A recent cover page of The Economist announced “Art of the lie: Post-truth politics in the age of social media”. Inside the lead article warns darkly of the threat to democracy posed by the notion that “feelings, not facts, are what matter”. The examples used to sustain The Economist’s thesis – Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, the Polish Law and Justice Government, the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign – leave us in no doubt about who the editor of this liberal newspaper believes is responsible for this threat, the political right.
If ever there was an example of Orwellian ‘Newspeak’, this is surely it. For the very notion that truth is not objective or absolute, that everything is relative, that reality is about how I perceive it, is firmly a creation of the political left. “Post-truth politics” began long before Donald Trump launched his campaign to be President of the United States, not in the party political and electoral arena, but in the no-less-political milieux of academia, the judiciary and activism of the culture wars of the 1960s.
Unable to achieve their goal of a radically individualistic society by the democratic means provided in the US Constitution – elected representatives and ballot initiatives – the left opted for judicial activism which would gradually void the Constitution of its original meaning and invent a series of ‘rights’ that have no constitutional foundation.
The most well-known of these cases is Roe v. Wade from 1973 where the Supreme Court proclaimed a ‘right to abortion’ that is nowhere to be found in the text of the Constitution, nor indeed in the thinking or beliefs of the writers and promulgators of the document. These facts were the inconvenient truths of the time and could not be allowed to get in the way of the pursuit of the feminist agenda. Post-truth politics had arrived.
Two decades later, in its Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, the Supreme Court sustained and expanded Roe v. Wade by inventing yet another ‘right’ nowhere to be found in the Constitution, that of ‘personal dignity and autonomy’. In what has become known as the ‘mystery passage’ of its ruling, the Court stated: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Post-truth politics now had a defining philosophy which, in lay terms, could be summarised as: “There is no objective truth. You have the right to define reality in any way you want. And nobody can tell you that you are wrong.”
Leap forward another two decades during which this corrosive philosophy has eaten its way through every aspect of Western culture to the point where it has become official policy and, in some countries, virtually a compulsory belief system, and is it any wonder that politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine LePen or Geert Wilders find a ready audience of the too-long-silent majority who are simply fed up with being told blatant lies about the world around them.
Lies such as: There is no difference between a man and a woman. A child does not need a mother. Men can have babies. A woman who stays at home to take care of her family is oppressed. You can change your sex simply by completing a form at the town hall. There is no such thing as an Islamic terrorist.
The Economist concludes its lead article warning that in countries like Russia and Turkey autocrats can use the techniques of post-truth politics for oppression. We do not need to look to these undemocratic states to find this danger. It exists right in the heart of Western democracies where speaking against the ‘truth’ as defined by the political left on issues related to race, gender or religion can result in punishment ranging from compulsory “awareness education” to imprisonment.