Wednesday, May 12, 2021

When Truth Is No Longer Self Evident

Former senator Jeff Flake opens an op-ed in The Washington Post with a quotation from George Orwell:

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” 

Then he quotes from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

These days, in the United States, truth is no longer self-evident. Flake writes:

It seems a good time to examine how we got to a place where such a large swath of the electorate (70 percent of Republican voters, according to polling) became willing to reject a truth that is so self-evident.

This allergy to self-evident truth didn’t happen all at once, of course. This frog has been boiling for some time now. The Trump period in American life has been a celebration of the unwise and the untrue. From the ugly tolerance of the pernicious falsehood about President Barack Obama’s place of birth to the bizarre and fanatical fable about the size of inauguration crowds, to the introduction of the term “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, the party’s steady embrace of dishonesty as a central premise has brought us to this low and dangerous place.

Flake is flummoxed by his former party mates:

When I became an unwitting dissident in my party by speaking in defense of self-evident truths, I assumed that more and more of my colleagues would follow me. I remain astonished that so few did. Congresswoman Cheney, I know how alone you must be feeling. But just know that history keeps the score, not Kevin McCarthy or Elise Stefanik.

It is elementary to have to say this, but we did not become a great nation by believing or espousing nonsense, or by embracing lunacy. And if my party continues down this path, we will not be fit to govern.

Perhaps he should have included one more quotation -- From Thomas Macaulay, Lord Acton:

" All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Flake's former party is hellbent on achieving absolute power. Acton would tell him that none of this is surprising.



zoombats said...

It goes without saying that if truth is on the battle front lines then the lack of memory or attention span of humankind is the leadership. I have always been befuddled over the short term memory of those who are controlled by those who never underestimate the stupidity of the general public. I guess that's why ministries of education exist.

Owen Gray said...

I love the clip, zoombats. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Anonymous said...

The destruction of truth is one of the imperatives of autocratic rule. You can tell who is loyal by seeing who adopts and repeats your lies. Cheney is being disloyal by insisting on the truth that Trump lost a free and fair election, and she's being made to pay the price.

This is all part of a larger program to destroy the ability of Americans to distinguish truth from lies, and to make party loyalty the only virtue. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, "The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world - and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end - is being destroyed."

We see this loss of bearings in the way that well-educated elderly Republicans ignore the risks to themselves and their loved ones and adopt an anti-vax and anti-mask stance. This can only go on for so long before the reality of Covid refuses to be denied. Sadly, many die refusing to believe the disease is anything but a hoax. How long can a party go on killing its members with lies? At some point this has to stop.


Owen Gray said...

At some point, Cap, such a party kills off its supporters.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the level of hate and required punishment for Ms. Cheney coming from the current godhead of the GOP, DJT, is something more than her refusal to follow the Big Lie. The repudiation of Ms. Cheney will certainly not sit well with many establishment GOPers and could lose the new crowd some needed support in future. No, what really motivates this level of revenge, to me, is the letter she orchestrated with daddy Dick to get every former Defence Secretary to state the Military’s allegiance in that election brouhaha was to the Constitution and not the politicos, i.e. DJT. This letter came out on Jan 5. That action poured cold water on DJT’s plan to overturn the election with Mike Pence’s (mainly) direction and others, many, many others involved as well. As to the “military’s” reaction to the attempted ‘coup’, the “military” would either stand by or actually assist. Maybe I’ve gone full conspiracy theory but many things point this way. Why the replacement of many Military big-wigs with his hand picked last minute appointments? Why the lack of any real coordinated response to the Capitol riot and invasion to “Stop the Steal”? The list goes on.
Cheney’s letter is at least perceived by DJT as another foil, a crucial one at that, to his desperate attempt to cling to power and not end up being the dreaded loser he so disrespects. She must be destroyed. Mac

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Mac. Trump's hatred for the Cheneys is white-hot -- for reasons that go well beyond the capital insurrection. That rejection also illustrates his profound stupidity. Liz is now his official nemesis. And she will not disappear.