Some of us got into a bit of a kerfluffle at a Facebook page I won’t identify, to protect the owner’s privacy. S/he had written approvingly about the new “smart gun” technology that the New York Times recently editorialized about, urging that they at least be given a chance, if for no other reason than “protecting children with smart-gun barriers.” I, myself, don’t claim that this has been high up on my radar of major issues, but really, you can count me among the 55% of Americans who “want laws covering the sale of firearms to be stricter than they are now,” according to the Gallup Poll, which added that it is “independents and Democrats who are fueling the trend for stricter gun control laws.”
Well, on that Facebook page, the pro-gun fanatics came out, with one in particular taking an extremist and offensive stance. This person let his rage dictate his punctuation, using CAPS as if he were shouting, and resorting to insulting ad hominem attacks on people (“your twisted, alternative reality liberal world”) who disagreed with him. But his most illogical tendency was to use his personal experiences (growing up in “a very bad neighborhood,” “strolling in a dangerous hood like Newark at 2AM”) from which he generalized about gun policy.
Well, I’d like to address this pro-gun person, and all people like him. Look: I have no problem with the Second Amendment. Nobody I know does. Democrats don’t. Hillary Clinton doesn’t. You have your right to own a gun, provided that you do so according to the law, and nobody is proposing to take that right away from you, despite the lies told by the National Rifle Association, which preys upon the fears of credulous individuals.
I also want to say to this person: I know who you are. Oh, I don’t mean you, personally. We’ve never met and probably never will. But I know your kind. You’re the kid who bullied me when I was little and scrawny. You’re the one who teased the queer kids, the nerds, and probably the colored kids as well. You’re the one who shot slingshots at birds and cats, who muscled his way to the front of the line, who stole lunch cookies from those smaller and weaker than you. And you’re also probably the kind that’s screaming bloody murder about Mexican rapists and Syrian terrorists coming in droves into this country illegally. You’re probably in favor of more drilling for oil, and no doubt you don’t believe a word about climate change, including that it is manmade.
You’re probably the kind of person who snickers at Trans people, who thinks that the Dakota Pipeline protesters should be thrown in jail, who gets into arguments in bars when you’re drunk. And you are, by definition, the classic N.R.A. stooge. You don’t want any restrictions at all on weapon ownership. Even this Smart Gun technology—which people would be free to buy or not—offends your Second Amendment sensibilities. I don’t know how far you’re analyzed your position, but if pressed, you’d probably say that people should be allowed to stockpile rocket-propelled grenade launchers. And I have no doubt at all that you voted happily for Donald Trump.
So I just wanted to make myself clear, Mr. Pro-Gun fanatic. And even if you’re not all of the things I listed above, you choose to associate yourself with people who are. I don’t consider you a very good citizen of the U.S.A. I think you’re angry, and mean, and you masquerade your personality defects under the guise of Patriotism. You’re no patriot, sir. If you can’t even support Smart Guns, you don’t give a damn about Americans getting shot to death by gun freaks.
Donald Trump’s addiction to lying is well-known to most Americans, so his recent assertion that “millions of people voted illegally” in the election will come as no surprise. After all, this is the person who said that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The real question is how his most ardent supporters will react to this latest falsehood.
Put yourself in their shoes. Deep down inside, you know the guy is unhinged, perhaps even suffering from some personality disorder. You managed to persuade yourself during the campaign that it didn’t matter. You hated Hillary Clinton so much, and you were so angry at whatever it was you fancied was wrong with America, that even the thought of a mentally ill President did not concern you. In fact, on some level (that of a mischievous child, who puts a banana peel on the sidewalk in the path of a blind man), you took a sick kind of delight in cheering on a bully.
