Another day, another trove of idiotic and/or infuriating Trump-related stories to react to. And, like most days, I have only so much time to organize and communicate those reactions. I felt I had to react to two apparently disparate reports, so to budget my time and achieve my goal of brevity, I needed to find a link that tied the two different incidents together.
I quickly realized that one thread ties together the following two happenings: 1. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan conclusion that America’s intelligence agencies’ assessments about the 2016 election were correct and were not politically-influenced 2. Trumpists’ determined demands that social-distancing measures be ended.
That one thread is Trumpists’ elevation of fables over facts, which we’ll get to soon.
The Senate Intelligence Committee‘s Bipartisan Conclusion
As reported in USA Today, “The Senate Intelligence Committee reaffirmed its finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, backing the conclusions of intelligence agencies and undermining President Donald Trump’s often-repeated claim that the investigation into his campaign was a politically motivated hoax.” Perhaps even more important than the committee’s conclusion is its composition: Seven of the 13 Intelligence Committee members are Republicans, all of whom voted against impeaching the president—despite clear evidence of his crimes.
Contemplate the significance: Seven Trump loyalists, along with their six Democrat counterparts, concluded not only that Russia interfered in our 2016 election, but that Russia did so aiming to “hurt Secretary Clinton and help the candidacy of Donald Trump.”
Trumpists’ Determined Demands That Social-Distancing Measures Be Ended
Meanwhile, across the nation, Trump-loyalists—egged on by Trumpist talk-show hosts, and even by Trump himself—have been marching on state capitals, demanding an end to social-distancing measures. The cure, they shout—mindlessly echoing their irresponsible leaders—must not be worse than the disease. The confirmed deaths of 45,373 Americans (as of April 22), and the tens of thousands more (perhaps hundreds of thousands, if the protestors get their way) who will die in the coming months can hardly compare to the loss of income suffered by many living Americans, the Trumpists callously imply.
The Common Thread
Despite the conclusions reached by every American intelligence agency—and now confirmed by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee—that Russia interfered in our 2016 election in order to tip the scale in Trump’s favor, it’s a virtual certainty that at least 25 percent of the nation’s voters will cling to the Trump mantra that the entire Russia election interference investigation was “a hoax.”
Similarly, despite the conclusions reached by every American health agency—and every other health agency throughout the world—that long-term social distancing is a key element in reducing the spread of COVID-19, it’s also a virtual certainty that millions of the nation’s voters will cling to the conspiracy theorists’ declarations that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than common influenza.
Fables Versus Facts
Back in 2016, as the election neared, many were declaring that America was becoming a “post-truth” society. If some might have doubted such a doomsday declaration four years ago, no rational person can deny it now—at least as regards a quarter to perhaps a third of our populace. Our nation elected a man who has, by official count, told in excess of 18,000 lies or obviously misleading statements. Many of those lies and misstatements are plainly, easily exposed as demonstrably false. One must consciously choose to accept them over the obvious truth. And that’s exactly what millions of Americans have chosen to do.
Virtually every one of the nation’s leading intelligence experts concluded that a hostile nation attacked our electoral system to sow discord and help elect one candidate over another. Yet millions of Americans choose to believe a discernable lie rather than the unanimous conclusion of the experts in that field. Likewise, virtually every medical expert throughout the nation has determined that COVID-19 is far more virulent than the common flu. Yet millions of Americans choose to listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who falsely told his millions of devoted followers, “I’ve told you that this virus is the common cold. When I said that, it was based on the number of cases. It’s also based on the kind of virus this is. Why do you think this is ‘COVID-19’? This is the 19th coronavirus. They’re not uncommon.”
Limbaugh’s ridiculously deceptive and flat-out false statement would be laughable were it not for its dangerous implications for his gullible listeners—and for every person each of those listeners comes in contact with.
Truth Must Matter
A post-truth society is a doomed society. As I wrote in an article for The Culture Crush, “Can a culture willing to accept obvious deceptions over unambiguous, verifiable facts continue to function properly? Perhaps not for long. As bad as would be the loss of the nation’s constitutional and cultural norms, even more frightening, if this trend continues, might be the loss of our individual and collective ability to know anything for certain, religious or otherwise.”