I think one of my first blogs was one of the most interesting, but I don’t recall it generated much interest. I posted it 3 years ago. See http://themeanderer.ca/fantasyland-for-real
It was based on an interview I heard by Charlie Rose with someone I had never heard of before—Kurt Andersen. As soon as I heard Andersen expounding my ears perked up. I was hooked. About 6 months later, I bought the book he wrote called FantasyLand: How America Went Haywire—a 500 Year History. Andersen put into words things I had been thinking about but had never organized into careful thought.
In the first chapter of the book, Kurt Andersen, described an extremely interesting political operative. This was Karl Rove the “mastermind” behind the election of George W. Bush who came up with a remarkable statement that is highly relevant to this examination of the death of truth. This is how Kurt Andersen described it: “People “in the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore.”
Rowe was saying we are in a post-truth world. Truth does not matter any more. Could this be true? There certainly was a lot of evidence that many people thought that way. Particularly, it seemed to me, in the United States. Of course this phenomenon is world wide but particularly virulent in the United States.
A good friend of mine said something similar: “Americans only have light contact with reality.” He actually told me I said that. I wish I had. First of all, it seems eminently true. I hope to provide an abundance of evidence in this blog. But even more interesting is why? Why are Americans so economical with the truth? Even more important, why do they not even care? According to the Washington Post Fact Checker, president Trump hit the 20,0000 mark on July 9, 2020, for lies and misleading statements. The Washington Post called it “a tsunami of untruths.” While that is remarkable, even more amazing is the fact that Americans don’t care! That is the real surprise.
I am not saying Canadians are a lot better. After all, Canadians are just Americans on valium. Europeans have the same problem but to a lesser extent it seems to me.
That great twenty first century philosopher Stephen Colbert described the American phenomenon this way when he opined on a word he made up—truthiness. It wasn’t quite truth. It was sort of like truth. Colbert said this on his famous Colbert Report before he took over the Late show on network television. As part of that report he played the part of a right-wing populist character. He said he would use the word “truthiness” whether it was a word or not. After all, as he said,
“Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what isn’t true. Or what didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941 that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart…Face it folks, we are a divided nation…divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart….Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”
And that is where many in America, and Canada too, are at. We are impatient with facts. Many of us are governed by what we want to be true, not by what is true. And that is exactly the problem.
And this phenomenon, according to Kurt Andersen is not something new. As he said, “this complicated American phenomenon I was trying to figure out had been not just decades but centuries in the making.” It was 500 years old.
Andersen was trying to figure out what happened to America. Me too. I just want to add Canada to the mix. We are not that different from our big brother as we often want to think.
How did we get here? What does it mean? That is the question I want to look at in future blogs.