Fake News

Fake news. Alternative facts. Who could have imagined that these phrases would come to characterize 2017, that this would be our new world.

Whatever happened to the truth? Well, it seems to have pretty much gone the way of the wind. Poof. No more. Even worse, there seems to be a genuine effort from up on high, within the White House!, to bend any 'remaining' truth whichever way is needed in order to achieve the "so-called" (giggle...or not) reality du jour. As Charles Blow firmly insists throughout his New York Times op-ed--yes, way back before Trump desperately tried to alter the facts regarding the low attendance of his inauguration and just recently when he insisted, in a clumsy attempt at justifying his Muslim ban, that news agencies were hiding the fact of terrorist attacks--much of what our new president is spouting boils down to a blatant crock of lies.

Now, I'm the first to acknowledge the role of perspective in perceiving facts. And indeed, a journalistic eye will always be a subjective one. Here in Israel we're quite accustomed to seeing the so-called 'truth' twisted into whatever version fits the intended audience. A Palestinian neutralized after rushing at, and slashing, a soldier with a butcher knife becomes 'A Palestinian shot by an Israeli.' Period. It's that simple. The headline is angled to meet the demands of the client and it's quite popular for liberals around the world to perceive Israelis as oppressors and Palestinians as victims. (Don't miss Hunter Stuart's recent piece in the Jerusalem Post addressing precisely this phenomenon.) It's not at all surprising that those far removed from the incidents themselves will accept whatever reality is spoon-fed by the press. After all, it's always easier to digest the short, more obvious, version.

Nevertheless, perspective doesn't have anything to do with what's pouring out of the White House. None of what we've been presented with over the last few weeks, even months, has anything to do with perspective. There's a clear difference between a version of the facts, the way we choose to interpret them, and the hard, cold ones themselves.  

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of Trump's tweets, especially during the campaign, suggest the horrific concept that "If you say it, it is so." In fact, an enormous part of the American populace still seems to be completely enthralled by his zesty, one or two word declarations, eagerly clutching at the straightforward adjectives and punctuation (!!!!!) he favors, perhaps precisely because it's not dressed up of obfuscated (sorry!) by a whole bunch of flowery, superfluous (sorry again!) words: those unnecessary verbs, prepositions, definitive articles and such. He makes it all so clear! Ergo, tweets = truth! How easy is that?

Sad. So sad.

It almost feels as though there's been a death. The beauty of narrative (that lovely concept so esteemed in Lin-Miranda Manuel's "Hamilton") has been crushed by the immediacy of utterances notable primarily for their brevity and resemblance to air. Of course, this is the result of having elected an egomaniac, a man  so self-centered that every byte, every snippet, every morsel of world news needs to be filtered through him, literally and viscerally, before being spit back out in its freshly chewed form, no longer bearing any resemblance to the original.  

Tragic. Just tragic.

So where do we go from here? Hunker down. Hold on. Those battles lines have been drawn. Whether on the tennis court, at a cocktail party or waiting in line at the supermarket, most of us have carefully begun to circle our wagons, to carefully choose with whom we converse-- surrounding ourselves with those equally hell-bent on maintaining a firm hold on reality, staunchly resisting the gaslighting (did we ever use that phrase prior to 2016?) with which we're being bombarded 24/7, and determined to maintain some reasonable code of ethics in the absence of one anywhere near the situation room (read: Mar-a-Lago.)   

I began this blog on day 20. I am finishing it on day 27. In less than four weeks I've become even more convinced that our current President is completely unfit for the job.

Fake news? Bad. Alternative facts? Ludicrous. So-called reality? Meaningless drivel.

It really doesn't seem to be too much to ask that the President of the United States exhibit some kind of reasonable sophistication and intelligence. Maybe someone simply needs to hand him a thesaurus. I can just imagine his reaction: So many words! Pretty!