Right after Kellyanne Conway cited alternative facts I re-read Orwell’s 1984. The authoritarian regime made itself impenetrable by hiding behind a fog of misinformation. The point had been reached where a truth could be true yesterday and false today and true again tomorrow. The fact that it was true yesterday had no bearing on the fact that it was false today. The official “truth” had a fluid relationship with “reality,” to the point that no one could discern either. No one could identify any information damaging to the regime because whatever it was, it was false. Or true. Or whatever.
The following excerpt describing how the protagonist Winston dealt with reporting the numbers of boots produced illustrates:
But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted the Ministry of Plenty’s figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connexion with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connexion that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head. For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at 145 million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than 145 millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain.
As the linked article and many others show, the Trump administration is openly and unabashedly making public statements that have absolutely no basis in fact. But truth has been so confounded few are disturbed. It might be true. It might not be. And it is underneath this fog that our democracy is being dismantled. I agree with Mr. Sargent:
Now, Trump World’s position is basically that the attack never happened, and the White House position is that further fleshing out Mueller’s conclusions about it, to do something about the next one, isn’t a legitimate legislative purpose — even though Trump’s own intelligence officials are waving red flags about it.
How can this really be the position of the White House and the president of the United States?
It is a useful exercise at times to step back and state clearly what President Trump and the White House are really arguing. We waste so much time chasing little lies that we lose sight of how audaciously, monumentally absurd and profoundly saturated in bad faith their big arguments really are.