Pop culture critic Neal Gabler, writing in Politico, notes that more and more Americans — including 31 percent of Republicans — believe incorrectly that President Obama is Muslim. The finding offers still more evidence that we live today in what Gabler rather clunkily — but accurately — labels “Disinformationland.”
“With more of us attending college, we might even be smarter. But higher education rates and easier access to information have been undermined by what amounts to a vast and insidious revolutionary force – a kind of anti-Enlightenment in which facts yield to rumor, reason to uninformed opinion and objectivity to proudly declared subjectivity. We swim in a limitless sea of misinformation, even disinformation, without much inclination to separate truth from fiction…. The idea that there is such a thing as verifiable truth – like Obama being a Christian – is increasingly seen as elitist. It’s as if truth were yet another scheme by the powerful to impose their will on everyone else.”
I can remember a time when American conservatives argued vehemently that there could only be one truth, THE truth. It was a foundation stone in the conservative philosophy. The counter notion that truth was instead a relative concept, that one person’s concept of truth could be as valid as the next person’s, was dismissed as soft-headed liberalism. Sadly, that is now ancient history.
In too many quarters, truth today is personal, a set of “facts” that allow a person to keep believing whatever he or she prefers to believe. And if we each inhabit our own alternate reality, there is in fact no reality, only fantasy. I’m not sure that democracy as we have known it can survive that transition.