Does it seem like every day holds the fate of the world in its teeth? When you wake up in the morning and start settling into your day, as that faint glimmer of light spreads out before you, what are you thinking about? Let us move beyond our simple daily needs, be it a shower, a cup of coffee, or an intense, partially orgasmic bowel movement simultaneous with eight minutes playing on your phone, checking your email, catching up on the day’s news . . .
One of the chief topics we debate these days is not what is going on in the world, but if what we are being told is actually true. We hear or see about the latest terrible incident to happen, and this evokes our guttural response–an emotional shriek of rage, pain, disgust, or maybe hilarity. When we are confronted with the world as our media outlets choose to paint it, most of us, any longer, simply turn away. It is not that we don’t believe such horrible things are happening, nor that bias coming from every which way does not impact our understanding. We have just gotten to a place where we are no longer willing to accept that the world is what we have allowed it to become.
The term ‘fake news’ is bandied about far too often to have retained its once significant meaning. When a culture of total doubt is the end result of so many different things happening, and an entertainment industry emerges from the wreckage of a once honorable goal of reporting what is happening in the world, it is not so much a ‘false reality’ that is created, but merely one of our own desires. (For anyone near, in, or coming to New York City in the near future, I urge you to take the opportunity to see the brilliant revision of the film Network on Broadway, now starring Bryan Cranston https://www.broadway.com/shows/network/)
A lie isn’t false if we believe it. Now if we really want to strip this statement down into its syllogistic elements, and put it to the mathematical challenge of logic, of course it cannot stand on its own. But that’s just it, isn’t it? No one is going to try so hard to unspool something as unforgiving as absolute truth. Not only is it very hard to discern, or narrow down, but the result will always be both far too painful and completely unsatisfying. And so we impose whatever doubt keeps us sane onto the world around us, and re-imagine things how we want them to be.
And of course none of us really invents a wonderland out of our versions of the truth. We are too far gone for that, too frustrated and angry with what we will never be able control. We hear all day long the viewpoints of people we are convinced are wrong. It doesn’t even matter what they’re wrong about, really, any longer, because in a world of ‘fake news,’ falsehood can be discovered in anything. There is a lie to every truth, and it is this horrible reality that invades us every morning, as we start following the latest scandal, whether celebrity, political or universal, and all these topics of gossip melt down into the same muddled crime. We listen to some snide broadcaster paint their vision of something that happened in the most entertaining way possible (ratings, advertisers, profits, Boom!). Each broadcaster is trying to latch onto a specific audience. Again, none of them are lying, nor are they making things up. Sometimes they are not even expressing their own opinions. What is happening here is that the truth is being offered from a specific point of view, regardless of whether that perspective is that “truth isn’t true.”
It is wrong for us to so harshly blame the media for disrupting the world, or to accuse them of corruption on the basis of a shadowy political agenda. No. No. It has absolutely nothing to do with that. We exist within an entertainment culture. We want to be amused. The United States of America elected a game show host its president because he was far more interesting than the same bland, greedy politicians we have convinced ourselves have only ever been in it for themselves. And, if nothing else, Donald Trump’s elevation should be considered one of the most significant signposts of what it is all of us have become. Regardless of the horror, or the intense, sometimes irrational pride one may feel in Donald Trump, there is no time in American history that raw opinion has had a more significant impact on our reality.
This is why there is no such thing as ‘fake news.’ It isn’t that people are lying. It isn’t even that everyone is self-serving and corrupt. It is because we have allowed our world to become this partisan and biased, because we are so partisan and biased (and bias can take on any form–even bias against those who are biased). There are no longer lies, those transparent falsehoods we often see on the news. They are merely beliefs. People believe what is being reported. It is the fragmentation of fact that we have voted for. Do not blame Donald Trump, or CNN, or FoxNews, or the Main Stream Media, or far-right wing conspiracy radio. Blame ourselves. It is what we have been asking for. We are all subjects for my own variation on Editorial History . . .