It was Nietzsche who remarked that “there are no facts, only interpretation.” From this small beginning the entire contemporary world of “post-modernism” was born, reaching its apogee in the swamp of the Frankfurt School, Foucault and other nihilist thinkers who argue, among other things, that there is no objective basis for making a “truth claim”—and that even language itself it a purely subjective exercise in exerting power. “Non-foundationalism” is all the rage at the universities these days, as I explore in a certain forthcoming book.
This background needs to be kept in mind when surveying the media freak out about “fake news” and how Trump lies. More so than the usual politician? More so than Al Gore, the Clintons, and Harry Reid? It is a curious thing that it took Trump to make the media express outrage at the “terminological inexactitudes” (to use Churchill’s wonderfully obfuscating phrase for “lie”) of politicians. But beyond the selective outrage, it is especially fun to take in the media’s indignation that Trump is supposedly getting away with it, despite relentless “fact-checking,” because we live in a “post-truth” world.
The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, for example, is losing her mind over this state of affairs:
Oxford Dictionaries last month selected post-truth — “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” — as the international word of the year, and for good reason.
The practice of post-truth — untrue assertion piled on untrue assertion — helped get Donald Trump to the White House. The more untruths he told, the more supporters rewarded him for, as they saw it, telling it like it is.
Marcus and other media grandees are especially upset with “this eye-popping assertion from Trump supporter/CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes on the Diane Rehm Show: ‘People that say that facts are facts — they’re not really facts . . . there’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts. And so Mr. Trump’s tweet amongst a certain crowd . . . are truth.’”
Now take a deep breath Ruthie, and repeat after Nietzsche: “There are no facts, only interpretation.” Who is it that created this “post-truth” climate? Once again, it was liberalism. And just how vigorously has the mainstream media ever stood against this nihilist undertow? That would be zip, zilch, nada. What Scottie Nell Hughes said on the radio is standard leftist orthodoxy. But like the time an independent counsel was used against a Democrat, liberals hate it when their doctrines are used against them.
To the contrary, speaking of “fake news,” I recall a certain prominent journalist—I’d rather not repeat his name—who trafficked in a wholly fake news story about a president, and whose forged documents were defended as “fake, but accurate.” So the media doesn’t have a lot of standing to complain about “fake news” just now, let alone a “post-truth” world they helped create.
Memo to the Mainstream Media: Welcome to the world your intellectual comrades created. What Trump is doing is saying, “Okay, this is the world you created. Have some of this!” I’m going to enjoy watching the media meltdown of the Trump years.
P.S. Jim Geraghty of National Review offers a nice run down of “fake news” in his morning newsletter:
Or ask Brian Williams about his war stories. Or ask Rolling Stone about those ritualistic gang rapes on the University of Virginia’s campus.
We haven’t seen anything like this “fake news” on social media since… Katie Couric’s blatantly misleading editing in her documentary, Under the Gun.
Or Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke’s fictional 8-year-old heroin addict.
Or the tall tales of Jayson Blair at the New York Times.
Or USA Today’s Jack Kelley’s wild tales from abroad.
Or Stephen Glass’s New Republic reporting on the hacking of “Jukt Microtics.”
Or Jonah Lehrer’s made-up quotes from Bob Dylan.
Or those Research 2000 polls that may or may not have been conducted.
Or the trucks rigged to explode on NBC’s Dateline.
The false accusations against the pizzeria are abominable but not unprecedented: just ask the Duke lacrosse team, Richard Jewell, Ted Stevens, and the Central Park Five.