Value of Truth

Value of Truth

A serious and tragic casualty of the 2016 election is the possible death of Fact, as well as her close companion, Truth. Trump has no regard for facts and wants no one around him who does. He has no qualms about tweeting anything that pops into his head regardless of impact or veracity. He says whatever is expedient for him at the time, or worse, what amuses him or what he thinks will amuse and capture the attention of those who are taken in by his persona, regardless of accuracy or truth.

He surrounds himself with toadies who back him up. In a recent interview with Diane Rehm, Scottie Nell Hughes, a political correspondent and Trump supporter, drove a stake through the heart of truth. She announced to the entire listening audience that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.”

What matters now, Hughes suggested, is not whether something is true but instead how many people believe it to be true. Trump followers are happy to accept anything he tweets, but anyone who points out the falseness of what he says is accused of not telling the truth. In their upside down world, those who speak the truth are the liars, as opposed to those who are in fact telling the lies.

Here is a fact. Hughes is wrong. There is such a thing as fact, and fact is, Donald Trump lies, as when he put forward the absurd notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. Or when he claimed there was voter fraud in Virginia and New Hampshire when there is not a shred of evidence to support such a claim.  He takes the position that if he wins, there is no fraud, but when he loses, then there is fraud. He is not only a poor loser but also a poor winner.

Kellyanne Conway put it this way in an interview with  Mika Brzezinski, on "Morning Joe,” saying it is not really a lie when Trump says something untrue because he does not really know that what he is saying is not the truth. Perhaps he should find out before he starts tweeting in the middle of the night. It is an understatement to say that the press has been kind to Trump regarding some of the outrageous things he has said, but I think they finally realize they cannot continue doing that. When Trump says something that is patently untrue, it is the job of the press to call it out. Perhaps this is one reason Trump said he would like to limit freedom of the press. He has taken the position that journalists can say whatever they want and “get away with it” although this also is simply not true and why some people fear that we might well turn into a fascist state.

This begs the question of whether or not truth matters. The answer is of course it does. Lies and this fake news have serious consequences. How is it possible that citizens in the United States, who have presumably benefitted by our educational system, are unable to discriminate between real news and fake news.

Case in point is the person who recently stormed a pizza place after reading a false news report that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from a pizza parlor. Who in the world with anything that even resembles a brain would think such a ridiculous proposition could be true. And beyond that, what kind of  person takes it upon himself to go and investigate such nonsense and brings a gun to boot? It is not only staggering to imagine such idiocy in the American populace but also downright frightening that people are acting on false news.

It is not just the truth that has been compromised. Civilized behavior and respect for others have been kicked to the side of the road as well. Kellyanne Conway says that since Trump is the president-elect whatever he does is presidential behavior. I don’t recall her saying anything like that when Mr. Clinton was president. She goes even further when she says that, “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.”

Lewandowski, the quintessential yes-man, blames the press for making his boss look bad. He said “You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally.” I remember a past student who in a moment of frustration said “Don’t listen to what I say, listen to what I mean.” It really does not work that way. You had better mean what you say and be clear about it especially when speaking to the press. Their job is to report what you say, not to try to figure out what you might have meant.

This is a call to action. When you hear a false statement, say so and back it up. Truth is not something achieved through popular opinion. Truth is supported by reality. Facts are in fact verifiable. One cannot toss out a statement without evidence to back it up and expect that people will accept it as truth. It is imperative that we name this and stand up for truth, for facts, for the essential value of knowledge. This is our civic duty as citizens.  We must do this because if this nonsense persists, we will most surely fall into a period of dark ages where lies, ignorance and superstition become reality.

Truth will need our support over the next couple of years. Truth needs us to counter false statements, and false news put out by those who seek to plant poisonous seeds which will grow into movements that will undermine the very values that make the United States the country that it is, the country our forefathers intended. Those who deny truth under the guise of patriotism are those seeking to destroy it. Without our courage to stand up to this assault, we will not be able to blame only Trump and his cabinet of incompetents but also ourselves for not speaking out should things go sideways. The only way to maintain our essential humanity and the integrity of our souls is to speak truth, based in fact. This takes courage and effort but this country is worth it. We cannot let Truth down.

Posted on 16 Dec 2016, 12:04 - Category: Politics

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