The internet has become the "freedom of the press" guaranteed for all, but I see the damage it's done and wonder whether equal access is always such a good idea. The Truth is Out There - and it's drowning.