Welcome to what Bill Maher has coined “The Bubble,” where facts are assailed and go to die, where Laissez-Faire Liars reign supreme and the truth has no teeth. Welcome to the surreal and scary world of Factual Relativism, where nothing is what it appears and everything is open to interpretation and obfuscation.
How’d we get here?
When political consultants started slicing and dicing the electorate into segments and subgroups, the nation became divided and lost sight of the Common Good. Into our respective Bubbles we were led: the realists into one Bubble and the anti-realists into the other. Group wisdom trumps, and ultimately replaces, inconvenient facts.
The Bubble has its own culture, language, symbols, and rules; its storied villains and heroes; an us-against-them, take no prisoners mentality, and yes, its own set of facts and take on reality. You swear allegiance to the team. You get your gospel from the Bubble’s propagandists like Lawrence O’Donnell and Sean Hannity. They provide the Bubble’s inhabitants with their very own biblical verses — “Obama’s a Socialist,” “Romney’s Gordon Gekko”– to recite and spread throughout the Bubble. Every resident is always on message. His identity is inextricably linked to the Bubble: his self-esteem, his sense of belonging, power, and meaning–all his needs are satisfied in and by the Bubble. Once you’re in the Bubble, it ain’t easy to get out.
A Bubble is the perfect environment in which to wage an IMPROPERGANDA campaign. When you’re sealed off from the rest of the world, like Nazi Germany was, you can get away with a lot.
Inside the Bubble there is no pretense paid to the Objective Truth. The truth is not the province of the earthly, fallible inhabitants of the Bubble. Truth is a man-made construct — only God knows the Absolute Truth. So why lose sleep over the facts?
There used to be one big group, the United States of America. We arrived at consensus primarily through the national mainstream media. Consensus is still shaped by The Group, but now there are two autonomous groups sealed off from each other in their respective Bubbles–or fortresses, as the case may be. In one Bubble there is a particular consensus and an entirely different one in the other Bubble. Group Leaders Maddow and Limbaugh spread the Weltanschauung to their Bubble inhabitants. The IMPROPERGANDISTS have convinced both sides they don’t much like each other, another construct or fiction.
We’ve heard of Moral Relativism, where there’s no absolute right and wrong. This is Factual Relativism, where there is no absolute truth, just one’s perception of the facts; no objectivity, just one man’s opinion. Every opinion is of equal merit. People who believe in a singular truth are elitist pencil pushers.
Candidates for political office understood that if they were caught lying, they’d lose their most valuable asset — their credibility with the voters. That was then. No longer, it seems, is there a price to pay for intentionally deceiving the voters. It’s unregulated. I call it “Laissez-faire Lying.”
As the New York Times’ Charles Blow wrote:
“This is just an extension of the Republican war on facts. If you find a truth disagreeable, simply deny it. Call it corrupt. Suggest that it is little more than one side of a story — an opinionated, biased one — and insist that there is another explanation. The base will buy it.”
Facts that don’t jive with the party line are easily disputed, and the messengers or sources are ostracized, ridiculed, and thrown under the bus. That’s what happens when facts enter the Bubble — they get massaged, manipulated, and marred for life. They never come back the same. Sometimes they’re never heard from again.
Dude, that’s where your facts went.