Loss of True North: When Stark Reality and Fanciful Imagination Converge
Stark reality and fanciful imagination seem to be converging in a hurry. This is one of the byproducts of losing credibility.
Who knows what’s true today? Do you? Ask Hillary. Well, that’s probably not the best measure. How about Donald Trump? Hm. Do you begin to see the problem?
Well, what about the media? Aren’t the press independent, fair and unbiased? Well, no. And because you – and just about everyone else on the planet – now realizes this, we arrive back at the premise we began with: reality and imagination are merging. Who knows where one stops and the other begins?
We’ve all known people whose tall tales ruined their believability. The boy who cried wolf simply couldn’t be believed when a real wolf actually showed up. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
Some of us are old enough to remember the last time credibility came to the fore, institutionally and culturally. It was popularly called the Credibility Gap. Google it if you’re too young (or too ignorant of U.S. history).
Arguably, the Credibility Gap was what undid support for the Vietnam War, undermined the presumed “altruistic” motives of your government and ultimately shook nearly every cultural institution to the core, leaving instead a nagging doubt that gave rise to ever-more skeptical subsequent generations. At this rate, it won’t be long before the most obvious things simply can’t be believed. Hm. Yes, we may be there already. Shouldn’t it be obvious that a man in a dress doesn’t make him a woman? But we digress.
The point of this little history is that things haven’t been stable since credibility came into doubt a half century or so ago.
Now we are faced with the most outlandish claims and counter-claims in the public realm. The recent criticism of Hillary Clinton as unfit to be president because of mental and physical health issues points up the problem. Who’s right here?
Are selective video clips and third- and fourth-hand medical “experts” right in claiming she is frail, ill and on the verge of a serious health meltdown? Or are Hillary and her defenders right in claiming she’s just peachy and those who say otherwise are crackpot conspiracy theorists?
There are defenders of Hillary who think it is an effective response to mock the opposition with reductio ad absurdum, offering over-the-top “confessions” that are meant to reveal how irrational the claims are. “My colleagues in the mainstream media are covering all this up…” a recent Boston Globe columnist wrote of Hillary’s alleged bad health, obviously meaning just the opposite. After all, how absurd would it be that the entire mainstream press would conceal such stuff. Hm.
What the mockers don’t realize is how close to the truth they come with their absurdities designed to debunk. More than likely for most readers, the reductio ad absurdum actually appears to be more fact than spoof.
The reality is, the mainstream media continues to fall all over itself to avoid suggesting (and when pressed into a corner to deny) that Hillary’s health is in any way suspect. Shakespeare might observe that they protest too much.
This has the cumulative effect of destroying their own credibility and ironically reinforcing the allegations of poor health. At this rate, Hillary’s defenders in the “neutral” press could end up convincing the world that she’s a teetering, faltering, walking health hazard on the verge of a debilitation stroke. Even if in fact she has the health of a 20-year-old pentathlete. Nothing undermines credibility quite like having suspected liars come to your defense.
When credibility is destroyed, not only do people stop believing what you say, they are more likely to believe just the opposite. The mainstream press’ inability to report on their clear favorite without favoritism just may spell doom for her and for them.
Serves them both right.
By the way, it was the CIA half a century ago that coined the phrase “conspiracy theory” precisely to discredit theories that would have caused the CIA problems had they been believed. If you want a good understanding of how this nourished and flourished the credibility gap, take a look at the book, “Conspiracy Theory in America” by Lance deHaven-Smith. It’s an eye-opener, and perhaps a credibility restorer.
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