That was then; this is now. Now, we have the President-elect of the United States saying something so blatantly false, so easily disproved, that you really have to come to a reckoning with yourself. “Millions of people voted illegally” is what he tweeted, in one of those (possibly drug-fueled) Twitter storms he has become infamous for. We know that is not true. We know it’s not even close to the truth. Not a single Secretary of State in any of the fifty states, including red ones, has come forward with the slightest suggestion of voter fraud. (American state Secretaries of State are responsible for the oversight of elections.) Every third-party organization that studies elections has insisted there was no fraud. This most recent mendacity by Trump is embarrassing to Republicans, if, in fact, they’re even capable anymore of being embarrassed; the Wall Street Journal yesterday carefully omitted mention of it in their editorial pages, even as they slammed the Clinton campaign for calling for a recount in Wisconsin.
But what could the Wall Street Journal say, anyway? Could they come right out and accuse their man of being a pathological liar, or a paranoid fantasist, or a Goebbelsian propagandist of gigantic dishonesty? They could, in theory, but—like Republican politicians in general—they are afraid of Trump, afraid of being cut off from the White House, of not being invited to intimate briefings by Trump officials, afraid of being at the disfavor of the POTUS. The word from Murdoch on down to his minions is: Sit tight. Play nice. Don’t cross the son-of-a-bitch. We need him more than he needs us. For now.
Still, it must be very difficult for Republicans who still possess a shred of decency to have to sit quietly while their man lies with such insouciance. An intervention is needed in the Republican Party: an adult needs to step up and talk honestly. The truth is never easy to hear when you’re the addict in denial, but that’s exactly the situation in which today’s Republican Party finds itself.
Mitt Romney was a plausible interventionist when he tried to point out to his colleagues that Donald Trump was “a phony, a fraud.” But his party wouldn’t listen to him (which makes his recent public ass-kiss of Trump, in the hope of becoming Secretary of State, all the more disgusting). The Party now is in the very difficult situation of being led by a President-elect who got more than two million votes fewer than Hillary Clinton and is widely reviled and feared and suspected of being a madman. Such adults as remain in the GOP must be shaking their heads at the dysfunction closing in on them. (Wouldn’t it be fun to be a fly on the wall in Ryan’s office?) These Republican leaders are going to have to do something before Trump’s recklessness does real and lasting damage to America. (The 25th amendment to the Constitution actually provides a road map for such action.) Yet, as historians of the rise of Nazi Germany well understand, it can be dangerous to speak truth to a demagogue at the height of his power. One can remind these Republicans that silence is not an option, that it is their patriotic duty to speak up sooner rather than later. One suspects, however, that such warnings are likely to fall futilely upon deaf ears.
Happy Nov. 28! What’s your favorite part of the Thanksgiving holiday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, or Black Friday? They’re all such fun days to spend money. I’d be hard-pressed to pick just one, but I’d have to say that, for me, personally, it’s Black Friday! The crowds, the traffic, the lines–it’s all so cheery, and gets me right in the mood for Christmas. We went down to the mall, spent 45 minutes circling the parking lot to find a parking space, and then my cousin Orwell got into a big fight with some schmuck who beat him to the one spot left, and who, as it turned out, was a Trump supporter! We knew that because the guy was wearing a “Make America Great Again” T-shirt. Things got ugly, what with the name-calling, but what do you expect from a Trump supporter? Bad manners, is what.
And by the way, how come there’s not a special shopping day for Sunday? It could be Yard Sale Sunday. A lot of people have yard sales on that day, especially here in California, where the weather’s usually nice, and everybody has some old treadmill or pepper grinder they’d like to make a few bucks on.
