The War on Reality

The Law of Identity: A is A, things are what they are; I’m not a religious person, but if I had to identify a foundational tenant of my beliefs it would be this.

It seems simple enough, axiomatic in fact, that you’d think it would serve such a function for everyone; that all people could look at a thing and agree that this thing is a thing. On a sensory level this is generally true. We use our senses; eyes, nose, hands, ears, etc. to determine properties which, in turn, allow us determine the nature of whatever we’re dealing with. Thus, once we’ve learned the necessary characteristics, we rarely mistake apples for oranges, fish for birds, or tables for chairs. We know these things to be what they are and treat them accordingly.

But something strange happens when one or more senses are removed from an equation. Those characteristics become more difficult to determine, and the lines of identity become blurred. Without your sight, you might still be able to identify an orange by touch, or taste, or the way it smells. Take away another sense, say touch… Could you still identify an orange simply by smell? Can you be sure it’s an orange and not some other object with an orange scent if you can neither see, nor touch it (or taste it since you cannot taste without touching)? The fewer senses you have at your disposal the more difficult it becomes to identify what is. It’s more difficult to perceive reality because your faculties for perception are being limited.

Seemingly paradoxically, our knowledge of a things nature, of how a thing should be can alter how we perceive it. Take an ordinary object with which you’re familiar, say an apple, and change its color… Suddenly you’re faced with an object you’ve never seen before, an object which meets most of the criteria of the familiar, but not all of them. You’re wary. Do you want to taste it? Unsure, what does a blue apple taste like? Is it poison? One simple change can cause you to completely reassess a situation; suddenly you’re on guard against a situation you’ve encountered a hundred times before.

The above examples are over-simplified, but it’s important to remember them regardless. Especially in today’s world where we, as a culture, have opted to wage war on reality. Allow me to explain.

On January 22nd, 2017, Kellyanne Conway did an interview on Meet The Press where she coined the now infamous term “alternative facts” in response to accusations that four out of the five statements made the previous day by White House Spokesman Sean Spicer were demonstrably false. Worse, she justifies this by claiming that the media did it first and with the idea that no one can prove the numbers stated by Spicer aren’t true.

If we accept that “A is A” is the core tenant of my personal version of religion, then Kellyanne Conway is the actual Devil.

There are no “alternate facts.” There are facts, and there are perceptions. Facts are the things which happened. Facts are actual, facts are real. Are they verifiable? Not always, but it doesn’t make them less true and the inability to verify them doesn’t make it okay to just make something up to fill in the blank. Nor does being unable to prove it didn’t happen make it true.

Even the dictionary people called her out on this:

But then again, those same people have decided that the word “literally” literally means “virtually.”untitled

And then there’s this… So, the Trump administration asked a bakery to reproduce a cake design which was previously created for President Obama by a different bakery. While admittedly strange, that’s not plagiarism. No one came out and said, “Hey, check out this totally original cake design we created without any outside influence.”

They said something to the effect of, “We like the cake the Obamas had, can you make the same cake?” and the bakery said, probably, “Yes. We can make that cake.”

In fact, the bakery which made the (prop) cake even made a point of announcing that it wasn’t their own design. In essence, citing their source. That’s the opposite of plagiarism… But no one cares, because words apparently mean whatever we want them to mean now.

If I wrote the sentence: “The Trump administration literally plagiarized a cake.” There’s no way to know what I mean.

Or this: untitled

I wrote about this on my Facebook feed, trying to explain that no matter the image you’re seeing, you’re always seeing through someone else’s eyes. You lack the rest of the context. Yeah, a picture sys a thousand words, but depending on the picture, most of them are probably lies.

Remember what I was saying before about the lines of reality becoming blurry when you lack all your senses? When you don’t have the feel, the smells, the sounds of a crowd, when you’re not actually there and can only see from one perspective then every image is just a fraction of the truth. And yet all three pictures try to pass it off as the whole story with as few words as possible.

See, I don’t want to make this political, because this problem transcends party lines. Words mean things. Words are what we use in place of direct sensory input to communicate the nature of reality to one another. Words, along with photographs are how we explain the world to people who couldn’t be present to witness it personally.

But if all you do is give a photograph and then use as few words as possible to actually explain what is being seen, you’re selling the tiniest fraction of the truth. “Memes,” (another hijacked word) while often humorous, are now being used as a source of information, leading to huge over simplifications and a complete disregard for reality… and yet we fail to treat them like the blue apples they are. Because funny is more fun, I guess.

But I’m done laughing. When Donald Trump was just a sensationalist political candidate with no chance of winning, it was funny to make jokes at his expense. It was funny to point out every time he claimed not to have said something he definitely said. Every time he claimed to have not done something he definitely did. But now he’s President.

I, personally, am past the point of mockery and disdain for his and his administrations constant disregard for reality. It’s not funny anymore and it threatens to become the norm… To me that’s more frightening than all the racism, misogyny, and nationalism combined; because it’s the source of all those things. When the very nature of fact is being called into question by authority that’s something that cannot be laughed off as just another bizarre trait of Trump’s America. That needs to be fought. That needs to be shut down. In order to do so, we have to stop doing it ourselves.

So, no more memes from me. No jokes about alternative facts. No tolerance for lies. The time for levity has passed. There’s my New Year resolutions