12/18/16 – By Gregory Franklyn
On November 9th we, here in the US, woke up to a new world whether we realized it or not. This new world is dramatically different than the world we lived in just two days before. In this new world, many things we have known to be true, are no longer so. Truth, for example. Truth is not that same thing it was last week. This week it is being described as “Post Truth” meaning, I guess, “Beyond Truth” or “After Truth”, and I admit some confusion about it. However, Donald Trump is a practitioner of “Post Truth” according to political analysts and pundits on TV.
Here’s what I know. Donald Trump says things that do NOT dovetail with reality as we know it, on a 3 to 1 basis. He has actually been clocked by, among others, Politifact.com. Whose job it is to fact-check what politicians and prominent people say. He clocks in at around 3 things that are NOT true to every 1 thing he says that IS. So, Roughly 75% of what Donald Trump says is based in some other reality.
This reminds me of the Bush/Cheney Regime. One of the principles guiding that Regime was that you can create your own reality by occurring in the world as if your viewpoint was accepted fact, regardless of whether it matches anyone else’s reality or not. In a sense, you can materialize your own reality into manifestation by force of will, or your use of language.
But this Conservative Republican ideal is nothing new. It goes back as far as Richard Nixon, that I know of. You’ll remember that Nixon resigned from the Presidency in shame for having broken a substantial handful of laws, including illegal wiretapping, bribery and burglary. As time passed, he was approached by British Journalist David Frost to do a series of interviews and he agreed to do it. President Nixon, in one of those interviews, absolutely blew the world’s mind when he admitted that he believed that, “If the President does it, it’s NOT illegal!” This was Nixon’s “Post Truth” in that he was willing into existence the concept that the Presidency IS the Law, rather than subject to it. You’ll be seeing more of this as the Trump Administration slowly materializes.
There are a couple of things that are going on here. 1st is the war going on between sophistication and Down Home Folksiness. Intelligence is seen as threatening/untrustworthy to people who feel like they don’t have it. The election pointed this out pretty clearly in 2016. When looking at voting precincts, those in urban areas went for Hillary and precincts in rural areas went for Trump. It has been like that in the last several elections. People in urban areas have more access to the types of things that would enhance intelligence and sophistication like higher education institutions, arts galleries, music venues, Libraries, museums, live theater, opera, orchestras and ballet. Some rural areas also have some of these amenities, but not all of them and not to the extent found in more urban settings.
Donald Trump is in the anti-intelligence demographic. He has publicly professed his love for the Uneducated. Here’s a quote from a speech in Nevada during the election:
“We won the evangelicals,” Trump said. “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”
That was a dog whistle to people who disdain education, who mistrust it. People who believe that sophistication is just people thinking they’re better than everyone else. That’s a complaint I get a lot in my life because I speak English as if I had paid attention in class. I was under the impression that I was SUPPOSED to pay attention in class, and now I guess I’m on an ego trip because I did? I know there are a lot of people in the US who are not white who will recognize that statement and it’s a tragedy.
Rather than support people who are educated, many want to bring them down to a less educated level for a variety of reasons. Some of it is ego. Isaac Asimov once said:
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
It isn’t, of course, but that should not be the measure of the value of a person. It is, however, a measure of a person’s worth when it is used as a weapon, rather than an inspiration. This very common idea is part of the cornucopia of reasons we are facing 4-8 years of Donald Trump. He is seem as a “Regular Guy” despite being a member of a special class of Americans who exist in a world to which precious few ever get admitted. His “Regular Guy” image is based on his use of language and it is an illusion.
This is all part of a conglomerated monolith of “Post Truth”. One of the most powerful individuals pushing “Post Truth” is a Conservative Operative named Frank Luntz. Luntz is a linguist that conults for the Republican Party. He helps them change the language used in politics to create a new reality based on a vision of the United States favored by republicans.
For example, when you hear ANY Republican talk about business, they always use the same word preceding it, and I mean ALWAYS! They use “Small Business” as if it were one word. That creates the illusion that they are talking about Bob & Alice’s Tavern, or the Maple Leaf Cafe. Those are small businesses. They are actually talking about “Big Business”, the multinational corporations that run the world right now. And, their use of it is SO consistent that even MSNBC and CNN routinely use it now.
Another good example is what is ecologically happening to the planet right now, and this is an especially slick one. The Scientific Community refers to is as Global Warming. Republicans only use that term when they are denying it’s existence. “Just look outside we are experiencing the coldest winter temperatures ever recorded this year. Where is this “Global Warming” you speak of?” But when they are talking about it as something that DOES exist you will hear them use the term “Climate Change”, which sounds a lot less like what is actually happening than the more accurate term used by scientists. This is all “Post Truth” and we, in the US, are DEEP in it. If you hear enough people say it enough times, you can make people believe it’s true, even though it is clearly NOT. Most of these language changes can be traced back to Frank Luntz.
Aaron Sorkin, in his TV series “The NewsRoom” had a couple of his characters arguing about what’s true in TV journalism. Will McAvoy, the anchor of the News Program the show is about, said:
“People get to choose their own facts, now!”
That’s the territory of “Post Truth” where we are, now.
Conservatives aren’t the only ones who do it though. Liberals and progressives no longer use the term, “Illegal Aliens” to describe people who enter the country illegally. The new term is “Undocumented Workers”. See what just happened. The question of legality, just vanished. Entry into the US without proper documentation is no longer a matter of what is LEGAL. Poof, It’s gone. Now we’re having a different discussion. The end result of these changes in our use of language is that we are creating New lies to cover up the truth as we had previously come to know it.
This is has all been growing slowly into our use of language for a long time. Since about the time of the Nixon Administration where we began to let politicians change the language we use to describe issues we face, based on their own political world view. In its earlier incarnation, we called it “California Speak”. Now, we are living in a New Reality where we have moved beyond truth into something else. WHAT that “Something Else” will be, will eventually be decided by whomever wins the fight to inject into our common use of language, the terms that we use to describe it. Like “Post Truth” for example.
I leave you with this little sound byte most commonly attributed to President Abraham Lincoln:
“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”