Anyhow, when we finally got to our family’s big Thanksgiving dinner, needless to say the conversation turned to the recent election. My family, kina hora, are all liberal humanists, so there wasn’t much argumentation. Everybody was and remains appalled and disgusted. We here on the far left coast of the bluest state in the union wonder what could those red state voters have been thinking? We expect they’ll have buyer’s remorse sooner or later; the question is when, and what will the new President do to cause his supporters to realize what a catastrophic mistake they made. Of course, his choices are manifold: his campaign was based on so many lies that almost anything could cause him to slip up, but in my family’s opinion, the number one thing that’s likely to bring him down is his business practices, which always have been shady and unscrupulous and seem even more so now that he refuses to place them into a blind trust. Over the weekend it turned out that Trump owns a chunk of the Dakota Access pipeline, up there in North Dakota. No wonder he’s so in favor of fracking and drilling: he stands to make money! Can you imagine if Obama had such a big conflict of interest? McConnell and Ryan would be introducing motions of impeachment. They’re curiously silent in Trump’s case, though. Well, my take is that a lot of Republicans would like to see Trump fail, but right now they have to button up their lips because they don’t want to piss him off, lest he prove to be an authoritarian, vengeful autocrat. Some of my family hope Trump will be impeached, but then someone reminded us to be careful of what we wish for, because if Trump goes down (which would be great fun to watch), we’ll have—ta da!—President Pence, who is a creationist homophobe and possibly worse even than Trump.
(I just want to add that never in my lifetime did I expect to see creationists running the government. That’s how far America has fallen. Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave.)
Anyhow, at some point we all got tired of this constant yammering about politics and got into the real heart of the issue: Food and drink! But my family agreed on one thing, and bless them for that: Remain involved! Don’t be discouraged! Fight this hideous new administration and all it stands for! Even the most conservative of my cousins vowed to take it to the streets if need be. We also spoke, as befits Thanksgiving, of our family members who are no longer with us, and I remembered my mother, who died eleven years ago, at the age of ninety. She was a huge Democrat—volunteered for her local Democratic county headquarters almost to the end. She would have been so thrilled that Hillary Clinton was running and would have been so proud to vote for her. Hillary’s loss would have devastated her, but my mother would have redoubled her efforts to get a Democrat elected next time. Here’s one of the last photos I ever took of her—she’s wearing her little Kerry-Edwards button.
This isn’t a very thankful time for many of us. Our side lost. I, personally, believe the country as a whole lost, and furthermore I believe that History will agree. A friend of mine, a peaceful man of Latino heritage, told me today he’s thinking of buying a gun, for the first time in his life. He used the words “civil war” to describe his fear. I told him that, while I don’t think civil war is in the cards, I cannot dissuade him from his feelings. He may be righter than I am.
Still, one must persevere in hopefulness. I travel to Southern California for Thanksgiving, to be with family and old friends. Many of my family who used to be with us, no longer are. Now the family includes babies and young children I barely know. It’s a reminder that life goes on.
So let me wish you all the happiest, safest and most meaningful of Thanksgivings! I’ll be back here on Monday morning.
P.S. Today (as I write, yesterday as you read) is the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was my first political hero. I think he would be shocked and appalled by the direction this country has taken. Thank you, JFK, for inspiring a generation, and continuing to inspire us. Your legacy will survive even this.
Don’t get me started on the irony—or hypocrisy—of the Wall Street Journal, which has a weekend section called “Mansions” that’s an eat-your-heart-out, too-bad you-can’t have it ode to pool houses, chandeliers and thread counts. Then, yesterday, they had a front-page article, “Advertisers Search for Middle America,” explaining how Americans are revolting against “aspirational images of upscale urban living.”
Talk about mixed messages!
The Wall Street Journal has a lot of deplorable things about it, especially the editorial pages, but none is as disgusting as “Mansions,” which celebrates envy of the rich as America’s secular religion. The Murdoch family (like the Trumps) is fabulously wealthy; they seem to think that everybody wants nothing more than to have a mansion, a $150,000 car, and wear Christian Louboutin.
I read the Journal just to see what they’re up to, but I throw “Mansions” away without opening it. Throwing it away is better than throwing up. I can’t stand the way “Mansions” force-feeds us on gaudy crap nobody needs, which is a way—when you think about it—of telling those of us who don’t have a mansion that it’s our fault because we’re too damned lazy to afford one (and that, my friends, is basically the Republican Party’s governing philosophy. Paging Gov. Romney! The 47% is calling!).
Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. The Journal’s story, “Advertisers Search for Middle America,” not only contained the quote about Americans fed up with “aspirational images of upscale urban living,” it went on to associate this mood with Trump’s victory. He was elected by “the same…rural, economically frustrated, elite-distrusting, anti-globalization voters” who do not “desire to be like coastal elites.”
