We’re in ‘the teens’ of the 2000s, but let’s not wait for 2020 to get some hindsight. We’re getting weirder, folks, weirder and less able to distinguish truth from lies, and fact from fiction. Could a Donald Trump, 100% fact free, have ever gotten a toe hold on an American presidential race in any other way or time?
Selective narrative, anecdotal evidence, weasel words, temporizing, fatuous politispeak, points that are true out of context or cunningly reframed to suit the narrative, the pedestaling of personal opinion over scientific fact … you’re soaking in it.
Exhibit A: THAT dress. A woman posted a washed-out photograph of a dress on Tumblr, sparking a flurry of 10 million tweets within one week. The picture and argument made its way around the world – was the dress blue and black, or was it white and gold? Why could we not believe our own eyes?
“A 2015 scientific study with 1,400 respondents found that 57% saw the dress as blue and black, 30% as white and gold and about 10% as blue and brown, while approximately 10% could switch between any of the colour combinations. A small number saw it as blue and gold. Women and older people disproportionately saw the dress as white and gold. The scientists further found that if the dress was shown in artificial yellow-coloured lighting almost all respondents saw the dress as blue and black, while they saw it as white and gold if the simulated lighting had a blue bias.” (Wikipedia.com)
2015 was a year where people would fight to the death over matters big and small. In a time when it is possible to discover nearly anything about anyone, misinformation ruled and our minds reeled.
Respected NBC news anchor Brian Williams admitted to lying about an event he claimed to have been a part of during the Iraq War, and was suspended without pay from Nightly News for “misrepresenting.” Fair enough – who hasn’t beefed up an old story to make yourself look better? We tsk-tsked, but really … we didn’t care.
But when Rachel Dolezal was outed for “misrepresenting” herself as a person of colour – boy did we care, even if we couldn’t really understand why she would choose to do so. Most confused were those who have actually spent their lives dealing with being born black in America. For them, there was no possibility of simply claiming to be white, for whatever reason. And yet, Dolezal, born white, lived as though born black, and became a leader of her local chapter of the NAACP. Was this cultural appropriation or a woman dealing with a severe mental issue? We cared, and we argued.
Bruce Jenner transitioned into Caitlyn Jenner, and became a cover girl and representative for an entire group of people many weren’t even aware existed. What was going on, we wondered? Was nothing as it appeared?
In the summer, pro-life activists claimed to have a video that showed a Planned Parenthood executive negotiating a price for fetal tissue, The footage was recorded secretly during a lunch meeting on July 25, 2014, between Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, and two people posing as employees of a company looking to procure fetal tissue for research purposes. The video, as released, was heavily edited to cut out Nucatola repeatedly saying its clinics wanted to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.
“The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved.” (http://www.factcheck.org/2015/07/unspinning-the-planned-parenthood-video/)
At least three presidential candidates chose to misunderstand the issue, and to pander to their religious right bases. Despite the facts being “misrepresented,” Rand Paul claimed “… a video showing [Planned Parenthood]’s top doctor describing how she performs late-term abortions to sell body parts for profit!” and Carly Fiorina spat, “This isn’t about “choice.” It’s about profiting on the death of the unborn while telling women it’s about empowerment.” Carly doubled down further, claiming to have watched a video, which exists only in her own inflamed mind, of a Planned Parenthood doctor saying they must harvest the brain of a fully formed fetus.
And that all led to a confrontation in September as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a pro-life supporter seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, produced an ‘official’ chart indicating that Planned Parenthood performed more abortions than “life-saving procedures” in 2013. In actuality, the chart was created by Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group. Congress was willing to shut down the government rather than continue to fund Planned Parenthood, with little in the way of facts, but much in the way of righteous indignation.
PolitiFact, who has been documenting Donald Trump’s statements on their Truth-O-Meter, had little difficulty in bestowing the Politifact Lie of The Year award upon him. 76 percent of his pronunciations were Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire – a record no other politician could match. And yet his followers believe he’s authentic, a straight-talker, more truthful, and less scripted than traditional politicians.
Really? Like when Trump said that there were 6 million people over the age of 112, and that’s what was dragging down America’s social security?
Even Bill O’Reilly of Fox News – no stranger to “misrepresenting” himself, challenged Trump’s tweet of inaccurate murder rates. “Whites killed by whites — 16%. Whites killed by blacks — 81%,” said an image he shared on Twitter. FACT: Most people are killed by someone they know, and someone of the same race. The correct number for whites killed by whites was 82 percent in 2014, while the number of whites killed by blacks was 15 percent.”
But Trump responded by admitting that being accurate wasn’t the point: “Hey, Bill, Bill, am I gonna check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people … @RealDonaldTrump, by the way.”
Trump’s level of crazy has let other presidential candidates craziness slip by almost unnoticed. Well, except for Ben Carson, who, as a rabid Seventh Day Adventist, has theories that go completely against accepted scientific fact. Despite the mummies found within the pyramids of Egypt, Ben thinks the structures were actually large temples of grain. “I think that’s a plausible explanation to how they got built…I happen to believe a lot of things that you might not believe because I believe in the Bible.”
And you should believe him, because apparently he and Jesus have regular spa days together.
And in one of the most Machiavellian misuses of economic austerity, Gov Rick Snyder of Michigan poisoned an entire community in an effort to save money. By switching the Flint water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River without adequately treating the water, the water pipes began to shed lead into the drinking water. Within months, the proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead doubled, prompting the state to declare a State of Emergency. From filmmaker Michael Moore: “To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.”
So it probably shouldn’t come as such a surprise that people are battling each other, on social and mass media, and defending their own strong opinions, even if their opinions would seem to be contrary to accepted fact, or actually just pulled out of the ether of their own confused rage and fear. “Fact” has been played with so fast and loose that what we believe today might be shoved under the bus tomorrow.
As John Lennon wrote, when you’ve stopped being able to believe in anything … “I just believe in me.”
Motorhead’s Lemmy – the man, the myth, the legend. One of the very few metal frontmen iconic enough to be known by only one name. Gone December 28, 2015, at the age of 70.
“Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God? Trick question – Lemmy IS God.” (Airheads)
Here are two videos that bookend his musical life. Waaaaay back in 1964, Lemmy played guitar for Rev Black and The Rockin’ Vicars, a name then abbreviated to The Rockin’ Vicars, but in order to have a chance to get more gigs or even a record contract, they changed their name to “Rockin’ Vickers.”
This cover of Ray Davies’ “Dandy,” a song made popular by Herman’s Hermits, was released in 1966.
And this Finnish milk commercial, shot just a month before his death at the age of 70, was released this week. As the ad company said, “This is offered in celebration of the life of a lovely, exceptional man – a man who celebrated life so vibrantly himself. We were first shooting a remake of an iconic Finnish milk ad. The tone of this ad that was shot a month ago was changed to make it a heartfelt tribute, however modest. A take that came late in the shoot was selected – one of Lemmy’s brilliant improv moments that was never in the script. This was our magical encounter with a great man – and we’re honoured to share it with the world. Thank you, Lemmy.”
originally published as bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/roxanne-tellier-are-you-for-real/