On Tuesday, I was honored to be included on a panel discussion titled “The Search for Truth in an Age of Fake News.” Two real journalists, a tech entrepreneur, a neuroscientist from the University of Pennsylvania and Christine “I Can’t Believe They Asked Me to Sit Here” Flowers engaged in a two-hour discussion of what is real, what is fabricated, how to tell the difference and whether it actually matters.
It does, of course, matter. As I said from the stage trying desperately to sound as intelligent as my co-panelists, “we are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.” I know what you’re thinking, but Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is dead, so I prefer to call it “tribute” as opposed to “plagiarism.”
The evening was a smashing success and proved that people of good faith and inquisitive minds can transcend their biases, if only for a few short hours, and reach across the intellectual and emotional chasms. In some ways, we have already “built that wall,” so the discussion provided a glimmer of hope that we can also tear it down, Mr. Gorbachev.
And in the afterglow of the evening, I started thinking about whether there really is such a thing as “fake news,” or whether it is all a matter of a “Rashomon,” personal prism of perception and naivete. But when I came home to hear that FBI Director James Comey had been fired by President Trump, and when I found out the justification for it from the White House, I realized that we truly are wallowing in an era of falsehoods.
I also realized that it’s basically our own fault for swallowing the deceptive sludge.
So I sat down and made a list of the fake news that’s been bandied about, and not just since the election of Donald Trump — because, as I recall, he’s not the one who said, “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it” or “I did not have sex with that woman,” or even “I’m not a crook.”
In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:
James Comey was fired because of the mess he made of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
First of all, anyone who actually believes Trump is upset about the botched operation that played a critical role in making Melania miserable for the next four years is clearly one brain wave short of an EEG. There arguably are several reasons why Trump canned Comey in the most classless, inept and suspect way possible, but concern for Clinton is not one of them.
Democrats are protesting the firing because they resent the insult and injury to an honorable public servant and the danger it poses to our national integrity.
What Trump did is troubling and dangerous and the timing is suspect. But that’s not why the Democrats are breaking out in hives. Those opportunistic liberals see this as a way to exploit another convenient PR misstep from the Donald (even though his ardent supporters will act like extras from The Walking Dead and stumble along, blindly making excuses).
People who put annoying signs on their front lawns are truly more virtuous than the average schmuck.
I live in one of those towns where more than a few homeowners have plopped “Hate Has No Home Here” signs in full view of the neighbors. I have no desire to put that sort of thing on my grass. In fact, I’ve been looking for something that says “Hate Rents a Room on My Second Floor,” but I can’t find it in 78 different languages. I’m as hateful (or not) as the next person. I just don’t let stupid signs do my heavy moral lifting.
Women who wear pink crochet hats care about human rights.
This one is way too easy. Just ask an unborn child. Which brings me to:
Science is important to liberals.
This is partially true. They’re worried about global warming, spotted owls, the rip in the ozone and other depressing topics. They march in the streets and say horrible things about Trump. But when it comes to the science of pregnancy, they put their fingers in their ears and go “la la la. “ They refuse to consider the fetus as anything more than a sack of cells, one that becomes human only when mama says so. As far as life is concerned, science is optional.
Caitlyn Jenner is a woman.
No menopause, no club membership.
And finally, Russia elected Trump.
They tried, they really did. But Hillary blew it all by herself.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.