|Judith with the head of Holofernes, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, via DailyArtDaily.|
A few days ago I was at a conference in Montreal, and a Canadian gentleman, trying to grasp what’s happening to America, asked me a simple question: “What do you fear most these days?”
I paused for a second, like a spectator waiting to see what would come out of my own mouth.Like, thanks for asking, Canadian gentleman! Nobody knows what's under the mustache, not even the mustache himself!
Two things came out: “I fear we’re seeing the end of ‘truth’ — that we simply can’t agree any more on basic facts. And I fear that we’re becoming Sunnis and Shiites — we call them ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans,’ but the sectarianism that has destroyed nation-states in the Middle East is now infecting us.”Forget it, Jake, it's Bothsidestown. (Cue obligatory reference to the comedian Kathy Griffin, representing the Democrats, for showing up in a video in the character of Judith with President Trump as Holofernes, to universal condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike, and taking literally hours to apologize tearfully; versus Eric Trump, representing the Republicans, telling Sean Hannity that Democrats are "not even people", to condemnation only from non-Republicans as far as I can tell, for which he hasn't apologized yet.)
Also, I know he's not going to listen to me, but Mr. Suck-on-This needs to watch out how he lectures us on what has destroyed nation-states in the Middle East.
The rest of the piece is a conversation with Dov Seidman, the "hottest advisor on the corporate virtue circuit", according to his website, who agrees with Tom on the stuff that fell out of his mouth in Montréal, more or less, that truth is in trouble because "we simply can't agree any more on basic facts," though Seidman's basic facts aren't about boring stuff like the relationship between carbon-burning and global temperatures or the one between tax collection and government revenue, but the famously self-evident ones:
“... we signed up to have a relationship with ideals that are greater than us and with truths that we agreed were so self-evident they would be the foundation of our shared journey toward a more perfect union — and of respectful disagreement along the way. We also agreed that the source of legitimate authority to govern would come from ‘We the people.’”
But when there is no “we” anymore, because “we” no longer share basic truths, Seidman argued, “then there is no legitimate authority and no unifying basis for our continued association.”And wouldn't you know it, then we got the Internet:
Social networks and cyberhacking are helping extremists to spread vitriol and fake news at a speed and breadth we have never seen before. “Today, we’re not just deeply divided, as we’ve been before, we’re being actively divided — by cheap tools that make it so easy to broadcast one’s own ‘truths’ and to undermine real ones,” Seidman argued.Goodbye, all men are created equal. Hello, Obama was born in Kenya, even though his biological father Frank Marshall Davis was living in Hawaii. Or something like that. All the issues he can point to, the cyberhacking, the fakenews, and the Trumping, are things associated with one party in particular, the only offensive thing on the Democratic side being that poor Kathy Griffin, and he finally ends up acknowledging it:
It is imperative, in the short run, that some moral leaders emerge in the G.O.P. and actually restrain Trump. But that’s doubtful.It's imperative, but it's not going to happen. Cool.