Count me among them. But before I going any further, let me clear something up: this smear about “coastal elites,” which is a driving meme of the tea party (as if the tea partiers don’t consider themselves elite). I do think we on the East and West Coasts of America are special. After all, we’re Blue, while the non-coastal states are Red. That, in my opinion, makes us smarter and more decent human beings. (Did I really say that? Yes, I said it. So sue me.) But it doesn’t mean that all of us coastal types aspire to be portrayed in “Mansions.” I share the disgust of red state people who view this obsession with wealth, amounting to idolatry, as amoral. It is, and while I live on a coast and voted for Hillary Clinton and think Trump is a dangerous sociopath, it doesn’t mean I’m a vacuous, Kardashian-worshipping climber. I’m just a blue collar guy whose values happen to be progressive and humanistic, rather than fascistic and authoritarian.
But I digress. What disgruntled Democrats and Republicans have in common is a had-it-up-to-here disgust with the endless pursuit of wealth as the goal of life. This concept trickles through our entire society like a virus in the bloodstream. I happen to subscribe to Vanity Fair, which epitomizes this trait (and I’m not going to renew my subscription). They can put Bruce Springsteen, the all-American working class hero, on the cover, but the advertisements are about the pursuit of money and image: Ralph Lauren, Prada, Gucci, Dior, Armani. (It’s so funny that the fashion models they hire to be in the ads probably can’t afford to buy the clothes they’re pitching.)
Most Americans don’t want to wear Gucci. They’re happy in bluejeans and T-shirts. If they have to dress up, they go to outlet malls or Men’s Wearhouse. They don’t shop at Cartier, don’t know anyone who does, and they suspect that they don’t want to know anyone who shops at Cartier.
You know who shops at Cartier? The elite—and they can be Republicans or Democrats. And, yes, I have had it up to here with them. I’ve had it with “Mansions,” Vanity Fair, and even the supposedly liberal (but Hearst-owned) San Francisco Chronicle, whose Sunday “Style” section is an ass-kissing pucker-up of the city’s socialites. It shoves wealth and privilege, and the vulgar pursuit of it, down our throats, totally misreading the Bay Area’s mood (which is one reason why the Chronicle is losing readers). In this, I feel I have everything in common with the people who voted for Trump.
Except for one thing: I use my cerebrum when I decide whom and what to vote for, not my reptilian brain. I don’t vote on resentment, fear and hatred, the way the tea party does. I don’t vote according to superstitious religious nonsense, the way evangelicals do. I vote with my head. If everybody did, no Republican would ever again even get elected dogcatcher.
Well, maybe I’m being too harsh on my Republican friends. Apparently they like the fact that Melania Trump and those delightful Trump spawn will now be the fashion icons gracing the pages of “Mansions” and Vanity Fair. I’m sure all those unemployed Rust Belt factory workers can’t wait for that.
A Pinot Noir tasting in San Francisco
You can take the boy out of the wine business but you can’t take the love of the business out of the boy.
Or something like that. Anyway, although I formally retired from my career on Sept. 2, I still have “wine in my blood,” so when the invitation came to go to PinotFest, the big annual Pinot Noir tasting held at Farallon, near San Francisco’s Union Square, I doffed my cap and BARTed in on an absolutely splendid Autumn day, and had some excellent Pinots. But I wasn’t there to review, only to sip, see what’s up, and connect with old friends.
Honestly, when you’ve been in the biz as long as I have, you somehow manage to accumulate a lot of friends. Here are a few. John Winthrop Haeger is of course the famous author of North American Pinot Noir, published by my publisher, University of California Press.
It’s always a pleasure to run into John, whose opening lecture at the World of Pinot Noir I always used to look eagerly forward to.
The first thing Diana Novy said to me when I saw her was, “I bet you’re surprised to see me here,” by which she meant that her husband, Adam Lee, who usually does the Siduri pouring at events, had been delayed, so Diana was substituting.
