Monday, January 23, 2017

Response to Gaslighting America

(See: Just Above Sunset: Gaslighting America)

“Alternative facts”? Really!

Okay, here’s an example of what might be called an “alternative fact”:
"Two plus two equals one hundred and fifty three.”
Which is about as true as anything else we’ve heard from the Trump administration in its first three days. In fact, just within the first half-hour of his presidency, up through the end of his incredibly goofy speech, Donald Trump had already earned a place as one of the worst presidents in America’s history. 

Admittedly, the Trump people said they wanted to change things when they came to Washington, and sure enough, one of the things they changed was, they did away with the tradition of trust there used to be that whatever the White House told us could be assumed to be true, at least until further investigation proved otherwise. 

I must confess, every time I see that superfluous Kellyanne Conway flash that used-car salesman smile of hers, and hear her condescendingly utter something like, “I really think everybody needs to take a step back, and take a very deep breath, and think about what their words are”, I want to climb inside the TV set and punch her in the mouth. In fact, I really think she, herself, "needs to take a step back, and take a very deep breath," and to just keep on going until she explodes.

That might take care of the news media’s dilemma on what to do whenever this brainless pop tart offers herself up as a guest. With her “alternative facts” bullshit and whatnot, she always offers up plenty of provocative entertainment and diversionary distraction, but don’t we already get more than enough of that from her boss? As far as I can tell, she adds nothing useful to the public discourse, and could be safely ignored by the talking head shows, if they’re willing to try. If she accidentally announces something important, I’m sure the administration will find a way of getting it to us.

Like Kevin Drum, I don’t want to be too critical of Chuck Todd’s questioning of Conway on Sunday, but I do think it would be better if he hadn’t spent so much time trying to pin her down on whether sending Sean Spicer out to nitpick on the size of the inauguration audience wasn't a waste of precious time, instead of focusing on the more important issue of whether this administration will continue to barrage the public with these so-called “alternative facts” — which is what most intelligent people often refer to as falsehoods, and maybe even, depending on the circumstances, outright lies!

But maybe we could quickly settle this by boning up on the terminology in the dictionary — which is not as easy as it sounds: 
true: in accordance with facts or reality 
false: not according with truth or fact; incorrect 
lie: an intentionally false statement; used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression 
fact: a thing that is indisputably the case; 
• (usu. facts) a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article; 
• (chiefly Law) the truth about events as opposed to interpretation
But who’s “reality”? And who’s “facts”? One problem with dictionary definitions is they make it all sound so “relativistic”, despite Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous reminder that "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Or else, for a slightly deeper dive, maybe we should look up “truth” in Wikipedia:
Many human activities depend upon the concept, where [truth’s] nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most (but not all) of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday life. 
Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself. Commonly, truth is viewed as the correspondence of language or thought to an independent reality, in what is sometimes called the correspondence theory of truth.
I think a corollary to all that is, quite simply, "Hey, you can’t make this stuff up!" Believe it or not, there are many opportunistic relativists among us who believe you can make stuff up and call it truth, simply because it suits them. Many of those people are called “conservatives". 

But one last thing that occurs to me, after seeing this and hearing about other columns lately that allude to Donald Trump's “Gaslighting of America”:

Given the habit of Donald Trump and his mini-me surrogates to turn any criticism back on his accusers — and also, given the fact that, once they get wind of it, all this recent “Gaslighting” talk will probably start giving them ideas — we all need to keep a sharp eye out for them starting to accuse the press itself of trying to “Gaslight America”, by us "falsely claiming" that he and his people don’t tell the truth!

And as I said before, you can’t make this stuff up, although I’m sure that won’t prevent them from trying.

No comments:

Post a Comment

(No trolls, please! As a rule of thumb, don't get any nastier in your comments than I do in my posts. Thanks.)