The state of our political discourse has been getting worse for years, but the Trump administration brought our nation’s political discourse to a new low, father from what the “community of inquirers agrees to be true.”
Here are three data points to help you assess the level of risk to our democracy in the current disregard for the truth.
- Definition: Lying
- Little Lies, Pave the Way to Big Lies
- Lies Ledger
Data Point #1: Merriam-Webster defines “lying”
Data Point #2: Neuroscience Research on Small Lies Desensitizing Speaker to Bigger Lies
NPR’s Morning Edition “Hidden Brain” segment summarized recent research as follows:
“With repeated lies, the brain becomes less and less sensitive to dishonesty, supporting ever larger acts of dishonesty. “
Data Point #3: The New York Times Lies Ledger of our President:
We may be a step function farther away from truth, as it was maligned in the Bush Administration’s attempt to mask their failures in Afghanistan and Iraq with, what Steve Colbert called, “truthiness”, when KellyAnne Conway argues for “alternative facts”.
(see the bottom of this post for a transcript).
This isn’t new, but a larger trend in western liberal democracies. Politicians have long used appeals to voter emotions to short-circuit voter rationality. Perhaps it is just the brazenness with which they admit to doing this that is shocking.
“Never apologize,” [Aaron Banks, Brexit leader] said he had told Mr. Trump. “Facts are white noise,” and “emotions rule.” – [Quoted in NY Times profile, “Godfather of ‘Brexit’ Takes Aim at the British Establishment, 1/21/17]
The issue is talking versus “speaking,” a more crucial distinction than we have reason to think about until someone as linguistically unpolished as President Trump brings talking into an arena usually reserved for at least an attempt at speaking. [John McWhorter, “How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years” OpEd.]
Transcript of Kellyanne Conway’s “Alternative Facts” truth claim.
Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What– You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains–
Wait a minute– Alternative facts?
Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right–
–hey, Chuck, why– Hey Chuck–
–was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just falsehoods.
[Source: NBC Meet the Press, transcript of 1/22/17 show, emphasis added.]