Tag Archives: Trump

Is Truth Obsolete?

Source: letter to the editor of The New York Times from Casey Williams, Ph.D. student in literature at Duke University, freelance writer and journalist, April 18

…Even if we felt comfortable asserting the existence of something like “truth,” there’s no going back to the days when Americans agreed on matters of fact – when debates about policy were guided by a commitment to truth and reason. Indeed, critique shows us that it’s doubtful that those days, like Trump’s “great” America, ever existed….

Even in a “post-truth era,” a critical attitude allows us to question dominant systems of thought, whether they derive authority from an appearance of neutrality, objectivity or inevitability or from a more Trumpian appeal to alternative facts that dispense with empirical evidence. In a world where lawmakers still appeal to common sense to promote regressive policies, critique remains an important tool for anyone seeking to move past the status quo.

This is because critical ways of thinking demand that we approach knowledge with attention and humility and recognize that, while facts might be created, not all facts are created equal.

While Trump appeals more often to emotions than to facts – or even to common sense – critique can help those who oppose him question the Trumpian version of reality. We can ask not whether a statement is true or false, but how and why it was made and what effects it produces when people feel it to be true. Paying attention to how knowledge is created and used can help us hold leaders like Trump accountable for what they say.

And if we question all ideas – not just the ones we dislike – perhaps our critiques can also reveal new ways of thinking and suggest political possibilities undreamed of by either Trump or his centrist opponents.

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Is Truth Dead?

No. But for Trump it is. His relentless assault on experts, on science, climate change and the conventional media, and objectivity, would raise the hair of atheists who happily celebrate the death of God but never even for a moment the death of Truth.

On March 22, Time magazine asked the question about the death of Truth on its cover, repeating a parallel question about the Death of God fifty-one years ago, on April 8, 1966.

God survived. As will Truth.

On March 23 Michael Scherer wrote in Time Magazine:

“…With time, Trump may find he has committed himself to a strategy that will deteriorate with reuse, because with each passing month the American people will be gathering their own data on his habits and tactics, and what they yield. They will decide whether it’s true, as Trump has promised, that health care costs are lower and everyone has wonderful insurance. They will fact-check his pledge of millions of new manufacturing jobs. They will see whether their incomes rise and their taxes fall, whether Mexico pays for a giant wall. ‘In the end, Presidents aren’t allowed to get away with excuses,’ explains Bill Galston, a presidential scholar who worked in the Clinton White House. ‘They pay a price for the promises they make.’ This is a truth that no one yet has been able to tweet away.”