Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Post-Truth Era

Author and teacher Ralph Keyes published a book in 2004 called, “The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life.” The “post-truth era” sounds so much better than the liar-liar-pants-on-fire era – but any way you look at it, that’s where we now reside. We don’t expect honesty in any situation anymore, and we’ve cultivated a variety of euphemisms to soften the blow of that reality. We use the term “spin” instead of deceit. We say, “ethically challenged” instead of thief or charlatan. We’ve become so compromised that we can’t even use the word liar.

There is little we can trust in our public lives. In the post truth era, we can pick our own media. We can choose the media sources that give us information that confirm our beliefs or biases. Saint Ronnie told us that gummint is the problem, so we don’t expect anything good or honest to come from our elected officials. We watched as Reagan’s history was rewritten to make him a saint. Everything is fair game these days – even history can be sanitized for our protection. Our presidential primary has become a reality show where big, bold lies are TRUMPeted with no fear of reprisal. The sad truth is this -there are no consequences for lying.

The NH House of Representatives has an internal “all reps” email listserv that is supposed to be used by House members to communicate with one another (and constituents) as they work on The People’s business. Instead, it is frequently used as a means of sending out ideological mendacity. In 2013, State Representative Peter Hansen of Amherst achieved global renown when he sent out an all reps email where he referenced, “children and vagina’s” instead of saying women and children. In 2013 State Rep. Romeo Danais sent out a “joke” over the internal mail system that compared people getting food stamps to wild animals. Danais found it so amusing that he sent it to all of his colleagues twice. In 2013, State Representatives Gary Hopper and Jordan Ulery found it necessary to send out an all reps email with a scantily clad photo of a young woman. The subject matter of the email was the “Democrat’s plan for a 100% gun ban.” In other words, it was fabrication combined with soft-core porn.

 In the weeks since the terrorist attacks in Paris, we’ve seen a near constant barrage of prevarication on just about every level of public discourse. From presidential candidates to NH state legislators, folks are working overtime to spread fables in order to gin up fear.

On November 13, State Representative Dick Marple of Hooksett sent out a real beaut to the all reps listserv:

Coming to a State near you!
“Oh” “Yes” it is coming here too! 1200 to 2,000 a day are coming here. Obama asked for to have 10,000 then it expanded to 100,000 the with in a week it went to 180,000. That is a lot of Diaper heads.
The thing is, these that Obama is bringing in does not have a wife or family with them! This a invasion! Wake up people we are being taken under with out a shot fired! Obama’s pen does the same thing! If this pisses you off! GOOD!

The spelling, sentence structure, and grammar are all Marple’s. The email heading read: “Four wives? Yup n Miochighan.”

Xenophobic? Check. Offensive? Check. Incoherent? Check.
Marple sent this out to all of his colleagues on the official House internal email system. He referred to Syrian refugees – people fleeing for their lives during wartime - as “diaper heads.” These are the words of an adult man, speaking about some of his fellow humans. That’s awful enough, but this is, by the way, a listserv paid for and maintained by our tax dollars. Our tax dollars are subsidizing the spread of lies, fear, and hate. Marple is serving his fourth term, so one assumes that the good people of Hooksett support his incoherence, duplicity, and his xenophobia.

Back in June of 2012, then Speaker Bill O’Brien sent out an email to all reps advising them of a new policy regarding speech on the all reps listserv:

"Electronic media cannot be used for knowingly transmitting, retrieving, or storing any communication that is: 1. Discriminatory or harassing; 2. Derogatory to any individual or group; 3. Obscene, sexually explicit or pornographic; 4. Defamatory or threatening.  In addition, also prohibited are jokes . . . or any other non-legislative work activity that is not allowed on government computers." This new policy was, according to O’Brien, going to be strictly enforced, and violators would lose their email privilege. Clearly it was not strictly enforced, nor has it ever been. Not a single speaker or majority leader (including O’Brien himself) has ever attempted to enforce this rule, no matter how much offensive stuff is sent out on the official House internal email system.

One would think that these guys would be smart enough to send stuff like this out over their own personal email, rather than risk having someone like me make their bigotry, calumny, and bad spelling a matter of public record, but one would be wrong. There are no consequences for lying.

State Representative Max Abramson, Republican, Free Stater and convicted felon, from Seabrook sent out his refugee falsehoods on Twitter. He tweeted, “Shaheen and Obama are still trying to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to New Hampshire to help the Democrats win a close race in 2016.”

This is complete fabrication. The total of all Syrian refugees approved to come to the United States is 10,000. That is for the entire country, not the state of NH. If Representative Abramson had done even a modicum of research, he would have learned that a refugee coming to the US is not eligible to apply for citizenship for five years after they arrive. They have to be citizens to vote. Abramson didn’t bestir himself to find facts. His intent was to gin up fear and xenophobia for his political party, before an election, so he deliberately sent out misinformation. 

No one has paid any attention to his lies, or those of his colleague Dick Marple. We should want better from our elected officials, but this kind of behavior is exactly what we have become conditioned to expect. There are no consequences for liars in the post-truth era.

“Casual duplicity picks at the thread of our social fabric.” Ralph Keyes

published as an oped in the November 27 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper


Brian Loudermilch said...

Once upon a time, the Media did a fairly decent job of pointing out all the blatantly False things spewing from the mouths of our political representatives.
It was called "Journalistic Integrity".
It Died when the folks running the Media decided that Profits were more important than the Truth.

We also had a FCC rule called "The Fairness Doctrine".
The Fairness doctrine allowed Anyone to broadcast someone Else's "News Stories" in order to point out inaccurate statements to the Viewing audience.
The Fairness Doctrine is now Gone.
Take a Wild Guess WHY the Corporate Media Forced the FCC to get RID of The Fairness Doctrine.

Artemisia said...

Thank you, Susan! Well said as usual. As someone old enough to have not voted for Reagan, I was truly appalled when his story was sanitized and rewritten to grant him "hero" status. Now we have a generation of people who didn't live through his contemptuous regime but they think he's their "saint." His funeral was the biggest exercise in lying I have ever seen. I watched the whole thing, the same way a person is drawn to the side show to see Lobster Boy.

Alexandria Knox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
susanthe said...

Why don't you explain why you tried to get me banned from Facebook, Alexandria? Just an idea.

Artemisia said...

Oh brother. Let's hear it for the right-wing "you seem angry" tactic. No one has a bigger problem with anger than people who think they are being oppressed by an imaginary "nanny state." Righteous indignation is NOT the same thing as anger. And I'd say Susan is doing plenty to effect change. That's a big part of what journalists try to do.