Living in post-truth America

At the beginning of this season of commercialism on steroids, I often become cynical about our world. This year I am not feeling alone in this impulse. Why not ask the Chinese youth who are feeling drawn to the “lying flat” movement? Everything I surround myself with suggests that our future is grim and getting grimmer. After observing the complete naivete and gullibility of the American public when it comes to politics and after watching the film “Truth” (2005) this morning, I feel certain that the ‘truth may be out there,’ but it has no chance of revealing itself in today’s world.

As a lifelong purveyor of the wisdom of searching out the truth through extensive research and critical thinking, the stupidity of believing “it must be true, I read it on the Internet” may well be the end of everything I value in our world. The film “Truth” gives some much needed insight into the beginning of end of ‘truth’ here. This story is a microcosm of the loss of critical thinking in our world today.

In 2004, Mary Mapes, a CBS producer and a number of reporters began to research the truth behind President George W. Bush’s military service in the early 1970s. This story eventually ended up on CBS 60 Minutes. The story suggested that, thanks to help from his father’s friends, Bush was able to sign up for the Texas Air National Guard rather than serve in the Vietnam War. Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes admitted that, in addition to Bush, he’s also helped the children of several other influential Texans to avoid service in Vietnam.

The CBS story was supported by documents purported to be from the files of Bush’s commanding officer, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B Killian. Immediately after the story aired, it was the subject of harsh criticism from truth-tellers like Rush Limbaugh and bloggers who created an immediate smear campaign, attacking the authenticity of the documents. Allies of Bush claimed that the story showed media bias. The Killian documents were reportedly found to be forged. Mary Mapes was fired from CBS. Dan Rather stepped down as CBS anchor after 40 years there.

Later, Mapes said Karl Rove was “an inspirational figure” in the criticism of the 60 Minutes segment. Rove called Mapes’ work “the gift that keeps on giving” due to the story’s “lurid foundations” and the boost it gave to President Bush during his reelection campaign. But some Bush critics suggested that the memos originated from the Bush campaign with the purpose of discrediting the media for revealing Bush’s National Guard service as a giant distract to change the conversation from subjects like the unpopular Iraq War.

Do you see the beginnings of future distraction campaigns and media manipulation? Why bother finding out the truth about any situation? Just decide what you want the “truth” to be and then repeat it millions of times on TV, radio and the Internet. Truth or reality is not useful or even important anymore.

Tellingly, a few days after Trump’s election, the Oxford Dictionaries announced that “post-truth” had been chosen as the 2016 word of the year, defining it as a condition “in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Do you smell the end of democracy in these changes, because I do, and soon! I see it as laziness plain and simple. Why spend all of that time researching something when you can just grab anything off the Internet and believe it’s true? And BTW, if your truth does not match that of others, you may be severely punished. Mary Mapes was constantly threatened after that 60 Minutes story broke in 2004. Bring on the brown shirts, a “Nazi paramilitary organization whose methods of violent intimidation played a key role in Hitler’s rise to power.” —