December 12, 2016

Falsiness

It has long been obvious that Donald J. Trump has a complicated relationship with the truth. Beginning with the birther issue—at least as far as a national audience is concerned—Trump has shown a blatant disregard for facts. Assertions by him are simply instrumental, intended only to advance his personal interests. A majority of Trump’s statements checked by PolitiFact have been labeled Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. Even for a politician, this is a bad record.

One might generously suggest that Donald Trump traffics in truthiness, a concept enunciated by Stephen Colbert on his satirical Comedy Central show The Colbert Report. Wikipedia explains Colbert’s term as follows:
Truthiness is a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.
A less generous analysis, of course, is that Trump lies a lot. On the other hand, Trump, who has no expertise in so many of the areas in which he pontificates, may actually believe what he says. He regularly touts his extraordinary intelligence that, presumably, allows him to intuit that which is invisible to the rest of us mere mortals.

Whatever the underlying mechanism, Donald Trump seems to live in a universe unmoored to the body of facts by which most of us regulate our lives. Distressingly, he seems to have pulled many of his supporters into his strange Land of Trump. (Rachel Maddow recently reported on a survey that suggests as much.)

The latest election-related bombshell is the revelation that the CIA believes not only that Russia hacked Democratic e-mail accounts, but also that the information collected from those incursions were leaked to the press with the intention of helping to elect Donald Trump and to defeat Hillary Clinton. Trump has called the CIA allegations “nonsense” and denied that the intelligence community could not possibly know either that Russia was responsible or that the hacking and leaking was done for a particular purpose. Ironically, the CIA has more sources and tools than Trump could possibly know about, given the fact that he regularly declines to receive intelligence briefings.

Trump’s commitment to truthiness is obvious for all to see. We need a new word for Trump’s intuitive rejection of anything that he doesn’t like, such as the notion that his victory may have been facilitated by foreign involvement in the campaign. Obviously, Trump does not want to admit of anything that would tarnish his “massive landslide victory.” He does not want to believe the CIA and therefore doesn’t. I propose that the required word for this kind of self-deception is falsiness, which we may define as follows:
Falsiness is a quality characterizing a “falsehood” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.
Alas, all of Trump’s actions seem to be based not on reality, but on truthiness and falsiness. The same intellectual virus has infected his cabinet picks, who don’t believe in global warming or the need to protect voting rights, among other things.

Unfortunately, while Donald Trump believes he can live in a world where truth and falsehood can be discerned by his gut, the rest of us will have to live with the consequences of what is actually true and what is not.

May God help us!


Truth Matters

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