Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
The Fourth Week of Trump – Post Factual
It is not new.
We did not suddenly arrive at this place, a place where facts, truth, logic, and reason do not matter. Rational discourse has been under assault for decades, centuries.
It is not new.
When Benjamin franklin invented the lightening rod, allowing a building or structure to be grounded, and thus safe from a lightening strike, his invention was met with wide spread criticism among those who believed that lightening strikes were a manifestation of the will of God. When a home was struck by lightening, catching fire, and destroying it, it was commonly believed that the family who lived in the house, or the owner, that someone was being punished by God for some sinful behavior.
People were encouraged by the church and its ministers to not follow after Benjamin Franklin into the trap of Atheism, by installing a lightening rod in their home as an effort to thwart the will of God.
Anti-rationalism, anti-intellectualism, these things are not new.
I grew up in the latter half of the twentieth century. I was thirty-one years old at the turn of the millennium. I am a product of the modernism; evolutionary biology, genetics, physics, the sciences that decoded DNA, that split the atom, send spacecraft to other planets and beyond the solar system, are the same sciences that not only tell me that the climate is changing (I could rely on my own experience for this) they tell me why it is changing.
Twenty-first century America relies on our understanding of these sciences for nearly every aspect of our daily life. These sciences govern our entire economy, from the lending patterns of banks, to the point of sale transaction at my local coffee shop. From big agriculture, to independent farms, they rely on the same sciences to bring the crops in and push the monies around the globe.
We live in a time when we rely on these things, but most people are not required to understand it all. The technology is so easy that for most people it may as well be magic.
It is in this time of blissful ignorance that we have arrived at a place where individual Americans are not only free to, but are encouraged to live in a world that is free from facts. What is different now from the time of Benjamin Franklin is that this brave new world is celebrated.
A Donald Trump surrogate this week cynically proclaimed that facts do not matter. What matters is what people believe.
Of course, this has always been true. It is nothing new. But there is something different; the paradigm until now has been to trade on the misconceptions of the masses to curry political favor with them, understand their contrafactual beliefs and use them to your advantage. The new paradigm is to control those contrafactuals, shape them, abandon any pretension to truthfulness, and to do it boldly.
Here we are.
We have arrived at a place where we have realized the logical extension of the philosophical movement known as Relativism. Shamefully, this movement did not begin with the right wing of American politics and culture. It was initially promulgated by leftist intellectuals, anthropologists, and philosophers. The basic premise is that: each individual person has their own reality, their own truth, that there is nothing universalizable. At its inception, it was used as a means of defending new and different ways of thinking against traditionalism, against people who could not articulate a rational for the things they believed, but nevertheless insisted on social conformity. Now the power of this school of thought is being employed by a group of political actors who are entirely without scruples.
Here we are.
Up is down, right is left, 2 + 2 = (name the value). Nothing extrinsic to the individual matters, the only thing that matters is the fervency of their belief.
The great big bugaboo, Big Brother, did not bludgeon his way into power. He was welcomed in with the applause of crowds, in anticipation of a great new day for American manufacturing and jobs, where hats sold to them by their hero that were made in China.