Alternative Reality

devilsdominionIt is a caution that may become increasingly necessary as Trump’s supporters of “alternate facts” begin to sink their insidious hooks into feeble American minds that magical belief is part of our culture. While most would deny it in any kind of direct way, from the earliest days we have been a credulous lot. Richard Godbeer explores this historical affinity in The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England. Mostly concentrating on the events that led up to the Salem Witch Trials, and some analysis of the trials themselves, he traces the origins to such belief back to the theology of Calvinistic Congregationalists who held undisputed sway in the earliest days. Without benefit of clergy who might urge them to look at the world as a good creation, people instead saw evil and the Devil lurking everywhere. Magic was a regular component of their intellectual diet.

Now, some three centuries later, it’s looking as if things haven’t changed much. Those closest to the highest office in the land—and more frightening still, the most powerful single office on earth—are claiming that facts can have alternatives (what used to be called “lies”) and that if a rich man feels offended reality must be rewritten to make him feel better about himself again. The rewriting of history and science and law is really a mere trifle if you can claim “alternative facts” whenever you please. I wonder what you might find in Alternative Facts on File? I had a chance to thumb through recently and here’s what I found:

Alternative fact 1: Donald Trump didn’t win the election after all! We got the wrong guy in the White House. It’s a fact. Alternative fact 2: the Electoral College was abolished on November 8, 2016. That means that the popular vote wins the White House and Hilary Clinton is, in fact, President of the United States. Go ahead and challenge me on any of this Sean and KellyAnn—for any of your facts I can offer alternatives and they are, by definition, equally valid. Who’s with me? As long as alternative facts are now official discourse supported by the White House, let’s use them to the advantage of the entire nation. Is there a lawyer in the house? Even a Jesuit would do. The one I feel sorry for, however, is Richard Godbeer. His fine book has had to play Devil’s second fiddle to the new reality of post-truth Washington. Maybe the White House really does believe you can shake the Devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding. Wake up, America—you’re being laughed at and mocked by your own government.

4 thoughts on “Alternative Reality

  1. matthew Dickmann

    I share your sentiment. I believed in the dichotomy of fact / fiction, truth / lies. good / evil and such. To hear such falsehoods boldly proclaimed from The White House minions is an insult whose full effect has yet to set in
    I for one would like to present “Alternative facts” to those around me during my day-to-day travels. Perhaps the Highway patrolman could be cajoled into cutting me some slack when I explain that I was in the throes of an interdimensional transport when I slid through the stopsign. I would be judged mentally deficient to some degree, something which our new leader clearly exhibits in his 140 character poorly written chirps extolling his magnaminity.
    It is at this time where “We The People” should hold those who lay claim to their constituency accountable to the reason they hold office. The Press should fulfill it’s obligation to question and report, in an unbiased factual way the actions of those elected. We should not merely accept the blubs spews by the talking heads and pundits who display our real reality as some sort of dystopian alternate reality, complete with alternate facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If the president and his administration supporting the validity of alt-facts, what grounds do the courts have for requiring true-facts from anyone else?

    I remember the U.K. being utterly sick of Tony Blair’s “spin”, which was a similar idea of blatantly manipulating the news to make it seem better than it was. But even then, the idea that you could spout pure fiction and get away with it was unacceptable. Tony Blair’s manipulation of the facts in the lead up to the Iraq War has made him one of the most hated British politicians of all time – which is quite an achievement so soon after Margaret Thatcher.

    Last year, the Leave supporters in the referendum resorted to tactics very similar to Trump’s of “say what ever you like and viciously attack any naysayers as being aggressively negative or, worse, ‘experts’!” Those of us on the Remain side felt under attack just for pointing out that the Leave campaign had absolutely nothing to support their disparate and contradictory claims but smoke and wishful thinking.

    The government of the U.K. has set itself on a course of action that 48% of the country fundamentally disagrees with – and it still has no clear idea how to avoid the impending catastrophe.

    Britain rules the wave – there’s another alt-fact for you…

    Liked by 1 person

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