Who Are the Liars in America’s Post-Truth Fog and How to Spot Them

A foggy road leading into dark forest
Katie Moum on Unsplash, cropped by the author in GIMP

“Ours is a nation of liars, John. We lie about the big things, we lie about the small, we lie about it all… Why? Because lies elevate our self-esteem, blame somebody else, defend our tribes, and are worth a lot of money.” Such are the words of a fictional character, Morgan Whitaker, spoken to his son, John, ca. 2028. Morgan persists, “Remember, John, America’s most important commodity is doubt. Spawn it, you paralyze correction and get rich. Remove it with dogma, you create impossibly perfect certainty. You’re dealing with cunning primates. Never forget that.”

If the previous 30-years have not proven this is true for a lethal fraction of America, the last seven have. Truth is now the enemy of political dogma, just as physics is the enemy of religious supernaturalism. But lies and dogma imply conscious knowledge of truth. What is “truth” in a post-truth America, who are the liars, and how can we tell?

Per Kurt Anderson’s Fantasyland, the fog started long ago. In the modern era, postmodernism led the way. As Wikipedia has it, while critics see “postmodernism as promoting obscurantism,” for postmodernists, “objective facts are dismissed as naive realism.” Like Newtonian mechanics or Maxwell’s electromagnetism, from which all working technologies are built, performing just as science designed. Yet at the root of right-reason, on which science is based, is a core of healthy doubt, a recognition of fallibility to preserve open-minded examination in the interest of truth. Postmodernists transformed this doubt from a stimulus for knowledge into paralysis.

From the beginning, leftist French postmodernists of the 1950s and ‘60s claimed a paradox: the truth is there is no truth. Then they proclaimed the “truth of relativity” of values, traditions, norms, knowledge. By the self-contradictory logic that is the hallmark of postmodernism, this ironically emboldened them to cast judgment against the West while simultaneously dismantling moral judgment of any interest they wanted to protect.

In Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut’s French Philosophy of the Sixties, we find that once Marxism could be seen to fail its marriage with human nature, postmodernism became the radical Left’s tool against the West built on ancient Greek philosophy and European Enlightenment foundations of reason. To emphasize its anti-West pose, every other culture-way became postmodernism’s favorite. “The majority” became an evil. A minority of anything was elevated over the majority of anything else. Anything non-Western donned a halo of what Bertrand Russel termed “The superior virtue of the oppressed.” It became a permanent posture of the Left, a quest for the next victim, some real, some not.

By the end of the Sixties, French postmodernism infected American universities, which commenced to flush its untreated and untested notions in torrents from academia to literature, media, and policymakers. A public philosophy of relativism began to leach its way through the American psyche. Postmodernists were building a vacuum. But the human psyche abhors a vacuum, especially for those losing their traditions. The vacuum was looking for a way to fill.

What the postmodern Left pioneered as doubt in knowledge was eventually embraced as doubt in facts by our political Right. “Alternative facts,” declared by Trump apologist Kellyanne Conaway, and “truth isn’t truth,” pronounced by Rudy Giuliani, were just what the postmodern Left professed at university under guard of academic freedom. The Right finally recognized this implement for breeding doubt and dogma for political power through lies for reasons Morgan stated above. And practiced with such alacrity that, as Paul Waldman writes, “lying is not only permitted but mandatory.”

These lies, doubt, and dogma are now the grist of Right-wing radio, cable TV, and web-talkers in support of Trump, like the late Rush Limbaugh (I listened daily). Just one day after DOJ Inspector General Horowitz released his report exonerating the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s Russia connections but not their FISA procedures, Limbaugh announced the very opposite. “The IG report confirms,” he said, “there is an ongoing coup to get rid of Trump.” Limbaugh even divined that Russians who met Trump’s team over 140 times weren’t Russian but FBI agents seeking entrapment. Limbaugh’s delivery was masterful. America had no better liar. As 69-(not 7)-year-old Limbaugh liked to say, “I know all about this stuff; my dad was a lawyer.” (Not his strongest claim.)

But when confronted with over 30-years of experience in law by Inspector General Horowitz, 8-years as IG, his staff conducting 170 interviews with over 100 people and reviewing almost one million documents, who do we believe? Horowitz, or a talk-radio propagandist?

Hmm…

Let’s see…

It’s all relative, right?

It should be common-sense-crystal-clear; there’s a cavernous difference between licensed liars and experts in their field.

Such tools, leveraged by liars, are not novel, but their sweeping magnitude is new to this country. The closest example to what our Right has raised to an art comes from Joseph Goebbels’ lie factories. As with 1930s Germany, such machinery is not about tribal turf alone. Moral philosopher Stuart Rachels charts a clear path from the rejection of truth to loss of trust to despotism—our “Constitution-loving” New Right’s target goal.

But there’s another problem. Given that virtue so cherished by the early Christians is dead on the New Right; given character no longer matters; given winning the world while losing one’s soul is how things get done, not the starry-eyed preachings applied to daily life by some wandering carpenter, then perhaps Mr. Horowitz, like ex-Attorney General and Trump loyalist William Barr—also an experienced lawyer — is just a partisan liar?

Things get complicated in this post-truth era.

