The Art of the Real
Disinformation vs. democracy
So why has “post-truth” only now become the OED word of the year? Without question, something has shifted in our ever more postmodern world. What the KGB once called dezinformatsiya, and the Reagan administration named “perception management,” has now come to dominate public life. Everywhere we turn in the aborning age of Trump, we see the deliberate spreading of contradictory, misleading, and outright false “news.” The ceaseless fount of counter-information creates a general climate of mass confusion, causing even the most resolute auditors to doubt their senses.
This increasingly influential phenomenon is strangling both the internet and liberal democracy. What separates our brave new world of counterfeit information from the ideologically driven news outlets of the past, or even the late Cold War propaganda initiatives mounted by the United States and the USSR, is that this time, the Big Lies are bubbling up from grassroots internet cesspools—though these are increasingly in cahoots with powerful moneyed interests.
The concept of “the Big Lie”-a brazen untruth pushed so relentlessly in mass media that it’s eventually mistaken for truth-is hardly novel. As is the case with so many other wretched stratagems of its ilk, capitalism got there first with the PR technique known as FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
Inside a stunned White House, the President considers his legacy and America’s future in an ex post facto world
During the days immediately before and after the presidential election that shocked much of the world, The New Yorker’s David Remnick was spending time with President Obama. The president reflected on many topics, including one that almost everyone else is talking about too. Real vs Fake news.
“An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal — that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.”
This is about a lot more than politics. Welcome to an ex post facto world, where, as Obama explains, “everything is true and nothing is true.”
Obama’s insistence on hope felt more willed than audacious. It spoke to the civic duty he felt to prevent despair not only among the young people in the West Wing but also among countless Americans across the country. At the White House, as elsewhere, dread and dejection were compounded by shock. Administration officials recalled the collective sense of confidence about the election that had persisted for many months, the sense of balloons and confetti waiting to be released. Last January, on the eve of his final State of the Union address, Obama submitted to a breezy walk-and-talk interview in the White House with the “Today” show. Wry and self-possessed, he told Matt Lauer that no matter what happened in the election he was sure that “the overwhelming majority” of Americans would never submit to Donald Trump’s appeals to their fears, that they would see through his “simplistic solutions and scapegoating.”
The morning after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Barack Obama summoned staff members to the Oval Office. Some were fairly junior and had never been in the room before. They were sombre, hollowed out, some fighting tears, humiliated by the defeat, fearful of autocracy’s moving vans pulling up to the door.