Facts have been on life support in the US since the 2016 Presidential election. The true threat to its future first became clear the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration via the creation of a crowd-size controversy over his claim that the media had misrepresented the number of attendees. Speaking at CIA headquarters, he alleged “one of the networks” had shown “an empty field,” while he saw a crowd that “looked like a million-and-a-half people.” This was a lie, exposed by the obvious editing of the crowd photos by a government photographer who cropped the space where the crowd actually ended.
Yet facts continued on a steady decline as the lies kept coming. On the issue of crime, for example, Trump claimed “Chicago is like a war zone’ and that during President Obama’s speech there two weeks earlier two people were shot and killed. That never happened. On climate change, Trump said it was a hoax, even though scientific evidence to the contrary exists. On immigration, he suggested that the migrant caravans are full of hardened criminals. The fact is that they are mostly poor people with few belongings who are fleeing gang violence. And, last but certainly not least, his claims about the media being the “enemy of the people” couldn’t be further from the truth, since a majority of news, particularly journalism delivered by non-profit organizations like Women’s eNews, which does not answer to any private corporate interests, freely report only the truth. Yet, these are just a few of the lies that reached an unabashed crescendo when Trumps’ latest lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, recently said, “Truth isn’t truth.”
So, what is this really all about? You only need to read two infamous quotes by two of the most heinous leaders this world has ever known to understand its true purpose: “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it,” said Joseph Goebbels; and as Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea.” What they knew, and what Trump knows now, is that the power of familiarity can eclipse rationality, convincing even the most logical individual that a certain fact is actually untrue after being told so over and over again. When coupled with ‘gaslighting,’ a psychological technique where people are manipulated into doubting their own memory, they can even be led to question their own sanity.
When that happens, the line between fact and fiction becomes so blurred that people will behave in ways that defy logic. Just look around. This very minute, civilian groups and vigilantes are packing their guns to protect America from Trump’s warnings of Central American migrants whose caravans are moving through Mexico on the way to the US border, joining thousands of American troops Trump is sending there as well. This twisted way of thinking is not so different from the political rhetoric that led to the witch hunts and trials of early modern Europe, resulting in the executions of hundreds of innocent women; or Hitler who, by stereotyping Jews, enabled most Germans to dehumanize them, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Far too often, prejudices and lies are converted into manifestos and then, as Voltaire once said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
These are just a few of the reasons why voting in the midterm elections today not only means you are voting for your preferred candidates, but also for the very future of facts. For the line between fact and fiction has become so increasingly blurred that we must, for facts’ sake, not only prevent its plug from being pulled, but seize the plug from the very hands of those who choose to dishonor it. The future of our country’s democracy depends on it. PLEASE VOTE!