Post-Truth American Elections

Professor Krugman, in a recent column in the New York Times, points out what finally may be seeping into the consciousness of many Americans at this point.

Simple truth in political assertions seems to be an endangered species.

Politicians, especially the far right conservatives and the Republican party, simply put together ads that are composed of whatever buzz words those putting the ads together have decided based on polls or ideology will cause the most visceral gut reaction in those who hear and see the ad, hopefully in a way to get them to vote for the candidate supported in the ad. Whether anything at all in the ad has a basis in fact has become irrelevant. In fact, the GOP has become expert at simply “creating reality”, as reportedly said most famously to Ron Suskind in in an interview he was doing of an aide to George W. Bush.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”[

Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush

As Krugman puts it:

Mitt Romney seems determined to rehabilitate Bush’s reputation, by running a campaign so dishonest that it makes Bush look like a model of truth-telling.

I mean, is there anything at all in Romney’s stump speech that’s true? It’s all based on attacking Obama for apologizing for America, which he didn’t, on making deep cuts in defense, which he also didn’t, and on being a radical redistributionist who wants equality of outcomes, which he isn’t. When the issue turns to jobs, Romney makes false assertions both about Obama’s record and about his own. I can’t find a single true assertion anywhere.

Untruths, Wholly Untrue, And Nothing But Untruths

How true this is, and how far the standards of American journalism have fallen in reporting the truth, was really brought home by a column a few days ago in the New York Times by its “Reader’s Representative”, Arthur Brisbane. The title of the column gives away how low the might have fallen: Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

Telling the truth is being a vigilante? Last I heard, a vigilante was someone who was self-appointed to undertake law enforcement without legal authority. So has telling the truth now become the illegitimate act of the lawless? Maybe that explains why progressive bloggers are so hated by the establishment and the right wing, for after all, one of the mottoes of the progressive blogosphere is, as Stephen Colbert put it, Reality has a liberal bias.

It is hard to find words to respond to his question, other than to point out to him that by even asking the question at all he is confirming what is the key criticism of contemporary American journalism, namely, it no longer does research, evaluation, and reporting that distinguishes between truth and falsehood, nor does it have the courage to label lies as such, even when they are blatant, and even when the reporter and the news organization knows they are lies.

Instead, American journalists have become willing supplicants at the tables of the powerful, reduced to mere stenographers and transcribers of their words, with never a critique, never a question of the authenticity of a statement. All must be fair and balanced, even when the journalist should certainly know that the “fair and balanced” opposing viewpoint they are quoting or whose representative they are giving air time to is either patently false or lying through their teeth.

This is for two reasons. The corporations that own the mainstream news media are deeply entrenched in and controlled by the same corporate oligarchy that now controls Congress and political discourse. And the reporters themselves know that if they question the truthfulness of statements, or criticize their political masters, they will instantly be cut off from all access to their sources, and to their participation in the power structure.

No one wants to NOT be invited to John McCain’s barbeques!

That is what American journalism has devolved into.

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

That approach is what one reader was getting at in a recent message to the public editor. […]

Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante? By ARTHUR S. BRISBANE

Comments were closed after 327, almost 100% intensely critical, negative comments were posted in response to Brisbane’s almost unbelievable question. The heat apparently became more than Brisbane could bear.

The top reader pick among the comments sums it up pretty well.

Jon Gallagher San Diego

I believe the many comments here that have an exasperated tone come from the fact that we live in an age where raw data is spewing forth in torrents, and tools to manage, interpret, and learn from that data are popping up all over the place.

Yet a major news outlet such as the New York Times does not use the simplest of these tools (searching the online versions of the president’s speeches for the word apologize or its synonyms) to check Mitt Romney’s major (sole?) criticism of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and find it invalid at best and fraudulent at worse.

The worst part is the opinion makers such as the Times are letting ignorance dominate the discussion. There is no valid argument against Evolution, nor is there anything but consensus among scientists about Global Climate Change. But doubt about both is beginning to dominate public opinion because there is an impression that “Both sides disagree” or “Opinions vary”. No, the truth is that the opinions of cranks and shills disagree with those of experts, and should be portrayed that way.

Newt Gingrich, whose Super Pac published an absolutely devastating movie exposing Mitt Romney and his actions with Bain Capital that destroyed American businesses, jobs, and the lives of American workers by the thousands, came under such intense criticism and fire from the rest of the GOP leadership that he is already trying to walk the movie back, claiming ironically enough that it is full of inaccuracies!

This is tragic irony if there ever were an example to illustrate the meaning of the term. For the first time in decades, a Republican (oh, sorry, the independent Super Pac with which Newt is NOT coordinating in any way, wink wink nudge nudge say no more), produces a massive political ad that in chilling and accurate depth tells the absolute truth about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. And for this, it is now being denounced, and demands for its withdrawal continue to swell from the GOP and the far right and the corporate oligarchy that has been exposed in the movie for what they are: enemies of the American people and American workers and American jobs and manufacturing, for whatever profit they can squeeze out for themselves as fast as possible.


Author: Ron