Post-Factual Politics: “Facts” & “truth” are outdated
SoggyTrumpCard, our new Prime Minister, often makes statements that, shall we say, lack a certain degree of truthfulness. To be clear, “lack a certain degree of truthfulness” typically means they aren’t the least bit truthful. Or, as I argue below, they’re part of the new “post-factual politics.”
For example, she recently stated, “I won the popular vote for Prime Minister by a huge margin.” In fact, this is false. She didn’t win any votes. No one ran against her. She won by acclamation. Therefore, she received exactly zero votes.
Consider also the following statement that SoggyTrumpCard uttered today: “The gross domestic product has increased 300% in just the first few days that I’ve been Prime Minister.” I called all of the presidents of all of Shalampax’s major businesses. Not one of them reported a significant uptick in their already gargantuan business volumes. Clearly, SoggyTrumpCard spoke a falsehood in this case, as she does as in most cases.
To be fair, in the latter example, I’ll accept that there is a slight chance that she did not intentionally lie. It’s possible that she simply did not know what “gross domestic product” means. There’s a high probability that she meant that Shalampaxians are three times as gross as they were before she became Prime Minister.
It is possible that’s what she meant. Nevertheless, it still is unlikely to be true because we , as a society, were already exceptionally boorish. I fail to see how we could become anymore despicable without spontaneously metamorphosing into pond scum. However, there is no way for me to measure grossness accurately, so she might be right.
This behavior of untruthfulness and prevarication is part of what many people—or if not many people, at least me—call post-factual politics. In this brave, new post-factual political world, facts aren’t what they used to be or they simply don’t matter.
Proof is Only a Concept
It doesn’t matter if its easy to conclusively prove that what SoggyTrumpCard says is false. She’ll lie anyway.
If it suits her needs at that particular moment, she’ll say it, lie or not. Her thinking, if one can call it thinking, seems to be that it doesn’t matter what she says now because she can always say something else later. What she says later is frequently mutually exclusive with what she uttered just moments prior. It’s as if she never said the first thing.
This lack of truthfulness or, as it is sometimes called, lying bothers no more than a few Shalampaxians. It’s in almost all Shalampaxians’ natures to lie. Why should our politicians be any better than us? Who do they think they are, the populace exclaims, elites?
I’m not most Shalampaxians. I want these pages to reflect reality, not fiction. I tried to set up and interview with SoggyTrumpCard to get a handle on her mendacity. She refused. Instead, one of her spokesflunkies, LitButt, agreed to talk to me on the condition that I clearly state that his views do not necessarily, but might possibly, reflect the views of SoggyTrumpCard.
So, with the caveat that what was said may or may not be truthful and may or may not reflect the views of SoggyTrumpCard, the following is a transcript of our conversation. It may or may not be enlightening, but it is certainly interesting—or, if not interesting, then possibly entertaining.
Post-Factual Politics: An Interview with LitButt
Me: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
LitButt: I may or may be taking any time. That is for others to judge. But you’re welcome, unless, of course, you’re not welcome. That’s purely a political decision.
Me: Our Prime Minister, your boss, SoggyTrumpCard, frequently says things that aren’t true. It would appear to be a policy for her. More often than not, the facts contradict what she says. Why is that?
LB: The problem with your question is that its premise is completely wrong or, at least, outdated. “Facts,” as you call them, are what people believe. If they believe something then it is a fact.
People believe what SoggyTrumpCard says because it’s easier and more comforting than not believing her. To not believe her requires a basis for disbelief. Finding such a basis takes some effort. It’s better just to effortlessly accept what she says. Thus, if she says something, it immediately becomes a fact because she said it and people believed it.
Me: But statements are true or not regardless of what people believe.
LB: That’s simply your version of the meaning of truth. There are as many definitions of truth as there are different expressions of it.
Me: So are you saying we should unquestioningly accept what SoggyTrumpCard says?
LB: Yes. That would be best for all concerned, unless, of course, anyone other than SoggyTrumpCard is concerned. And why would they be? Concern itself is post-factual.
Reporting the “Truth”
Me: I write for a blog, not a formal newspaper. Nevertheless, I’m the only person in Shalampax that comes anywhere close to being a reporter. As such, I think my job is to uncover the truth and report it. How can I do that in your post-factual dystopia?
LB: Oh, I see your mistake. If you truly aspire to be a reporter then you must report. SoggyTrumpCard is our Prime Minister. What she says is news. Therefore, you must report it verbatim.
Me: But what if I have irrefutable proof that what she says is false. Shouldn’t I report that proof as well and, in doing so, inform my readers of the falseness of her statement?
LB: Now you’re just being ignorant. Nothing is irrefutable.
You might say that a roaring fire is hot. If this is truly a free country then I am at liberty to refute your statement. My statement then becomes a fact in that context.
Me: I’m going to cut this conversation off right here. We’re going in circles.
LB: It’s your opinion that we’re going in circles. It’s a fact only if you or I believe it. Then it is a fact for the believer, but not for someone who doesn’t believe it. I assume you believe it. If so, it’s a fact for you, but not for me.
Me: That’s it. We’re done. This is clearly going nowhere.
LB: Again, that’s your opinion. It’s certainly not a fact. However, if you give me the last word, then my statement that “it’s certainly not a fact” is the prevailing fact as I believe it. It must then stand as such.
LB: If I say so.