• February 5, 2023

What Altered the Public’s Taste for Lies?

Any claim you can imagine can be put into words. That’s why we don’t trust claims in journalism. Sometimes the first and only evidence of a claim is who is making it. Citing “two law enforcement officers” who

New York Times

reported in January that Capitol Hill police officer Brian Sicknick was killed by a fire extinguisher hit on the head. However, a testimony from his family carefully avoided the problem of the cause. A ProPublica report contained details that appeared to be inconsistent with the Times account. A local

CBS

Station reported that Mr. Sicknick died of a stroke, citing a designated police union officer.

For all of these reasons, I had an asterisk in my head about the story from day one. Now the New York Times has published an “update” stating that the manner of his death remains unsolved.

Wrong versions of events spread by news have probably turned into accepted history more often than we thought, but today something seems different. From

Donald TrumpThe by-election lies in the democratic Russia collusion fraud, clearly untrue things have taken on a strangely dominant role in our national life.

I am partially blaming Mr. Trump’s arrival on the political scene, but not for exactly the reason you may think. His disagreement, his kind of unauthorized and idiosyncratic lie, sparked a response from our national elites of “Hurray, now we can lie more ruthlessly”.

Adam Schiff jumped off a cliff with the vertigo. Many reporters jumped with him. There was no setback. Racial incidents increased that seemed to have been made up of a whole lot. Mr Trump himself has miscalculated that his election lies are the ultimate proof that there is no bad advertising for his brand.

To this day, Hillary Clinton and her acolytes hang their hats on the impossibility of proving a negative when it comes to Mr. Trump’s alleged Putin connections. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, they insist, no matter that Mrs. Clinton and her Democrats paid Christopher Steele to make the smoke in the first place. Journalist Craig Unger has another one book claim that all the facts that are consistent with Mr. Trump being a Russian spy, like the earth revolving around the sun, are proof that Mr. Trump is a Russian spy.

All of these episodes indicate the prudence that no longer seems to deter public figures from saying things that turn out to be untrue.

Musicologist Ted Gioia may be up to something when he says that after September 11th the long reign of coolness had ended, the reign of the hot had begun. Especially, but not exclusively on the left, it seems bad form and even evidence of some sort of guilt these days to put any passionate claim to a cold test. Consider a well-covered racist incident at Smith College where Defamation Any number of white people became the preferred alternative to a black person who had to hear they were wrong.

Another factor is the distrust of the media and the media’s rejection of the supposedly tired idol of “objectivity”. When there is no disinterested authority to trust to refute a lie without fear or favor, it creates a lie. A lawyer for an election machine company recently told the New York Times, “So many people out there, including people in positions of authority, are just willing to say something, whether or not it has any relation to the truth.”

There have been some healing appearances lately. These voting machine manufacturer lawsuits may be legally weak, but they provide a healthy impetus to get the evidence in front of a forum where evidence is still important. Adam Schiff recently introduced himself to a US Senator. Now he is said to have practically asked the California governor to appoint him to the soon-to-be-vacant position of California attorney general, where he can change the subject from his congressional report and bathe away the smells of his previous collusive performance again in front of the voters.

In their final hours, Mr Trump’s recent impeachment trials carefully tried to focus on his failure to comply with the law after the Capitol siege began. This was better than the indictment they started on, which is guaranteed to recuperate indiscriminately against other politicians the next time a troubled citizen reacts to the overheated rhetoric that has become a staple of both parties.

Coolness, skepticism, and distrust of passion were boomer virtues (in the midst of many boomer vices), perhaps because their parents saw the damage that passion and irrationality can do in the world. With readers, I note, these traits remain fashionable. Sooner or later, politicians and reporters may hug them again when they come down from their social media intoxication and the temporary madness they cause.

Wunderland: When progressives single out threats to “our democracy”, they mean their democracy. Pictures: Everett Collection / AFP / Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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