Lies Are Easier To Perpetrate Than Is The Truth And Why That’s A Problem Now
In The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, December 28, Peggy Noonan wrote about when the leadership of America came off the rails—when character and honesty no longer mattered. She lays the blame at the feet of Bill Clinton and that’s a pretty good place to start. Before that, most presidents were seen as mostly telling the truth and surely looked upon as men of strong character. The big exception of modern times was Richard Nixon and the system spit him out successfully like a bad piece of gas station sushi.
My, how times have changed!
Clinton was clearly a big liar. People knew that even as he ran for office. No one seemed to care. He won anyway. (And look who he beat, two WWII vets.) Why? It was the economy, stupid and it still is today. All the huffing and puffing by the Democrats about the evils of Donald Trump and his 15,000 lies make nary a dent in the fact that the Dow Jones is up, unemployment is down, and the economy is doing well, even if the benefits of that economy gravitate to the rich among us. Americans are not ready for the socialism of Bernie or Warren. If the Dems pick either of them to be their standard bearer, Trump will win in a landslide. And Joe Biden is, frankly, a punch line.
Why this is so dangerous was made apparent on Meet the Press on Sunday, December 29 as Chuck Todd spent the entire hour examining the question of why everyone is allowed to have his or her own facts and truth and why this threatens the very existence of the United States.
First, know that Russia is not trying to feed us its beliefs. Russia is just trying to confuse us sufficiently so that we do not know what to believe and so deem every truth unknowable, therefore, why bother? As someone said on Meet the Press, we won the Cold War. The Russians won this one.
Many Americans can no longer tell what is the truth or believe that any news source is reliable. Trump has convinced the world, as has Putin, that every fact is negotiable, every transaction is an unfair deal, and you cannot trust what The New York Times writes. And very educated people believe this.
Let’s take it the next step. If you don’t believe the leaders, or believe liars like Trump, you will assume that every controversy has two sides of equal validity. This is not true. The Republicans are arguing that Mr. Trump did not abuse his power and did not obstruct Congress. Of course, he did. You may argue that these are not impeachable offenses, but you cannot say that they did not happen. As son Richard has written to me, the Republicans in Congress are doing just that, denying what Mr. Trump did to play to his base and their own.
And just in case you don’t think that’s dangerous enough, let’s see what happens when everyone is allowed to have his own version of scientific fact. You can then deny climate change as Mr. Trump has done. You can back the anti-vaxxers. What are the consequences? Measles epidemics and beachfront property in Orlando and burning kangaroos down under.
The real question facing America is will this lack of reliance on truth undo everything that we have built since 1776 and bring down the country in a whirlwind of natural disasters, useless foreign wars, and the marginalization of biomedical research?
The answer appears to be yes. It is going to take either alternative leadership with real facts hammering away at the lies of Trump (and I don’t see that happening at all) or a series of catastrophic disasters, natural and man-made, that will bring America to its knees and possibly to its senses.
You think I am being overly dramatic? Really?
Exhibit one is academic medicine. In a mere forty years it has gone from an intellectual institution serving the needs of mankind to a series of self-serving transactions between hospital providers, insurers and the drug and device industry, all with the full cooperation of those on Capitol Hill. If this can happen to medicine, it can happen to the country as a whole. Personally, I have kids and a grandchild. I would like to think that America’s best days are ahead of her. But if this reliance on lies and alternative facts such that people like Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and President Trump himself dominate the airwaves, and, more importantly, the Internet and the Twitter world, this country is in deep trouble.
Russia couldn’t beat us to the Moon and couldn’t even keep the wall up in Berlin. But undermine the confidence of Americans in their sources of information upon which they must make decisions in a representative democracy, and the Russians may have done more damage than a thousand nuclear weapons.
So all of you Trumpers out there who lavish in your retirement accounts growing, remember there will be no use for your beach houses if the beach is under water.
Many times I am criticized for my anti-Trump stance and this predicament that we are in is not of Trump’s making. On the contrary, he is merely taking advantage of it. But do not fool yourself about what is at stake.
The American experiment depends on a free and believed press that acts responsibly. That is not the Internet nor extreme sites on the left or the right.
Work at getting your facts. You cannot be complacent. Does it take more effort than ever to cut through the baloney? It does. Is it worth the effort? Isn’t a country that has been kept free by major sacrifices of blood and treasure worth reading a newspaper for?
Putin smiles if you answer no.