Donald Trump’s truth varies minute by minute. It’s like listening to Variations of a Theme of Paganini but less pleasant. Trump doesn’t seem to worry about these variations, which his critics call lies. Rather, he twists the truth, I suspect, to convince his subjects that one angle of reality is a good as any other. This is his gift to the American people: we are free at last to treat facts as if they were plastic.
Technology aids and abets this new “reality.” Fake news is everywhere… if anything can be said to be fake any longer. Says writer Clive Thompson, during the last election the top 20 fake stories about Hillary Clinton’s child pornography ring netted more engagement than real stories that said otherwise. (The Social Medium is the Message,” by Clive Thompson, Wired, February 2017, pg. 56.)
Trump is canny enough to know a bald-faced lie insisted upon and oft-repeated throws reasonable minds off-balance. Lies become the norm until even the most preposterous one has the ring of truth. Repetitious ideas, unhinged from fact and said often enough, become truth. Consider the centuries of religious doctrine that insisted the earth was the center of the universe. And technology serves false messages as equally as it serves true ones, allowing us to communicate with others through faster modes and to larger audiences than ever before. Sadly, it is unable to protect us from our baser instincts.
The best way to fight lies is not to spread them. And the best way to do that is to learn how to recognize suspicious sources and do a fact check. Melissa Zanders, assistant professor of communication and media, (Click) has complied a humongous list of places that churn out all types of news: fake, real, satirical. (Click) As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid websites that end in “lo” as in “Newlo,” or “com.co.” Other sites vacillate between legitimate news and unreliable hyperbole: Daily Kos, The Huffington Post and Fox News “ Find a second source for them.
In a perverse way, we have Donald Trump to thank for showing us how fragile truth has become. It’s out there, somewhere, but like Diogenes, we need a special lamp to find it. Or, we could decide to think with our brains instead of our gut.