These days, “seeing” is no longer “believing.”
I’ve variously suggested that Steve Bannon’s crowning achievement has been the extent to which he’s changed the way large swaths of voters in Western democracies view the “truth.”
Put simple: “truth” has become a relative term.
To be sure, there’s always spin. Everyone has an agenda. Biases are reflected in everything you read (including most of what you read in these pages). And so in that regard, the “truth” has never really been the “truth.”
And that’s perfectly fine. Indeed, the only way we can truly discover what’s true and what isn’t is by considering all sides of an argument.
But, to quote a much maligned market adage, “this time is different.”
We’re no longer being asked to consider alternative takes on important topics. We’re being asked to pretend as though what we’re seeing with our own eyes isn’t real. On top of that, we’re being asked to believe that the only thing that is real is the narrative being pushed by Breitbart and its progeny who, not coincidentally, are the very same ones telling us that seeing is not in fact believing.
Russian connections aren’t Russian connections (those conversations for which there are transcripts didn’t really happen). There are no “little green men” in Ukraine (those dead Russians aren’t dead Russians). Moscow’s army wasn’t getting ready to step into the war in Syria (and then one day in late September of 2015, a bunch of Sukhois showed up at Latakia). The Kremlin isn’t a nefarious global actor (all those poisoned folks and people shot dead in broad daylight weren’t really poisoned or shot). Trump is a great dealmaker (that health care bill really didn’t fail). Populism doesn’t pose a danger to the European economy (that €1.7 trillion in French public debt that will go into default in a redenomination event won’t really be a big deal). And on, and on.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this seems pretty dangerous to me. So I thought, given a couple of headlines I’ve seen this morning, that I’d present a juxtaposition that is emblematic of everything said above.
[Note: the following is just as absurd as it looks. That is, your first reaction might be “well, surely there’s some nuance or some excuse and if we just had the context, it would make sense, so this is trivial and not worth printing.” But see that’s my point. This is what it means to live in Steve Bannon’s post-truth reality. You’re supposed to believe that what is actually happening or worse, what has already happened, isn’t happening and never did happen.]