Saturday, March 21, 2020

After Truth

After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News is an HBO documentary that aired this past Thursday evening, executive produced by CNN's Brian Stelter (Relliable Sources). As its title says, it is an account of the (mostly right wing) disinformation and fake news that has been one of the most destructive features of this present era in American political life. In the process it introduces us to various  characters and horrifying events  like the famous "Pizzagate" absurdity that convinced a gunman to drive from North Carolina to a Washington, D.C., restaurant to thwart what was being falsely presented in right wing media as a front for a Democratic-run pedophilia ring. (The resilience of the staff and customers at Comet Ping Pong may be one of the very few bright spots in this very sad story.)

One of the most revealing conversations in the documentary is with a political operative whose attitude toward the consequences is "so what" and who cites "philosophers on all sides" to the effect that there is no truth. 

But one of the prerequisites for any functioning society is social solidarity, rooted in a reasonable level of trust and a commitment to truth. The assault on science and expertise by one political party in recent decades and our loss of a common culture rooted in shared information and a common understanding of reality have helped bring our country to its presently deeply divided state and has weakened our ability to respond in a unified way in time of national crisis - as is so obviously evident in our present predicament.

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