So, where can we find truth through all this smoke? There’s no better source of truth than science. Nature reveals unconditional truth through measured data with zero concern for human political perversities. Problem is, much of what we deal with is not conducive to scientific measurement. But it is subject to that foundation of science targeted by liberal postmodernists and GOPP Grand Old Putin Party “conservatives”: reason.

Consider…Trump. I saw Trump deny his payoff of prostitutes; refute he or his staff had any contact with Russia; rebuff that he had business with Russia; deny his extortion of Ukraine, to name a very few examples, then admit all of it. Of Ukraine, he denied, admitted, then denied it again. Who can keep track? Not even a professional liar. How surprising from a man who bragged about his adultery and draft-dodging; a man who raised $6M for veterans (it was $2.8M), found guilty of misusing those funds, fined $2M, and the “charity” dissolved; a man penalized $25M for stealing millions of dollars from thousands of students at his fake university; a man fined record sums for laundering billions for Putin; a man Mueller’s FBI investigation found colluded (not “conspired”) with Russia to cheat the 2016 election, obstructing justice ten times. Note that the Mueller Report was validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Of the thousands of media reports concerning Trump’s corruption from center Left (CBS, ABC, CNN, WaPo) to Left (NBC, PBS, NPR, NYT) to hard-Left (MSNBC), all but a handful of their thousands of reports have proven correct.

So, if Trump or his disciples claim something, and the mainstream media, CIA, NSA, FBI contradict them, is the question “Who’s lying?” a hard call to make?

Hmm…

There are also fact-checkers like Snopes.com, PoltiFact (Pulitzer Prize winner), and bellingcat.com who risk their very lives against Russian assassins for revealing corruption by Trump’s genocidal best pal, “Vlad the Great,” as “conservative” Newsmax called him. Naturally, some sites self-designate as fact-checkers only to hawk their propaganda — be wary. For Trump, PolitiFact has page after page of his “Pants On Fire” lies, and more for “All false statements involving Donald Trump” (pull up a chair). The Washington Post tallied Trump’s lies at almost 30,000 in 4-years. Given he’s 76, we can estimate — excluding lies in the womb (which raises a question: if Trump lied in the womb and nobody heard it, was it a lie?) — that Trump’s lied approximately 570,000 times since he could first babble and drool.

Pause to consider this argument. Right-wing media has proven they are Goebbels-like propagandists; Trump has established his place in history as a serial liar and one-man crime wave; the mainstream media has a validated track record by personal observation, the FBI, House, and Senate. Isn’t it apparent that we can trust in our own eyes and the proven performance of non-Right-wing media for facts (with reasonable skepticism), at least when it comes to Trump and his cult?

It seems to me, the only way to find the truth is to be able to tell the truth. To do this requires we divorce our tribe / party / identity. Otherwise, as “cunning primates,” we’re obligated to lie for it, just as I lied for my conservative tribe until the Iraq invasion. You’ll lose that sense of faux “community” and ersatz belonging, but you won’t foul your surroundings with devoted liars either.

However, there’s yet another problem—of wiring. Human brains crave fabulous tales of deceitful betrayals by wicked cabals of sex-crazed superpowers hellbent on controlling innocent saints through hidden conspiracies. Well, there are conspiracies, and there are “conspiracies.”

The U.S. House Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol found a doozy, pieced together from the shadows and today’s headlines. They’re about to arrest global attention with verifiable evidence that Trump, his sons, his GOPP, including disgraced ex-Governor of Texas Rick Perry, Michael Flynn, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Peter Navarro, John Eastman, Scott Perry, and minions Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham were knowingly engaged in or covering for history’s first coup to over through the U.S. Constitution. Stay tuned.

There’s another conspiracy that claims our 2020 vote was stolen from Trump with only allegations of allegations but no evidence. Orchestrated by Venezuela — or was that China?… Iran?… Cuba? using Dominion voting machines, which spit out paper voting receipts against which this claim was immediately debunked. And long before Trump begged Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for 11,780 nonexistent votes to give Trump the win, during the period over which 63 courts ruled against such a “conspiracy,” including two 9 to 0 Supreme Court decisions against this fake news, zero in favor. Dominion and Smartmatic are suing spawns of this tale for over $10 billion. Recall, this “conspiracy” was spearheaded by Hillary and the Democratic Party, who, say some “Republicans,” are Satan-worshiping pedophiles who cut the faces off children to wear on their own.

Truly?

Do they still have that Jewish space laser in the sky?

Is it really so hard to sift fact from farce here? Are half of Americans really this invincibly ignorant, scientifically illiterate, and magnificently gullible?

As Reagan conservative Republican George Will urges, vote against the Liar’s Party, vote Democrat. We’ll isolate their postmodern sickness later.

References not linked to above:

Paragraph 1: “…Never forget that.”: Brett Williams, The Worst of Things: America in the 21st Century, Combustible Books, 2019, pg. 161.

Paragraph 3: Kurt Anderson, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, Random House, 2017.

Paragraph 5: Luc Ferry & Alain Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, UMass Press, 1990.

Paragraph 14: Joseph Goebbels, Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, AVON, 1979. Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, McGraw-Hill, 2010.

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Physicist / artist / author writes about science & religion, art & culture, philosophy & politics with an edge. On Medium, Goodreads and TheFatherTrilogy.com

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Brett Alan Williams

Physicist / artist / author writes about science & religion, art & culture, philosophy & politics with an edge. On Medium, Goodreads and TheFatherTrilogy.com