by A.J. Bernhagen
By the day, new and stranger arguments circulate through the world of media, particularly corporate television media, that would ordinarily have no place in a reasoning, civilized, society. The newest of these arguments comes courtesy of Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump spokeswoman who, during the course of an interview, came to the following conclusion on the nature of reality:
“People that say, ‘Facts are facts.’ They’re not really facts . . . . Everybody has a way of interpreting them . . . . There’s no such thing anymore . . . as facts.” Ms. Hughes went on to insinuate that facts are equivalent to or indistinguishable from opinions held by masses of people.
This preposterous exchange was cited numerous times as further evidence we have entered a “post-Truth” world, where up is no different from down, Clinton is the same as Trump, A can be A and not A simultaneously, and no one has the basis or right to tell you otherwise.
At Swing State we recommend extreme caution in spreading, let alone believing, such nonsense. In this dark era of politics many half-truths and absurdities have been promulgated, but this is perhaps the most dangerous among them. It is the one that enables all the others.
A fact is a unit of information that is not in dispute. The word ‘opinion’ refers to a view, belief, feeling, or impression about facts or perceived facts. ‘Fact’ and ‘opinion’ are not synonymous; they are complimentary. We regard people whose opinions are based in fact as informed, perhaps even intelligent, but those who make false claims (i.e. misrepresent or misunderstand factual information) are, in the first place wrong, and in the second place a questionable source of information, or worse: a liar, one who deliberately misrepresents facts.
The practical application of Hughes’s Dilemma has no limit. If you are accused of a crime, it is the burden of the prosecution to build a case against you based upon tangible facts. The mushy perceptions and half-conceived remembrances of witnesses are considered the worst form of evidence. But if there is no such thing as a fact, the prosecution has lost its basis for prosecuting you, the defense for defending you, the jury for having a finding about you, or the judge for judging you. Whether or not you raped and murdered twelve people is––or so we’re told––a matter of mere perspective.
That’s only one aspect of the fever dream. There are many others Ms. Hughes didn’t bother to consider. For instance, if there’s no such thing as a fact, why is she going on TV to practice the art of persuasion at all? Is Donald Trump even president-elect? Is Paul Ryan Speaker of the House? Is Mitch McConnell the Senate Majority Leader? Maybe Bernie Sanders is president. But wait, is there such a thing as Bernie Sanders? Why is Christmas on the 18th of January? Is football called football or foozball? How many threes to fill a milk jug? What is the gravity of tea?
We suspect that Ms. Hughes does not really believe what she claims. Charitably, we could take her to mean that when “half” of the country believes X about a claim, and the other “half” believes Y, we find ourselves in a position where two opposing factions are simply unable to come to a consensus about the facts. It’s not so much that facts don’t exist as much as the two parties somehow have equally valid, yet somehow opposing perspectives on them.
Ms. Hughes’s conversation was related to Donald Trump’s tweeted claim that millions of people had voted illegally and this overnight crime wave––the largest insurrection in American history––was to blame for his loss of the popular vote. And here’s the secret to the argument: all Ms. Hughes was doing with her swan dive into the abyss of absurdity was attempting to distract from the FACT––yes, FACT––that the man she’s paid to shill for had lied to American public . . . again. There was no massive voter fraud. It never happened. There is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate it, and since he presented none, we reject it with none. The claim is a barefaced lie, and Donald Trump is a liar for making it.
The correct thing to do when presented with a lie is to call the thing what it is, to expose it, then disregard the liar as a credible source of information. What we are experiencing in this supposed “post-Truth world” is not new. It is nothing more than liars and hypocrites who are afraid and ashamed, and more than that, they are desperate to dismiss, evade and forestall consequences for their deception. Sometimes children lie when you catch them with their hand literally in the cookie jar. Adults lie better and are just as shameless, and they know the public doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care to notice.
But we don’t tolerate lies because they’re brazen or repeated, and lies don’t magically transubstantiate into truth because seas of people believe them, or because television infotainment networks feel that liars deserve equal time with those that tell the truth. We are not in a post-Truth world. We are in the same world we were before, filled with those that deny, dilute, misrepresent, and ultimately hate the truth.
But it is not our job to tolerate their unreality. It is their job to come back to Reality.