Op-Ed

Question for our times: Has truth gone on vacation, or has it left town for good?

McConnell fires back at MSNBC, Washington Post for ‘absurd smears’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell launched a blistering attack from the Senate floor Monday on critics who have accused him of going soft on Russia by blocking election security bills.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell launched a blistering attack from the Senate floor Monday on critics who have accused him of going soft on Russia by blocking election security bills.

As never before in American history, truth is very anemic and is on life support. At one time, Walter Cronkite was the source of truth. When he came on TV, you could take to the bank everything he said because he and his producers carefully vetted each and every element of the news broadcast. When the president spoke, you could normally believe what he said. Those days seem to be over. Today, you can assume that what the president says one day, he will contradict soon after or else it might be a bald-faced lie.

But what is truth anyway? The truth seems to be what each person thinks it is. There are those who are so wedded to a cause that anything they hear supporting the cause is accepted without question and anything that seems to contradict their cause is automatically considered suspect or even wrong.

Some people have strongly held convictions that are so ingrained, that no amount of factual information can budge their beliefs. It is unbelievable that climate change deniers reject the conclusions of the vast majority of climatologists, even though the deniers have absolutely no background or expertise in the subject. It is because they want to believe it and not even mountains of data can change their minds.

An Economist/YouGov poll showed that 42 percent of self-identified Republicans still believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya in spite of his long-form birth certificate being made public.

While the news media represent the most important protection of our civil rights, Trump has convinced millions of Americans that newspapers and TV stations that criticize him are the enemies of the people and that Fox News, which strenuously defends his lies and misstatements, is to be believed. In one interview one of his White House aides told the press that their administration had “alternative facts.”

Then there are those who, as Jack Nicholson said in the movie, A Few Good Men, cannot handle the truth. When a referee calls a foul on a basketball player on our team, we do not believe it and when the call goes against the opposition player, it is always a good call, even though we know otherwise.

Some see the muted response to author E. Jean Carroll’s allegation of Trump assaulting her in a department store dressing room as yet another example of the divisive Politics of Trump: Those who support him dismiss it as fake news. Those against him see it as confirmation of what they knew all along.

Then there are those who decide truth by quid-pro-quo. Take the Southern Baptist Convention. When Bill Clinton was caught having sex with an intern, the Convention mercilessly attacked him for immoral behavior. But then when Donald Trump bragged about inappropriate touching of women and when over two dozen women have accused him of sexual harassment and rape, the Baptists are silent. Apparently, people could be bank robbers or murderers but if they oppose abortion and contraception, then they can still be good Christians.

Then there are those who hypocritically decide truth---the Republicans in Congress that impeached Clinton for lying about sex but are ok with Trump committing obstruction of justice, denying Russian interference in our elections, inviting more in 2020, lying about anything and everything, placing children in cages and placing himself above the law. Their silence is deafening.

How do we get out of this crisis that exists today in America where deception and falsification are the new normal? While there is a vast difference between cheating on your wife and cheating on your country, that huge difference has been blurred. The question is: Has truth and its family of moral principles simply gone on vacation or has it left town for good?

Marty Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky Professor and can be reached at mbsolomon@aol.com

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