By now many of you will have learned that you live in the post-fact world. I speak often of our shared reality and of course, then as now I mean in the sense that there is an objective truth underlying all the nonsensical things people imagine or believe to be true.
“There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”
This is not the case, according to Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes, political editor of RightAlerts.com, who appeared on The Diane Rehm Show Wednesday and explained that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”
The context was, of course, Donald Trump’s many well-documented lies, and Hughes’ attempted defense of those lies. A couple of lies were talked about specifically, including Trump’s lie about the NFL sending him a letter about the dates chosen for the debates, a claim the NFL immediately responded was untrue.
The unfortunate fact (for Hughes) is that we can actually check facts. It is not merely a matter of opinion as she claims. We know Trump made the claim and we know the NFL refuted it.
Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, “I’ll tell you what I don’t like. It’s against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous.'” You can watch him say it here, as often as you want. (Warning: The facts won’t change no matter how often you listen to it, however.)
Here is the refutation from the NFL’s “PR Guy” Brian McCarthy:
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) July 30, 2016
Hughes’ response to coming face-to-face with these facts was, “Well, what’s interesting and what he just said, all those people he mentioned are known bias.”
The Atlantic‘s James Fallows asked, incredulously, “The NFL, the NFL is biased?”
“Well, that’s the question that you have to ask right now,” she said, publicly questioning McCarthy’s integrity by claiming “they” know he’s opposed to Trump.
These were “private conversations” said Hughes, offering a new definition of “private” as “false.” We could point here to Trump’s lie about a conversation with Tom Brady as well.
Another lie discussed was Trump’s assertion that he would have won the popular vote except for “millions of people who voted illegally.” To this Hughes offered the following defense:
“Well, I think it’s also an idea of an opinion. And that’s — on one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, ‘No, it’s true.’ And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch, is that people that say facts are facts — they’re not really facts.”
According to Hughes,
“And so Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd — a large part of the population — are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and that there are no facts to back it up.”
No, Scottie Nell Hughes, things are not true simply because you or anyone else says they are true.
Naturally, people objected and Hughes took these objections as attacks, which is fair, since, after all, she had said something catastrophically stupid.
“My word are being selectively edited.”
Hughes complains she was taken out of context – the usual conservative defense of their indefensible claims – but WaPo’s Margaret Sullivan was there and says this really happened:
FACT: This actually happened. I was there: ….. CNN Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes: Facts no longer exist https://t.co/FgGicV1T0G
— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) December 2, 2016
The Atlantic‘s James Fallows was also there, of course (you can hear him on the tape) and as he explained Wednesday,
“This morning, straight off the plane from Shanghai, I was on The Diane Rehm Show with Margaret Sullivan, much-missed former Public Editor of the NYT who is now with the WaPo, and Glenn Thrush of Politico.”
See? Facts are really not that hard. We have them here, and they are verifiable. We are not left, as Hughes claims, with mere opinion.
What is remarkable then is that Hughes is resting her defense on facts she says no longer exist. If we live “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts,” then certainly it is fair to claim our beliefs about what she said are true simply because we believe it is true. That’s what she said, after all.
If opinions or beliefs have the same truth value as facts, then we are obviously in a state of “anything goes” where any claim is as true as any other claim, regardless of what the facts might tell us. Unfortunately, we were witness to this sort of thinking even before Hughes put it into words.
Trump’s surrogates and followers lied at least as often as did Donald Trump himself and we all know who this fact-free world benefits most.
Fallows is probably right when he says this fact-free world is an “intended result” of the Trump campaign, that “if it’s all opinion we can manipulate the things we care about.”
However, because lies are lies and facts are facts and will always remain facts, our response to Hughes must be the same as the response Politico’s Glenn Thrush made to Hughes:
“There are no objective facts? I mean, that is — that is an absolutely outrageous assertion. Of course, there are facts.”
Facts matter and they will come back to bite Trump – and unfortunately, when he says things like global warming is a Chinse scam, the rest of us – in the ass.