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Why Do Lies Hold Water In This Presidential Election?

September 23, 2016

I must be very old-fashioned as I still feel facts matter.    When someone makes a claim that is totally false there is a duty to correct the person. When we do not make the correction terrible things can happen.

Consider the lie that was able to gain traction following 9/11 that Iraq was in someway behind the attacks on America.  Though totally false it allowed for those willing to invade Iraq on shaky grounds to have as a foundation a lie that resided within many as a truth.

Now as the 2016 presidential election plays out there are far too many gullible and just plain uneducated people who are simply too willing to accept what they are told, or not able to discern the truth from the lies of one of the major candidates for the White House.  I have never had a large amount of faith in the public to make educated calls about the complex issues we face.  So when it comes to evaluating the needs of the very foundations of our democracy come November I am not surprised that too many have failed the test  of being reasoned citizens.

Not being able to analyze the lies and seek the truth is how too many people are in this country and with that the lead article in The Economist from earlier this month is most important to ponder.

But corrosive forces are also at play. One is anger. Many voters feel let down and left behind, while the elites who are in charge have thrived. They are scornful of the self-serving technocrats who said that the euro would improve their lives and that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Popular trust in expert opinion and established institutions has tumbled across Western democracies.

Post-truth has also been abetted by the evolution of the media (see Briefing). The fragmentation of news sources has created an atomised world in which lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed. Lies that are widely shared online within a network, whose members trust each other more than they trust any mainstream-media source, can quickly take on the appearance of truth. Presented with evidence that contradicts a belief that is dearly held, people have a tendency to ditch the facts first. Well-intentioned journalistic practices bear blame too. The pursuit of “fairness” in reporting often creates phoney balance at the expense of truth. NASA scientist says Mars is probably uninhabited; Professor Snooks says it is teeming with aliens. It’s really a matter of opinion.

When politics is like pro-wrestling, society pays the cost. Mr Trump’s insistence that Mr Obama founded IS precludes a serious debate over how to deal with violent extremists. Policy is complicated, yet post-truth politics damns complexity as the sleight of hand experts use to bamboozle everyone else. Hence Hillary Clinton’s proposals on paid parental leave go unexamined (see article) and the case for trade liberalisation is drowned out by “common sense” demands for protection.

It is tempting to think that, when policies sold on dodgy prospectuses start to fail, lied-to supporters might see the error of their ways. The worst part of post-truth politics, though, is that this self-correction cannot be relied on. When lies make the political system dysfunctional, its poor results can feed the alienation and lack of trust in institutions that make the post-truth play possible in the first place.

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