In the media, reality is always custom-built to political order.
“When other presidents leave office, they build libraries to house their records and honor their achievements,” wrote Karen Tumulty in the Dec. 6 Washington Post. “President Trump is constructing something far more ambitious: an entire alternate reality.”
She was referring to what she called his “hour-and-40-minute diatribe of lies and grievance” in Georgia about the allegedly stolen election and obviously meant the taunt to sting. But it is by now such a venerable rhetorical conceit that the sting has pretty much gone out of it.
I remember former President Bill Clinton saying something similar at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, when he accused the Republicans of living in “an alternate universe.”
He can’t have been the first politician to come up with what he must have thought of as this witty put-down, but it was the first time I remember hearing it and wondering if he really understood what he was saying. I now wonder the same thing about Tumulty.
The idea of an “alternate universe” or an “alternate reality” presupposes multiple realities. The wit of the insult, such as it is, depends upon the absurdity of the notion of a plural reality, yet a plural reality is precisely what the new progressive movement has been advocating with might and main for the past 20 or 30 years.
Indeed, the idea that reality should be subdivided and privatized on behalf of every favored and supposedly oppressed minority in the progressive coalition has swept all before it, culturally, and will doubtless complete its triumph legally before long.
The black reality or the gay reality or the transgender reality are now distinct from one another and from unmodified reality itself, as it used to be understood. These multiple realities are now the property of black people or gay people or transgender people and must never be trespassed upon by old-fashioned believers in a unitary reality—a reality that is the same for everybody.
If we didn’t know it before, we certainly know it now we have been told that belief in the fundamental biological reality of two sexes, male and female, is outmoded and false. That belief is what the “woke” intellectual elite call “essentialism,” and it’s a sin in the new catechism second only to racism.
In the politicized media, “reality” means the media narrative, which is the putative reality to which Tumulty imagines President Donald Trump’s reality-construction is alternate.
The old put-down is still potent for her, and presumably for her readers, because they have long since tacitly agreed to pretend that the media reality—the media narrative—is as firmly fixed in place, immovable and inarguable, as the old, universal reality used to be.
All this is rather a long way around to explain how it is that, as I noticed the last time I wrote in these pages, “truth” as most in the media use the term no longer means “what is true” but only “what fits the narrative.” The narrative is not just truth, it’s the only truth. It’s reality.
Here’s how the media’s new business of “reality” manufacture works. They purport to begin inductively: “Donald Trump said this or that—that all Mexicans are rapists or that neo-Nazis are ‘very fine people’—so he must be a racist.”
Then, when it is pointed out to them that Trump didn’t quite say this or that, they reply that it doesn’t matter anyway because they can now proceed to deduction: “Donald Trump is a racist, so he must have said (or at least meant to say) this or that.”
That’s the new-minted reality.
It’s also how Joe Biden could repeat, in debating Trump, the outrageous lie about the “very fine” Nazis and go completely uncorrected and unrebuked by the allegedly truth-loving media. For them, this couldn’t be a lie because it fits their narrative. It has always fit their narrative, and the narrative itself depends on the assumption that he really said it.
Biden also said in the debate that “everybody knows you’re a liar,” thus making reference to the master premise on which the whole media narrative about Trump is based. The guarantee, in their own eyes at least, that anything they say is true is that anything he says is false—which is the reason for the bogus catalog of Trump’s 20,000-plus “lies” compiled by the Washington Post’s “fact-checkers.”
They purport to be proving their case inductively when they are really only arguing in a circle. They pretend, that is, to know that Trump is a liar because he lies, but only in order that they, and their media colleagues and the Democrats who depend on them, may confidently proclaim he lies in any given case because he is a known liar.
That’s the reality of the Trump narrative that is, therefore, so far as they are concerned, the reality of Trump.
Looked at in this way, we should perhaps see Tumulty’s insult to Trump as really (so to speak) a compliment. His reality “constructing” is only the mirror image of her own, and that of her media confreres. Her reality confidently proclaims that the election couldn’t have been stolen; his “alternate” version proclaims that it was.
No one knows anymore to whom we can turn to adjudicate between these alternate realities, though we know (or ought to know) that we certainly can’t turn to the media. In the old days, we might have looked to the Supreme Court, but that too has become politicized—largely thanks, ironically enough, to Joe Biden when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It’s hard to believe that the Sleepy Joe of today could have been so far-seeing 30 years ago as to have arranged things in such a way that it would be impossible for the Supreme Court to invalidate his election and retain what little credit for probity and impartiality remains to it—or to anything or anyone else in our politically polarized age.
But in the alternate reality of the media and the Democrats, I suppose anything is possible. That’s why they constructed it, after all.
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for the New Criterion.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.