As I write this, it’s raining outside.
I know that for a fact because I can look out the window and see the raindrops falling. I can further verify this fact if I step out the door, and get wet.
There is only one true conclusion about what’s happening outdoors right now. There is no other way to dispute it. Those are the facts.
But if President Donald Trump were to say, or write or tweet that it’s sunny, there’s a good percentage of the America population who would believe him, even if that meant leaving their umbrellas behind and getting soaked.
This, too, is a fact, and it is perhaps the most alarming fact of the current political era.
A new poll for CBS News came to some alarming conclusions about what people will believe and how that relates to their political leanings.
Ninety-one per cent of self-identified “strong Trump supporters” say they trust Trump for accurate information, compared to just 11 per cent who say they trust the mainstream media. In fact, a good number of those respondents said they trust the word of Trump more than their own family and friends.
This is particularly astonishing when you consider Trump’s track record of exaggerations, false information and flat-out lies. As of May 1, Trump had racked up more than 3,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency, according to the Washington Post. That’s an average of 6.5 false claims per day — a number that has been slowly creeping up.
In other words, there’s a large percentage of the American population that either isn’t interested in the facts, or is so invested in Trump’s presidency that they’re willingly blind to them.
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Trump learned the power of misinformation long before taking office, when he started spreading the lie that former president Barack Obama was secretly a Kenyan-born Muslim. People ate it up then, as Trump popularized the myth.
Since then, the president has manufactured a crisis of media credibility as a way to inoculate himself and his administration from scandal.
All he has to do is brand the media as “the enemy of the people,” and “fake news,” whenever a story he doesn’t like appears, and his supporters will believe that they can’t believe anything but his word.
It sounds ridiculous, but it has worked. Seventy-one percent of Republicans now think that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt,” and just 16 per cent consider it a legitimate investigation, all because the president has said so.
In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the “final, most essential” command of the totalitarian state was “to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”
Donald Trump’s 2018 has just edged closer to those fictional words.
Last week, speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Trump told the crowd “just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Except that it is.
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The press may not be perfect, and reporters do occasionally make mistakes, but to suggest there’s some vast conspiracy to deny Trump — or anyone — fair and accurate coverage is absurd.
In the current era, “fake news” has become a lazy, unoriginal criticism of stories that people just don’t like — no matter how true they are.
If there’s one fact you can count on, it’s that Trump knows that, which is why he has worked so hard to make it possible for people to reject what’s right in front of them.
The sad thing is, that it seems to have worked, and it’s keeping his base all fired up.
Jackson Proskow is Washington Bureau Chief for Global National.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.