Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Big, Fat Nightcrawler of Truth

I think Stephen Colbert is a really funny guy. But in his recent interview with The Onion’s AV Club he spoke a lot of “truthiness.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The A.V. Club: What's your take on the "truthiness" imbroglio that's tearing our country apart?
Stephen Colbert:
Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word. I don't know whether it's a new thing, but it's certainly a current thing, in that it doesn't seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the president because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what Is true?

AVC: You're saying appearances are more important than objective truth?
Absolutely. The whole idea of authority—authoritarian is fine for some people, like people who say "Listen to me, and just don't question, and do what I say, and everything will be fine"—the sort of thing we really started to respond to so well after 9/11. 'Cause we wanted someone to be daddy, to take decisions away from us. I really have a sense of [America's current leaders] doing bad things in our name to protect us, and that was okay. We weren't thrilled with Bush because we thought he was a good guy at that point, we were thrilled with him because we thought that he probably had hired people who would fuck up our enemies, regardless of how they had to do it. That was for us a very good thing, and I can't argue with the validity of that feeling.

But that has been extended to the idea that authoritarian is better than authority. Because authoritarian means there's only one authority, and that authority has got to be the President, has got to be the government, and has got to be his allies. What the right-wing in the United States tries to do is undermine the press. They call the press "liberal," they call the press "biased," not necessarily because it is or because they have problems with the facts of the left—or even because of the bias for the left, because it's hard not to be biased in some way, everyone is always going to enter their editorial opinion—but because a press that has validity is a press that has authority. And as soon as there's any authority to what the press says, you question the authority of the government—it's like the existence of another authority. So that's another part of truthiness. Truthiness is "What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true." It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.

No one agrees on facts anymore and it’s tearing our country apart. If you don’t like what the news says – well, fine. It’s all a bunch of lies anyway. I don’t have to believe that there were no WMDs in Iraq or that FEMA bungled Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts or Gore probably won Florida or the Theory of Evolution holds water or Congressional redistricting in Texas was politically motivated and Tom Delay is corrupt. That’s just what those liberals want you to believe.

It’s like some people want to take a permanent vacation from reality. The right wing has convinced a huge section of the American population that reality is what they say it is and not believing them is un-American. And it’s easy to believe those words. You’ll be safe. You won’t have to pay taxes. Just go to work, make money and enjoy the security that Big Daddy W provides. As long as you are straight, white Christian, make more than $100,000 a year, don’t have kids in public school, have health care coverage through your employer and never plan to study – or hell even use – science to do anything more than hook up your TIVO to your hi-def plasma sceen, you will be fine.

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