Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cultural dementia

I was deeply dismayed for many reasons when I first heard the story that Obama campaign operatives had told the Canadians that Obama’s NAFTA stance was “just politics,” just for show. But guess what: the story was just that—a story, with no basis in reality. One more lie among many.

It turns out that, in fact, the actual NAFTA conversation that took place with the Canadians involved not Obama’s, but Clinton’s operatives.

And yet, the story about Obama and the Canadians has entered the realm of received wisdom, even though it is pure fabrication!

Has the Clinton campaign morphed into its own bogeyman, and become their own “vast [whatever]-wing conspiracy”? Is the press so willing to promulgate lies, and simply not bother to correct them (regardless of where fault might fall for the original untruth) that lies are given equal standing with truth?

How can there be a functional democracy when the air is filled with nothing but lies? On what basis can a rational person reach their conclusions and make their choices, if there is no way to distinguish truth from lies?

Being faced with innumerable falsehoods is at least partially the cause of the veritable chaos we find ourselves in, as we try to sort truth from fiction, because with so many lies and new ones being spewed every day, there’s simply not enough time or attention to get to the bottom of all of them.

This, then, is what the Bush administration meant when they claimed that they would “make their own reality”—and they have indeed done just that. What we didn’t realize then was that the reality they intended to make was one in which a steady onslaught of lies meant there was simply no way to discern what’s true and what’s not, and that when this is the case, one is free to say anything at all. Because there is no feasible way in which to sort the bits of truth from the chaff of lies.

Analogously, if crime ramps up beyond a certain point, no amount of policing can restore civil order. In the realm of ideas, this is what has come to pass, and it presages the death of rational discourse.

Clinton has behaved abominably in her responses to such lies: instead of disavowing the falsehoods, she basically smiles and shrugs them off as if to say “believe what you want,” whether about Obama’s supposed secret confabs with the Canadians, or his supposed Muslim beliefs, or his supposed refusal to swear his oath of office on anything but a Koran, or his supposed lack of a “record” as a Senator, etc.: all lies, but no one is denouncing them as the lies that they are. And so, they become truth.

Lies are truth.

Truth is irrelevant.

Repeat.

________

[h/t: Mark Kleiman at Reality Based Community]

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