Thursday, December 29, 2016

Post fact

I remember a particularly nasty moment during the 2012 election. At least, it was nasty for me. I shared a quote supporting President Obama and the conservative faction of my family did take well. Too young to realize my mistake, I watched as the comments spiraled out of control with assertions of an adherence to Islam. Watching the discussion grow increasingly racist and angry (the latter on both sides) I had a moment of sadness to see that people I has always seen as good and loving were showing a much uglier side of their personality.
I quickly deleted the post and thought I could just let it lie. Just some people learning to use the Internet and a lot of buried prejudice. 2016 proved me wrong. Because 2016 has sucked. We've lost artists like David Bowie, Prince, Phife Dawg, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. Still, the death I will mourn for years to come has been fact. I'm not sure facts exist anymore.
Of course I mean that in a metaphorical sense, 1+1=2, I live in the United States of America, and tea is made from leaves. Those facts were and remain true. But the truth is becoming politicized. This country just elected the largest proponent of the Birther myth. When confronted about his proclamations of (racist) lies against the president he made a claim that Clinton started it. His evidence? A story with no backing. That is becoming acceptable. There is no evidence for that claim, but Trump's supporters proselytized it none the less. This trust has gone on to pose a greater threat.
Votes and numbers are the definition of objective. There is no arguing that 7 is larger than 3, that is a fundamental truth to the world, but we aren't seeing that right now. I am not challenging that Trump legitimately won the election, by the rules, he did. But he lost the popular vote. That is numerical fact. But he still claims that is not the case because evidently a large amount of votes were cast illegally. There is absolutely no grounds for this. There has never been any evidence of large scale fraudulent voting in this country, but the only account I can think of from this election was a woman from Des Moines trying to vote for Trump twice. Beyond that there is nothing to account for a gap of three million votes. The truth is that he lost the popular vote by a significant amount, but that doesn't seem to matter. Once again, his supporters believe what he says.
I don't think this willingness to go with false information is new, nor is it exclusive to the other side of the aisle. Psychological phenomena such as conformation bias show that we are all easily susceptible to lies that would confirm our current beliefs. That holds true regardless of opinions, beliefs, intelligence, and basically every other factor that makes someone an individual. I'd site the Red Scare and the associated blacklistings throughout Hollywood as examples of people of every sort going crazy when they heard scary, albeit false, stories about a scary force creeping into the country. The problem is that it is getting ever easier to foul the country.
To any Republicans who have made it this far, know that I truly do respect you, your opinions, and your party as a whole, but Trump has made himself a really easy target here. He would tweet statistics and graphs from made up institutions. And that spread fake information from a seemingly legitimate source. I've written before about how fake news can look real, but in the McCarthy era, people got their news from verifiable newspapers, radio, and television programs. To make any of these required significant financial investments, technical know-how, and people to stake their names that they were telling the truth. Sure, yellow journalism was a real problem, but it was minor at most. Now, anyone can say anything and make it look just as legitimate as The New York Times.
Since the Red Scare, the Republican Party has always prided itself on its patriotism and the perceived disloyalty of the pinko Democrats to the Republic. Where Republicans criticize my party for political correctness, I would observe a devotion to patriotic correctness. Any information that might propose something that suggests a flaw in belief of what America is needs to be destroyed. That bias is hurting us. Information no longer needs to be correct to be suggested, so, do we really have fact any more?

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