What Is Truth?
Truth has always been accompanied by a doubled-mindedness. It is something that people claim to want, but few can bear. Socrates searched for it. Jesus bore witness to it, and Pilate answered, albeit rhetorically, “What is truth?” Truth is seeing things as they really are and ascribing to them their appropriate valuations. It is an identity that rises above mere opinion and affirmatively corresponds to a reality that transcends itself. Jack Nicholson says that we can’t handle it, while the Son of Man holds that it sets us free. Truth is a lot like virtue -- in that most everyone claims to desire it, but the general consensus deep down is that they would rather have pie.
Yes, people do not always welcome it, when, like a Jehovah’s Witness, it comes knocking at their doors. For much of humanity, self-deception holds a more soothing comfort: for illusions are fuzzy and forgiving like jogging pants. Some people never look in the mirror because of truth and tests are constructed in order to determine if we know what people say it is. And if you are standing before a judge or fighting a war, it would seem a very good thing to have truth on your side -- or an M-16.
The ancients equated it with wisdom. The Enlightenment valued it as a tool of emancipation from a world it was trying to bury. The postmoderns, beginning with Nietzsche, however, denied its ultimate existence and brashly claimed that the whole historical veneration of truth was merely a cynical means to secure power. Their legacy to us, one that is even now being chipped away, is that truth is perspectival -- one man’s truth is another man’s false narrative.
And so, it is against this backdrop that the current outrage du jour is so illuminating. Indeed, the American political elite’s “firestorm in a thimble” is the abomination of “Fake News” and how it has set the teeth of the unwashed against the benevolence of their Masters. The current drumbeat of the Democratic Party: a most emotionally demonstrative group reduced to hysteria by the impending coronation of “Dr. Evil,” is that old saw -- “we wuz robbed.” And like all conspiratorial machinations, its fetid roots go deep down into places both fantastic and unexpected. Having been embarrassed by the nests of cockroaches that Jill Stein’s recount uncovered when the antiseptic light of truth was switched on, Dem operatives have scurried into more promising trashcans. As I write, the Russkies (and I believe King Nimrod) have been implicated for the heinous act of helping to overturn an election that was bought and paid for, fair and square.
Now, after eight years of enduring the Obama administration’s forced transformation of America, I would be less than truthful if I didn’t confess to finding this whole melodrama as satisfying as watching Anthony Wiener being frog-marched out the front door of a Chuck-E-Cheese. The Left’s self-evisceration -- their wailing, renting of garments, and gnashing of teeth, appeals as schadenfreude to whatever wickedness resides inside me. Moreover, the drubbing administered to our Ministries of Agitprop is as a sweet and savory offering to that fickle Goddess of Comeuppance. But I digress.
Yet, there is something perhaps more intellectually interesting afoot here. The current infatuation with “fake news” carries with it the unspoken notion that there must then be a genuine news, and for those political postmoderns (primarily of the Left) for whom truth is akin to a Golden Corral buffet, this presents an epistemic contradiction. In fact, these termites -- who have been tearing down the institutions and metaphysics of those who embrace the existence of objective necessary truths -- are now showing their true colors. Indeed, men for whom the ratchet of history can only swing left must now face a double-bladed quandary if they care enough to be consistent.
But such consistency is only a niggling irritant for those who would remake the earth. Even so, reactionaries, revolutionaries, and jealous housewives with rolling pins realize that in the workaday world, there are at least two sides to every story. And so, in our age of disinformational white noise, one group’s heresy is another’s gospel until the aggressive and expansive state decides it must stamp its “good housekeeping seal” to ensure an atmosphere of serene orthodoxy. Moreover, if the latest Zuckerbergian miracle can accomplish quietly what used to take thugs with iron bars smashing printing presses, then no auto de fe is needed for the future’s velvet-lined Stalinism.
Which brings us to this. The United Nations, that rational fountain of light that never met a tyrant it wouldn’t throw a cocktail party for, would love nothing more than to license journalists and control the dissemination of information via the interwebs. Those toothless jackals, fancying themselves as the Guardian Council of Oa, have been itching for the opportunity to sink their talons into the messy anarchy that fueled the Trump and Brexit populist coups, and nip these shenanigans in the bud. The American Left is of the same accord, and would be ecstatic if it could succeed in wiring the jaws of those rabble rousers planting IEDs on their road to El Dorado. Fortunately, the Right’s “Fake News” counteroffensive has been highly successful in exploiting and ridiculing the Left’s glass pyramid of lies and distortions. And nothing is more infuriating to the Devil, posing as an angel of light, than to be laughed at with his underpants pulled down around his ankles.
No worldly reservoir of power can ever claim to be in full possession of the truth, and given the self-interest that oozes freely from our fallen natures, only a state of tentative certitude is conducive to the preservation of ordered liberty. Humility has ever been in short supply in the salons and thinkatoriums where a bodyguard of lies must be called upon to help pave the way for the sterile City of Man. On this side of Heaven, any society that abandons its once raucous conversation for a tidy Oriental monologue prepares its own sepulcher; and like Pilate, washes its hands of truth in its pursuit of a peace, that is no peace at all.
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be contacted at email@example.com and followed at www.stubbornthings.org.