I had a brief moment of insanity yesterday. I saw something I've seen a million times but it hit me differently, striking deeper than usual. I saw someone arguing a pro-life stance claiming to have journal articles, evidence, facts, etc that backed up her views on when life began and women who regretted having abortions, and of course, videos of what goes on at Planned Parenthood. When asked to show us these things, but with the caveat that it not be "those videos that were shown to have been faked" (with a link clarifying it was the Daleiden videos that were faked), the woman immediately started arguing about those particular videos and that indictment, stating that evidence had been "cherry-picked" (they love this phrase) and that the trial didn't tell the whole story. She clearly believed that, regardless of whatever else happened, the videos told the truth, and the media and legal system twisted it another way.
I felt the same rage and frustration rise in me that I felt whenever people repeatedly brought up Hilary Clinton's emails and alleged criminal activity. She had been investigated and no wrongdoing had been found. But no one was going to be satisfied until she was strung up, regardless of "evidence." Because evidence no longer matters, only emotions. Only what any one individual FEELS is true in the moment. And that's when I had this awful realization.
We have allowed someone - the right? certainly it's taken longer than just Trump - to dismantle institutions we put in place in order to act as experts and authorities. Here, it's the legal system. A trial happened, a verdict was passed, evidence was shown, it's a matter of record - but this person (and I'm assuming others) don't believe it. They believe they were lied to by something we are supposed to consider an authority on the subject.
We've also done it to science.
To higher education.
And now we're doing it to journalism.
When I was in college I was studying to be a biologist and that's what my dad wanted me to be. He was disappointed when I went into the arts instead but today, I wonder all the time if he realizes I would have likely ended up a climate scientist, one of the angry ones that no one would listen to. We used to believe scientists and we now dismiss science and all its methods.
A master's degree or PhD is supposed to indicate a level of expertise and dedication in a field, yet even within MY field, where an MFA isn't needed to be a successful designer, an MFA is regularly dismissed or scoffed at. It's just the thing we get so we can teach, and that's really just a silly rule because academics are prejudiced against non-academics, or something. How about some humility? Where's the "this person has a PhD in history, and one time I stood near a history text book and almost got a D in AP History (that's me, btw) so maybe she's the expert and I'm not?" As a whole we've been extremely skeptical of academics and universities, even to the point of believing crazy conspiracies about how corrupting they are. Anything that educates, which has to, by its definition, include exposure to frank discussions about many kinds of topics, including race, gender, history, religion, etc is going to expose students to multiple viewpoints. Education forces us out of our bubbles, but to some mindsets all it does is destroy the particular bubble they want to continue to live in. Now, of course, education doesn't even prepare you for the "real world" and jobs are focused on to a point where trade schools are promoted - which is perfectly valid, but also has the potential effect of limiting the exposure to those discussions and diminishing the level of expertise (scientists, engineers, etc). I work with people who are experts in their fields, but I also know that I have people in my life who hold the fact that I am a college professor AGAINST me.
How many people do we all know who think they know more than their doctors? How many people refuse to use actual medicine because they don't trust it, and turn to remedies that have no scientific proof or backing whatsoever? My husband is alive today because of medicine and science. To quote Sean Spicer: "Period."
And now it's journalists.
Yesterday Sean Spicer held an outrageous press conference in order to berate the media for reporting on the size of the inauguration crowds. The media had lied, the media was irresponsible, he yelled and yelled, before storming off without taking questions. And here is the problem - the journalists are there to ask those questions, because we can't! They're there to make sure these people we've put in charge are held accountable to the truth. That's what they DO. And there was a time when we put faith in journalism to do exactly that. It's why we have a free press, it's why we protect sources to the extent that we do. Now, however, everything except whatever media reinforces our own personal viewpoint is "biased." Yes, certain outlets are slanted in certain directions - the NY Times slants to the left, the WSJ slants to the right - and others are firmly in one camp or another (like MSNBC or Fox). But now people get their news from other places that are clearly not reliable - radio programs that claim they're the only ones telling you the truth (with no other proof than them saying it, of course) or sites that are just clearly only for those who want to stay in their bubble (guys, seriously, stop reading Occupy Democrats). Or even crazy-ass clearly conspiracy fringe - frequently I don't even need to click on them, I just need to look at the URL to know I don't want to read anything I see there. But it took less than a month for CNN to become "FAKE NEWS!" - did you catch that? CNN went from an ok news source to "FAKE NEWS!" all because Trump said so, and all because they almost reported on a story he didn't like. In the last two days I've seen five Trump supporters refer to CNN as "fake news," an opinion I would bet money on they did not have six months ago. The phrase "fake news" was intended to refer to intentionally fabricated news that was clickbaity and appearing on social media and NOT in the Post or the Times or the WSJ, but the right almost immediately coopted the term and made it refer to anything that doesn't confirm their worldview.
Now, we're being told that Trump, who is a man "of the people" is taking his message directly to them via Twitter - where he isn't questioned, ever. Where no one confronts him on the veracity of his statements.
Trump says, we believe. Journalists lie. Scientists lie. Educators lie. Trump tells the truth.
I think there was a book written about something like this...a dystopian future...set in a year that would now be the past. We should maybe, as a country, reread that book. My dad gave it to me as a kid.
And on a side note - did Trump say anything yesterday on the tornado that ripped through the Southeast and killed a dozen people? Because I believe the other former presidents each did. But I can see how one's popularity and inauguration attendance might be a more important issue.