I missed seeing Adam, but Diana more than made up for him not being there. I profiled them in my second book, New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff, and Siduri is owned by my former employer, Jackson Family Wines, so I got to work closely with Adam.
Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi took over Bonaccorsi winery after the unexpected, tragic death of her husband, Michael, in 2007. Jenne makes ardent wines of great delicacy and inner power, just like her. She is one of the gentlewomen of California winemaking.
Jon Priest is at the helm of Etude, the great Pinot Noir house in the Carneros.
I can’t even remember how long ago I met him—I think Tony Soter was still running the winery. I told Jon I’d recently opened his 2005 and 2006 “Heirloom” Pinot Noirs, and both were showing well.
Then there’s Josh Jensen.
My profile of him and his winery, Calera, was among the first I ever wrote as a professional. I well remember when Wine Spectator sent me down to Mount Harlan, around 1993; what a thrill that was for an up-and-coming wine writer! Josh remains a gentleman and a scholar, and can always be counted on to be wearing something colorful. He’s very tall and, as you know, I’m not, so I asked him to crouch down a little bit, so the picture wouldn’t look like an avocado next to a broom.
Jonathan Nagy was another colleague of mine at Jackson Family Wines.
He presides over Byron Winery, down in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County. When I left J.F.W. I knew Jonathan had embarked on an exciting new project: making single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from purchased grapes grown at some of Santa Barbara’s top vineyards. The wines are now in bottle. We tasted through some of them, and man, Jonathan is at the top of his game. But you know what my favorite was? None other than the Julia’s Vineyard, whose grapes Jonathan shares with sister winery Cambria.
It’s still fun for me to go to these events and taste the wines–if, that is, I’m lucky enough to be invited. If you see me at one, come on up, and say Howdy!
Why I Fight Drumpf
“Do not hesitate. Fight in this battle and you will conquer your enemies. Fight you will, your nature will make you fight. Your karma will make you fight. You will fight in spite of yourself.”
— Krishna to Arjuna, The Mahabharata
Maybe it was because I was brought up on the mean, hardscrabble streets of the South Bronx, where a skinny little kid had to learn how to fight to survive.
Maybe it was because of my many years of karatedo training, in which we were taught never to initiate a fight, but to resist violently if someone else started.
Maybe it’s the latent Jew in me. We weren’t raised with “Turn the other cheek.” For us, it was “an eye for an eye.”
Whatever the reasons, my inclination is to fight, fight, fight against this monster, this dybbuk, this aberration of a normal man, this drumpf.
In my twenties came a period during which I was a hippie, steeped in that Sixties thing of “love and peace.” I believed it. I studied it and tried to practice it. Loving your enemy seemed the right thing to do. Hadn’t Jesus? Hadn’t Buddha? Isn’t that what the Beatles preached?
But the Sixties was fifty years ago. A lot of water under the bridge.
Among people I know—good liberal-humanists—there is currently a debate going on, in the aftermath of the Nov. 8 results. Option #1: accept this unacceptable President, accept his hateful minions and the awful legislation they will craft, and give him a chance. Option #2: oppose him and his dreadful movement every step of the way. This debate is tearing people apart. They really are not sure which way to go. After all, we criticized Mitch McConnell’s statement of utter opposition to Obama—before the latter was even sworn in—as deplorable. It angered us. “How could you be so against him when you don’t even know what he’s going to propose?” And we were right to take that attitude.
Now, the republicans are turning that argument around and asking us, “How can you oppose trump before he’s even taken the oath of office?”
Well, let me explain the difference. The promises Obama made—to unite the country bipartisanly, to end wars, to get along with foreign countries, to rescue the financial system which was dying due to the Bush Great Recession, to respect the environment and be kinder to gay people, to understand the needs of the poor and of immigrants, to respect science, to be a gentleman, to have a clean administration based on high principles—these spoke to the heart and soul of liberal-humanists. When McConnell issued his belligerent threat, we thought, “How could he be against all that?”
