Steve Herrick’s March 15 letter addressing the existential struggle we are having distinguishing fact from fiction, truth from lies and reasoned, unbiased analysis from partisan propaganda is timely. His focus is not only upon the general climate of doubt, mistrust and intentional dis-information that define our times, but he also is specifically critical of a recent commentary by Jon Sinton which he sees as full of Truthiness and possibly intentional misrepresentations.
My purpose here is not to bring peace between these well mannered combatants. These are intelligent seniors (like me!) who just happen to be on opposing sides of the political spectrum. Whether they are open to consideration of a different point of view is far from certain. Sinton’s commentaries are consistently liberal and a nice counterbalance to Captain Kelly’s years of forceful conservatism. Herrick also appears to be quite conservative. Both seem enamored with hyperbole and angst. I will return to their kerfuffle shortly.
Faux conservative commentator and brilliant satirist Steven Colbert introduced the concept of Truthiness more than a decade ago. He said with false conviction that gut feelings were superior to critical analysis and that reference books were elitist because books are all about facts and not the heart. Truth was now to be based more on intuition or perception regardless of logic, hard evidence or intellectual evaluation. The concept was well timed emerging during the Geoge W. Bush presidency. Bush, unfortunately, valued his gut instincts to a tragic fault. Does anyone remember Weapons of Mass Destruction, Mission Accomplished, disregarding warnings of a potential terrorist attack, Brownie you’re doing a great job or his dead wrong evaluation of Putin’s soul? I believe Bush was probably not lying. He wanted desperately to believe these things and willed them to be true. He was wrong.
This is not to say that only one major party has the Truthiness market cornered. Liberals seem to employ wishful thinking and often ignore evidence to the contrary if it conflicts with their utopian visions of a perfectly fair, colorblind world where everyone is equal or “should be” in every sense possible. Despite significant data which contradicts their foundational belief that government programs can cure the imperfections and unfairness they see in the world they persist in their quest and are often reckless with charges of insensitivity, intolerance, cruelty and even racism against those who oppose their world view.
Truthiness takes many forms and we seem to be leaving it far behind as more pernicious untruths are becoming commonplace. The Big Lie is now in full flower driven by political extremists, hatred, foreign malign stealth propaganda and an erosion of compromise without which democracy can not survive.
Qanon is a symptom of a country in decline where confirmation bias, hostility to the “other,” paranoia, a celebration of violence as a legitimate response to one’s grievances, extremism, politically biased media on both sides and an unwillingness for a growing number of adults to deal with the reality of a country evolving in directions they do not agree with or fear.
Thank you for your patience, if you are still with me. A complete dissection of the Herrick-Sinton debate is beyond my current level of stamina and interest. I will ignore the unresolvable climate change/fossil fuel food fight. However, two of Herrick’s complaints require comment.
The first is that Sinton failed to show evidence that the major hack dubbed SolarWinds which compromised the Pentagon, our intelligence agencies, nuclear plants and many Fortune 500 companies was the product of a Russian intelligence operation. I have not found any reliable source that does not place the blame on Russia including the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired at the time by arch conservative James Imhofe. Herrick is simply wrong.
The other complaint concerns the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Here Herrick appears to have embraced a revisionist view that the insurrection was really not such a big deal. He is echoing the Big Lie that this catastrophe was rather benign as “unarmed” patriots only killed one “cop” and the cops killed one unarmed military veteran. A quid pro quo,if you will. Such commentary is not only blind to reality it conforms to a portion of the Big Lie narrative that “there are good people on both sides” which Trump launched after Charlottesville. Over 150 Capitol and Metro police officers were injured by the “peaceful” protestors who were armed with any destructive object they could find or brought with them. Herrick is not only wrong he is “QAnon wrong”.
So goodbye Truthiness. Hello mindless propaganda and revisionist lies. You knew Trump was lying If his lips or his tweeting fingers were moving. Lying has become normalized as a weapon to prey upon a public vulnerable to conspiracy theories and hateful narratives to define the world they see. Where are the thoughtful adults?