If you’ve followed the Jan. 6 investigation at all, it may have occurred to you that its revelations have intensified an ongoing debate about Former Guy and his nonstop whoppers. Namely, the question about whether he is deliberately and knowingly lying, or is simply so delusional that he actually believes his own falsehoods. Either is very bad, of course. But there is a third alternative that someone has posited: he is simply impervious to truth. He’s totally indifferent about whether a claim by himself or anyone else is accurate or not, so long as it is useful to him. And as he has discovered many times over, promoting even the most outrageous of lies generally incurs absolutely no penalties in today’s world — and indeed, quite often reaps rewards.
Of course, imperviousness does not preclude the other two options. It’s entirely possible, if not probable, that he deliberately lies at some times, and at other times actually believes, to some extent, his own stretchers. In both cases, there’s no doubt that his verbal skullduggery is prompted by a disregard and outright disdain for inconvenient facts. He is hardly the only one to exhibit such modes of behavior. They have in fact become quite commonplace.
Sen. Ron Johnson (Republican, naturally), who has been heavily advancing dangerous false claims about vaccines, said in an interview that it’s “pretty obvious” that vaccines are killing people, and added that
What drives me nuts is when I’m challenged by medical experts
In his universe, he is not the one doing the challenging. He has a right to be considered the authority, and if the people who actually know what they’re talking about disagree with him, well by god, they’re infidels who should be stoned.
When I asked someone to provide some factual basis for her assertion that President Biden’s policies were ruining America, she just replied, “if you can’t look around you and see the damage, then you’re hopeless”, or something to that effect. Well, if I did nothing but “look around”, I’d see that the earth is flat, the sun revolves around it, the moon changes its shape, the stars are just little flecks of light, and the wind is created by trees shaking their branches. To these people, the sights they see through their own windows is all they need to form a picture of the world.
One of the most alarming cases, embracing several truth aversions at one whack, is the 2022 platform of the Texas GOP, which declares that Biden didn’t really win the election. They adopted The Big Lie as their Big Truth (the convention at which the platform was adopted screened “2000 Mules”, the laughable fraudulent film about election fraud, three times). And that’s not all. The party manifesto also dictates that homosexuality is “an abnormal lifestyle choice”, that they will oppose any attempt to regulate guns, and that schoolchildren should be taught about the “humanity of the preborn child”, among other things. They also adopted a stance on foreign policy based on Biblical “prophecy”.
Additionally, the Texas GOPer platform (the late great Molly Ivins referred to her home state as the “national laboratory for bad government”) proposes several blatantly racist voting measures, including the establishment of a state-level electoral college and the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Oh, and they want to secede from the Union. Which, come to think of it, might be the one admirable idea they have.
All of which no doubt rings a bell. If you’ve spent any time on social media, or if you just have some RRR’s (rabidly right-wing relatives), then you’ve heard things like this spewed many times. “Biden stole the election somehow, I just know it.” “I don’t care what anyone says, guns make us safer.” “Nobody is going to convince me that Biden is not responsible for gas prices.” Doesn’t matter one bit how many facts you present. Along with “I have a right to be right”, one of the bedrock principles of conservatism is “La la la, I can’t hear you.”
But what happened in the Republic Of Teksizz wasn’t just a few deranged individuals spouting insanity. It was an influential, organized political body formally making several types of insanity its official party platform. Texas Repubs are not just saying that they personally believe a fertilized ovum is a fully enfranchised person and an LGBTQ individual is not; they are declaring that they have a (literally) God-given right to teach children to believe such things as well.
If any of this is new, it’s only new in degree rather than kind. American conservatism has been building up to this for decades. Right-wingers have always believed that they are entitled to their own set of “facts”. But in recent years, the extremists have become increasingly mainstreamed in government and media, and to an ever greater extent, have achieved the power to make their alternate reality the default mode.
Meanwhile, in an interview on the Great American Warehouse of Truth Denial, Fox “News”, Mike Pence said that he has never known of a president to lie as much as Biden. Yes, that Mike Pence.