Drumpf on the other hand made other promises. Every one of them was based on hatred of “the other,” except for his promise to “Make America Great,” as banal a platitude as ever issued in any soap commercial. Now that we’ve had a sniff of his appointments, there’s every reason to assume the worst: this awful person will divide the country and is a threat to the things we hold dear. He is a last gasp of male, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, lower-middle-class, under-educated, bigoted, resentful white supremacy, the latest incarnation of the Know-Nothings, the McCarthyites, the America Firsters and Father Coughlins and Dixiecrats, all of whose sociopathic unreason did such harm to America (and all of whom have been roundly condemned by History). Therefore, to oppose this drumpf is to stand for the best American values of inclusion, fairness, equality, progress and love.
Yes, love. Not some kind of hippie love. This is not the time to move to the woods and meditate and pray to the Spirit Guide, or Mother Earth, or whatever you wish to call it. Sure, if you want to sit zazen and go Ommm, feel free. It can’t hurt.
But the spirits will not protect you when the shit hits the fan and the government comes under the control of the radical theocrats and paranoid militias that form drumpf’s shock troops. When he reverses Obama’s great work, it will take more than a groovy feeling to keep this nation from sliding into darkness. It will take active resistance.
I was never a protester in the Sixties. I went to one anti-Vietnam march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in New York, but it wasn’t so much because I was anti-war (although I was, in an inarticulate kind of way), but because my friends wanted to go, and I thought it would be fun. So I’m not really a born street demonstrator.
But the times have changed. This catastrophe, drumpf, is looming over America like a toxic cloud. I’m afraid of him, and I’m more afraid of the evil forces he has unleashed: the anti-semites, the KKK, the Muslim haters, the Mexican haters, the anti-government open-carry crazies, the homophobes, the anti-science types like Pence and Huckabee and Franklin Graham, the crypto-nazis like Steve Bannon, the bullies like Giuliani and Christie. These are the termites that have been allowed to burrow into America’s foundation, and, left unchecked, they will cause dry rot leading to collapse.
So when I suggest that this old guy—me—is a fighter, it’s because that’s what I believe in: fighting for what is good, and against what is bad. I always looked forward to a peaceful retirement, but this is no time for complacency. The future of our country, and the world, is at stake. Look, drumpf ran the dirtiest, sleaziest, most mendacious and vulgar campaign in modern American history; it was an insult to my parents and grandparents, who believed that voting was a sacred duty…an insult to all people of intelligence, to our nation, its history and political legacy. This creature of television and greed does not deserve the title deeds to our proud, progressive country. I urge you not to accept a drumpf presidency. They—the tea party, the white nationalists, the right wing theocrats—do not want to get along with us; they have repeatedly proved that with their deeds. They want their own exclusionary society. If you think you can go along to get along, you are in the same boat as the “good Germans” who allowed Hitler to triumph. And look what happened.
What is truth? Pontius Pilate famously asked, suggesting its slipperiness. Twenty centuries later, the comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness” to convey the sense of statements that were not really true, but that nonetheless “felt right” to the speaker. A dictionary, Merriam-Webster, chose “truthiness” as its word of the year for 2005. This year, another dictionary, the Oxford, has picked, for its own word of the year, “post-truth.”
They defined “post-truth” as “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In announcing the choice, the Oxford Dictionaries referred specifically to Donald Trump as an example of the use of “facts” that are contrary to known truths, thereby rendering the concept of truth itself, as people have understood it for millennia, irrelevant.
A synonym for “post-truth” might be “incorrect.” But there are fundamentally different forms of incorrectness. A statement of deliberate incorrectness would properly be called a lie. “I didn’t eat the last cookie!” insists the little boy, who knows that, in fact, he did. But incorrect statements may also be unintentional. I may be mistaken if I claim that the Sun will set tonight at precisely 6:34 p.m. in California, when in actuality sunset will be at 6:18; but, unless I am purposefully distorting the truth, it can’t be said that I am lying—merely incorrect or uninformed. Much misunderstanding between humans has arisen precisely because—since we’re not mind-readers—it can be impossible to know whether a person who utters a statement we believe to be incorrect is lying, or is simply misinformed.
