Without us realizing it, President Trump and staff have already built his controversial wall, except it’s not against Mexican immigrants but objective truth itself. On Nov. 29, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reinforced this barrier to truth by defending Trump’s retweet of erroneous and misleading anti-Muslim videos. She explained that it didn’t matter if the counterfeit videos were real because the threat they represented was real.

This reminded me of the trumped up charges against writers and actors during the Red Scare in the 1950s. For the witch hunters, it didn’t always matter if the claims were real against the people who had been blacklisted and deprived of their livelihoods because the threat of Communism was nevertheless real.


Trump’s latest lie is merely the cherry on top of a sundae of more than 1,600 false or misleading claims he has made as president, according to The Washington Post and The press and countless eyewitnesses have consistently and laughably proven him wrong and the real source of the Nile of “fake news” snaking through the country. This is especially true because of Trump’s denial of Russia’s heavy thumb on the scales of the 2016 election and his recent return to the Obama birther conspiracy. In keeping with his schoolyard bully personae, Trump has managed to hurl the fake news label back at the mainstream media to undermine its reporting. The great tragedy for the republic is that this has now become a matter of gospel for his supporters.

I am certainly not saying journalism is error free. Any human activity, especially if deadline-driven, will have mistakes. However, the mainstream media has been quick to own up to snafus with corrections, apologies and even suspensions. We’ve recently seen this with The Washington Post, CNN and ABC News. Their reporters didn’t start out to “purposefully” mislead the public, as the White House claimed on Monday. Mistakes aren’t fake news. On the other hand, the president and his press secretary have yet to acknowledge and apologize for their many mistruths.

When basic facts are denied about such things as Obama’s birthplace or climate science, there can be no critical thinking, no discussion, no compromise that says, “Yes, well, that much is true, but don’t you think…?” We live in an age where, as the Greek philosopher Pythagoras once put it, man is “the measure of all things.” Personal opinion has superseded core truths and ideology has outmaneuvered facts. This is not to deny the value of a healthy skepticism, but as with any endeavor, we need to accept certain reasoned outcomes. If enough investigators or scientists have researched an issue and arrived at a common conclusion, then there’s nothing fake about it until new evidence surfaces to question their findings.

In a speech last September, conservative columnist Bret Stephens asserted, “For free societies to function, the idea of open-mindedness can’t simply be a catchphrase or a dogma. It needs to be a personal habit, most of all when it comes to preserving an open mind toward those with whom we disagree … . But no country can have good government, or a healthy public square, without high-quality journalism — journalism that can distinguish a fact from a belief and again from an opinion.”

The situation becomes especially toxic when the beliefs and opinions are demonstrably wrong, and when certain media personalities spread them nonetheless for the sake of sensationalism and ratings. They have created a nihilistic world where we just accept lies as the status quo and nobody believes anything anymore.

Racism. Immigration. Urban violence. Terrorism. Rogue states. Election interference by hostile nations. Income inequality. The list of formidable issues facing this nation is long, and to have a national discussion on any of them requires acceptance of certain irrefutable facts, not opinions or blatant misinformation.

Our civic dialogue has become polluted with lies and our marketplace of ideas is being trashed. For the sake of political expediency, many in Trump’s party refuse to call him out for his untruths as long as he can hold a pen in his hands.

When it comes to the truth, there’s no room for relativism or false equivalence or whatabout-ism. (OK. Obama lied because the ACA didn’t allow all of us to keep our doctors. May we move on, please?) Trump’s lying has reached Olympic heights and is steering us to a post-truth society. Regardless of your party affiliation, how can this be good for our country? Truth anchors us to what is genuine and real. Without it, we drift into dark and treacherous waters.