We been hearing much the new “post-fact” world of American politics, supposedly midwifed by Donald Trump’s miraculous ascension to the U.S. presidency. However, insofar as post-fact can be anything more than a cute and convenient meme for still weeping, ash-cloaked Hillaryphiles, it has been around much longer than Trump, and has surely had more virtuoso practitioners. I can think of one ex-president nearly 20 years ago, for example, who only too eagerly “slipped the surly bonds” of fact-based earth and winged his way through impeachment hearings with novelty arguments on the nature of oral sex (i.e., that it was not sex) and with even great semantic agility took issue with the meaning of our language’s most basic molecule: the verb “is.”
Trump is still an amateur in this league. Moreover, the dissociation between what is said to be and what really is, the unhinging of words from what they mean and have always meant, is no long the private garden of campaigning or office-holding politicians. Excesses of truth-bending and fact-denying are equally as common in protest politics as at the ballot box, in street-demonstrations as in high office. Indeed protest politics is as plastic and fact-allergic, or more so, than the regular politics it sets itself against. Activists and street orators, tribunes of the social justice warrior (SJW) caste, often grant themselves a latitude with truth and facts, a licence to improvise and fantasticate, that visits mere party politicians only in their most liberated dreams.
The idea that the chants of SJWs or the wailing of fanatical enviros offer more “authenticity” than the rote recitations and talking-points parroting of legislator politicians, or that there’s more “truth” on a Greenpeace banner than in the pages of Hansard, is a delusion reserved for dedicated hermits and the terminally naive.