I have been turning this question over in my mind ever since the election. What does it mean to exist in a world in which objective facts are not accepted and/or are assumed not to exist? Even when there is mounting evidence to support them?
When I was growing up my mom used to always say that the world functions on agreement. If we cannot agree on objective reality, if “reality” can be placed in quotation marks then how do we function? While reality (on a personal level) may be plastic, REALITY (the objective kind that can be measured) is not. Objective facts do not care if you believe in them. What happens though when the reference points (and persons) cannot be trusted because they have an agenda which is supported by the bending or manipulation of “objective” reality?
I used to think that the concept of a Reality Distortion Field (a la Steve Jobs) was just a polite way of saying that a person has his or her own agenda. Today they just call it gas lighting or straight up lying. If however the source of the lie doesn’t care about the label then it loses its impact. What I don’t think that anyone really counted on was being faced with people (and those who follow them) that are not only willing to manipulate/distort “reality” in support of their agenda but also willing to outright lie in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Straight up tell you to your face that you should not believe your own eyes. “Oh, you must have got it wrong, Mainstream Media (everyone knows that you can’t be trusted anyway…)”. Thus, they repeat the same lie until it becomes a “REALITY” for the masses.
The concept of plausible deniability taken to the level of the absurd. If, for example, I myself can’t prove with certainty that the climate is changing due to man-made impacts why not simply assert that it’s not possible. Simply hogwash. A hoax created by the Chinese government. Since most of the people listening are not going to go out and run tests themselves they will simply trust what they hear/read from anyone with a large enough megaphone (translation: a bully pulpit). We all know that those pesky scientists have their own agendas anyway and like the main stream media cannot be trusted. Oh and by the way, since most people are stupid (according to some) they won’t fact check in any case. Thus, the speaker is free in this world that functions on agreement to say what they want as long as they can get enough (usually paid) idiots to parrot that message. Because we all know that lies oft-repeated will become truth in the minds of those that are not willing to challenge what they hear.
Which brings me to another quote from my mother, “the idea that wins is the idea that has the most energy behind it”. It doesn’t have to be a good idea, the best idea or even the right idea. It simply must be the idea with the most energy behind it.
Let’s untangle that one given that we are now living in a world of “alternative facts”. The presidential election of 2016 (and its result) has proved the point. If we cannot agree on reality, if there are no objective facts, and if the idea that wins is the one with the most energy behind it, then those of us in resistance have much work to do. The focus needs to change from being solely driven by arguments/debates about the correctness or factual nature of what is/was said. That will lead nowhere. The sources of these fictions and their enablers will not be shamed. The money is too great, the ratings too important, the adulation too crucial and the political power and cost are too high. They actually think they are right. Or at least they will not admit when they are wrong. This is not about logic and objectivity. You can lose even with the best argument. Hillary has demonstrated that one. This is about a very primal survival-based urge. Taking back what is deemed to be “theirs” from those seen as undeserving. Until we realize this we will continue down a path where we will spout facts, they will believe in their fictions and they will win.
Jeffrey Tate, Ph.D., currently works in Southern California as a senior engineering fellow, and mentor with a passion for science and politics. He was named the 2016 BEYA-MiRS Scientist of the Year.