What is happening to the world these days? It’s not about what is actually true anymore. It’s about what you can turn it into. Spin. It’s all about spin.
I don’t know, maybe it’s always been this way, but I get the feeling that the amount of commonly accepted perceptions of reality as a foundation of everything we think and do has become less concrete. Is the Earth the center of the universe and the sun rotates around us? Is the Earth flat? Did the Holocaust happen in Germany during World War II? Did NASA really land men on the moon?
There have always been a minority of people who weren’t sure about some issues, but the rest of the world was able to accept certain truths to be self-evident. The sensible majority doesn’t seem to hold sway anymore. Somehow, the crackpots have found a way to the podiums and driver’s seats of the world and have sewn their chaos and mania into the fabric of mainstream institutions.
Dare I say that the latest culprit happens to be the internet and the advent of social media? Why is this different from all the advancements in communication that have come before? The development of the printing press? The invention of television? Both of those allowed for fringe ideas to be expressed. Why was it that the majority of people in the world were well able to discern what was real and what was spin in printed word and moving pictures broadcast over the airwaves.
Oh, that brings to mind Orson Welles’ 1938 radio drama “War of the Worlds.” That caused a bit of a blip in the percentage of sensible people who were perceiving reality successfully.
I miss the sense of common agreement about what is true in the world and the days when society functioned upon a foundation that held up to reasonable expectations.
Yet, over my 60-plus years, I have learned enough to know that the sense I am missing came from a position of comfort as a member of a privileged majority. I don’t know why I am now comfortable allowing that privilege to shift, while so many others struggle vociferously against the evolving common knowledge. Some will go to awful lengths to hold onto their temporal snapshot view of the way things are and should continue to be.
What was the common truth about who deserved to own land when immigrants battled indigenous people in the development of my homeland?
What was the common truth when white people first enslaved people of color around the world?
What was the common truth when religions established their belief system as the single version of theism … wait, that one has never been agreed upon. Disregard that example (despite how much influence it wields on all the others).
What was the common truth about gender and marriage when I was a boy?
What was the common truth about women’s abilities to think for themselves and have full and equal rights as men?
What we know and understand to be true is constantly evolving. Change is inevitable. Since some are prone to resist change, there tends to be conflict when the norm of common truths is being reshaped. That’s understandable.
What I don’t understand is how the lunatics were able to gain control of the asylum. How have the majority of sensible people in the U.S. allowed such a shady character of questionable intellect who transparently professes untruths and mutilations of fact to hold the highest position in the country?
Who hacked the Democratic National Committee? The Russians or the Ukrainians? Is there one secret server that the DNC has completely hidden from the FBI?
If he says it enough times, can he spin it into a common truth for all the world to accept?
I miss a time when the fringe was actually on the fringe of what the sensible people of the world accepted as common truth. Even as the common truth continues to evolve toward allowing equal rights for all people in the world.
John W. Hays is a freelance writer and blogger at RelativeSomething.com who grew up in Minnesota. He writes now from Beldenville, Wis.