Thus, we have to make inferences. When the little boy says he did not eat the last cookie, and all the evidence suggests he did, it may be safe to conclude that the little boy is indeed lying. In criminal courts, defendants have ample motive to lie. On the other hand, in everyday conversation, the experience of most of us is to hear statements from acquaintances that do not seem true; but we have to assume that the speaker is not lying deliberately, but simply has his or her facts wrong. In this past election cycle, such experiences were frequent. Many Bernie supporters I know insist even today that their candidate did not cause Trump to win the election by siphoning votes away from Hillary. I think they’re wrong, but I don’t think they’re lying. They’re entitled to their interpretation of events.
Along these lines, a famous quotation seems apt: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” That was from the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It is a statement that is self-evident; no one would seriously dispute it, because at the heart of being human—we are after all rational, thinking creatures—is the notion that there is a thing called “objective truth,” and no one is “entitled” to doubt it. The Sun rises in the east. The Earth revolves around the Sun. Two plus two equals four. If you dispute any of these statements, you are incorrect (although you may not be lying).
A problem, however, can arise with statements such as “Human behavior, particularly the use of fossil fuels, is leading to the perturbation of global climate, including warming.” It may be that this statement is true; it may be partially true; it may be false. We may not know with certitude for 100 years; we may know sooner; we may never fully know. Such is the proliferation of “facts” or, more properly, information, that sometimes, no consensus can be reached concerning their implications, even among intelligent, well-meaning people. The challenge for people who are well-meaning and intelligent is to decide what is true and what isn’t, especially when it comes to big, important issues, such as climate change, and their policy implications. Here, reasonable people may choose to disagree, although, as evidence one way or the other mounts, disagreement to the contrary becomes increasingly hard to defend. This is, indeed, the nexus of truth and opinion. We call it “politics.”
Here is a partial list of things Donald Trump has said that may be misstatements or that may be lies. (The list must necessarily be partial since it would take up too much space to include them all.)
- There is no drought in California.
- Climate change is a hoax.
- Vince Foster didn’t commit suicide; he was murdered.
- The real unemployment rate in the U.S. is 42%.
- I have never sexually harassed a woman and reports of my doing so have largely been debunked.
- Thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey following the Sept. 11 attacks.
- Thousands of Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants.
- I didn’t say more countries should have nuclear weapons.
- Twitter, Facebook and Google are burying the FBI criminal investigation of Hillary.
- Hillary Clinton wants to let [immigrants] pour in by the millions. You’d triple the size of the country in one week [if her policies were enacted].
- 14% of non-citizens are registered to vote.
- Non-citizen voters were responsible for Obama carrying North Carolina in 2008.
- Obama is taking in 200,000 Syrian refugees.
- Hillary was wrong when she said I mocked a disabled reporter.
- When Hillary was Secretary of State, $6 billion was stolen or missing from the department.
- There is large-scale election fraud happening on and before Election Day.
- Every poll shows I won the second debate.
- I always opposed the Iraq War.
- Ted Cruz’s father helped Lee Harvey Oswald assassinate JFK.
- Hillary was seen laughing at a rape victim, after helping the alleged rapist.
- I never said that Alicia Machado had been caught on a sex tape.
- Hillary wants to go to single-payer healthcare.
- Hillary received $100 million from hedge funds for her campaign.
- Mexican immigrants are rapists, drug dealers and criminals.
None of these statements, in my judgment, is true. Mostly, again in my judgment, they’re lies. Their falseness can easily be proven; where it cannot be proven, the statements do not pass the duck test. But tens of millions of Americans who voted for Trump don’t care whether he lied or was simply incorrect. Their interpretation of reality is less influenced by objective data than by their personal beliefs and emotions. Welcome, brothers and sisters, to the era of post-truth, of which Donald J. Trump is the commander-in-chief. May it pass quickly.