Tom's Corner - Post-Truth Era
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Tom Van Howe is back in his corner tonight, and he says of all the things out of many that caught his eye of late is the newest word in the oxford dictionary: "post-truth."
A number of years ago, 10 to 15 maybe, while out to dinner with friends, my wife made the startling observation that the internet was the end of truth.
Met with skepticism all around the table, she said, "well, who knows what truth is anymore. Anybody with a computer can say whatever they want and pass off as fact what is really the absence of fact."
Ever since, the march toward that exact conclusion has been inexorable. The good ship "truth" is floundering, and may well be on the verge of sinking. We have entered a truly bewildering "post-truth era." And I don't know that anybody has a good notion of what to do about it.
I suppose I should have been more alarmed 14 years ago when President George W. Bush's political architect, Karl Rove, explained that journalists were passe, because they were a part of the reality-based community.
"It doesn't work like that anymore," he said. "We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."
I wrote it off as a bit of an Orwellian blip. Shouldn't have. The war between fact and fiction was already underway.
Now we know that in recent years, and certainly leading up to the election, there were internet purveyors of fake news. Just outright fabrications. Lies. Except they got passed around as hard truths.
Here's an example: the U.S. armed forces are going to hold a major military exercise in Texas. Don't be fooled. It's part of a President Barack Obama plot to take over the lone star state. Why? Nobody could say. But the advice--from people like actor Chuck Norris, no less--was grab your guns and prepare for battle.
Or: Obama intends to buy all the ammunition on the market to render our guns impotent. The lie circulated at least twice. And there was panicked buying of bullets each time.
Or: Senator Obama was behind the construction of the posh new Cook County Jail. Complete with photographs. It went on to indict President Obama of coddling criminals and giving them a better life than honest poor people could ever cobble together. Well. It was a jail. In Austria.
In a post-truth world, it's up to us to take literally everything we read with a grain of salt. We've got to ask ourselves questions. We've got a responsibility to do our own fact-checking.
During his presidential campaign President-elect Donald Trump made a lot of promises. Many of which he will not keep. Were they lies? Former Speaker Newt Gingrich says no. They were just good campaign vehicles.
An example: Trump promised early on to deport some 12 million illegal aliens back to Mexico. Forget there would be hotels and golf courses and restaurants closing all over the country, think instead about the enormity of the task at hand.
Assuming Trump will be a one-term president--because I think he will be--he'd have to track down and detain and ship back to Mexico roughly eight thousand people every day of every month of every year. Eight thousand a day. Think about it.
He has since mellowed on deportation.
He has no authority to appoint a special prosecutor to send Hillary Clinton to jail. It was a lie. We are not a banana republic.
Despite being a billionaire, he was able to pass himself off as a man of the people. Have you checked out his cabinet? Millionaires and billionaires all around. Political insiders all.
He still sends out midnight tweets that are as puzzling as a Rubik's Cube. I don't know if he has a clue or not.
All I'm saying, I guess, is that we've entered a strange Orwellian world where people in authority can minimize bogus campaign promises by calling them good campaign vehicles. And its up to us now to pay attention and stop being led by the nose.
I wish the new president well, because that would be great for all of us.
But this is no longer time to keep whistling past the graveyard.
In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.