Reality has a way of intruding, even when you do your best to avoid it. Some, though, faced with that reality, won't accept it if it clashes with their ideology.
That's a sad comment on our society today.
I intended to spend my birthday last weekend not thinking about any of the inane outrages coming out of D.C., which meant that I would be spending a lot of time watching Netflix while trading rude texts with my oldest brother and nursing my cold. Still, reality shoved its way in multiple times, thanks to alerts from the Washington Post and New York Times on my phone.
Between continuing coverage on the whole controversy about the word that won't appear on this page, the false-alarm missile warning in Hawaii, and the finger-pointing on DACA, it became a little hard to concentrate on mindless entertainment. And my birthday chocolate wouldn't arrive till the next day. Not fair.
The next day we were treated to the assertion that the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of runaway liberalism that it isn't, had lied in its report on an interview with the president, saying that he said, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised."
The president claimed the Journal intentionally misquoted him, and that he said "I'd" rather than "I." The Journal, which had already released the transcript, released the audio in question. The White House then released its own recording, which was identical except for being a little muffled and tinny. (Were they using Nixon's equipment??)
In listening to both multiple times, it seems pretty clear that the Journal reported the quote correctly, especially in the context of that section, in which he talked of his relationships with Asian leaders. Well, unless ideo-logy is interfering with your sense of hearing.
And that's what we've come to now, with belief in events and subjects dependent on ideology, not on facts. It doesn't matter anymore if there are reams of data, video, audio recordings and unimpeachable witnesses. You might see something with your own eyes, but if it doesn't sync with your ideology, you can believe whatever you want and blame any evidence to the contrary on the fantasies of the opposition. Because that's all there are now: monolithic opposing sides. Apparently the groups now are Trump and his supporters versus traditional media and everyone else.
As of last Wednesday (the last update at the time this was written), according to the Washington Post Fact Checker, the president had made 2,001 false or misleading claims in the 355 days since his inauguration (an average of 5.6 a day!). Not that it matters to his base, for whom he can do no wrong. Even if incontrovertible proof is offered, it won't matter.
And why is that? Research indicates that it's a function of the tribalism that has reared its ugly head in the past few years, dividing formerly friendly opponents who could work together into bitter enemies who refuse to work together or even entertain the possibility the other side might have a valid point. Previous studies by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler found that such partisans confronted with corrections and fact-checks on something from their ideology would just dig in in a backfire effect. In their latest study, they found that the president's supporters, when faced with proof of an untruth, would concede the falsity, but not lessen their support.
In short, facts no longer matter.
For those of us in the traditional media who focus on facts, that's disheartening. For every bit of proof we provide for a story, there's at least one person who won't believe it no matter what. And for every disciplined investigative reporter who turns out a well-sourced and evidence-backed news story, there will be a Michael Wolff or a Jayson Blair that the unbelievers will throw out as the epitome of all members of the mainstream media.
Seriously, only a few of us are that icky.
I would love to be able to check comments on a news story and not see claims that "all libtards believe the government should pay us all for not working," or "Rethuglicans all want to keep women in the bedroom barefoot and pregnant and unable to think for themselves." That's not happening, though. It's far more important to keep up the idea that the other side is evil and hopelessly stupid, and that members can't think for themselves. Sure, indications are that some do fit the description, but they're only a portion of the whole.
We're not in Orwell's 1984 universe, no matter how much some have tried to maintain for the past decade that we are. The mainstream media are not the enemy, and not a cabal out to get the president; the aim is to report news, good and bad, even when the president creates the bad news for himself. He can't help himself.
We can only do so much, you know. And really, conspiracies are way too much work. We've got better things to do ... like our jobs.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 01/17/2018
Print Headline: Petty politics