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In the post-modern world, even facts are debatable, essentially a matter of opinion, we are told by the media and the partisan shills.

At the start of the 21st Century, humanity is so disconnected from the physical reality of our lives, so consumed with our own success as a dominant species, we have almost forgotten how we got here.

Everything is for show, everything for hits, fame, display. Reality takes a back seat.   

The notion of objective truth has long been a topic for philosophers from Plato to Kant. Plato's image of mankind staring at a reflection of reality in a cave, rather than reality itself captured the veil of subjectivity that intrudes on our understanding of real life, while Kant spoke of of objective truth, or a priori truth, vs. perceived truth, or a posteriori.

But then in the 18th Century, the Enlightenment introduced the notion of scientific facts and laws of nature that could describe the world as it is. Armed with these facts, civilization experienced a massive surge in productivity that ushered in the industrial revolution and the modern world and with it unprecedented prosperity for participating Nations across the globe.

 French Surrealist René Magritte: "This is not a Pipe" from his series The Treachery of Images (1928-29).

French Surrealist René Magritte: "This is not a Pipe" from his series The Treachery of Images (1928-29).

In 1949, observing the rise of government propaganda and the devastating effect of totalitarianism in the 20th Century, the British writer George Orwell penned the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four in which the public was deceived by the manipulation of language with terms like "Big Brother" and "Doublespeak."

In the 1960s, postmodernism took hold, stemming from the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), and the new Existentialists (Sartre, Camus) who railed against the conformity of the Enlightenment and questioned if there could be objective truth. In intellectual circles, the idea that truth was a construction of the mind gained popularity and relativism and deconstruction became the fashion in literary criticism. The notion that the writer's intent was entirely up to the interpretation of the reader became the basis for a new movement in higher learning. This lead a generation of Baby Boomers to have a skeptical view of objective truth and allowed a doctrine to form over the next decades that lead to manufactured facts and misleading labels that would come to fulfill Orwell's prophecy.

After the tumult of the 1960s and 70s, the country ushered in Ronald Reagan who began a deliberate dismantling of the basic assumptions upon which society had operated. By asserting the government is not the solution but the problem, he sought to undermine the very idea of government as a framework for cooperation. The Republican Party began an assault on language that has continued to this day, undermining our ability to communicate. This is no outlandish claim, this is a strategy articulated by the chief linguist himself, Frank Luntz, a political opinion guru responsible for such phrases as "the death tax",  "death panels" and other framing devices that have controlled political debate with boldly convincing and inflammatory imagery.

In the 1990's The erudite Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan stated "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." How quaint that sentiment seems in light of recent developments.

During the 2000s, The George W. Bush administration was keenly aware of the power of using language and stretching facts to suit its agenda: "Weapons of Mass Destruction," "Axis of Evil," "Tax and Spend Liberals," "Elitist," and the eternally vague "Freedom" were all terms weaponized in the partisan wars.

Now we are in a wold of "alternative facts," "Fake News," and perception "bubbles." It is unclear if society can recover its trust in knowable truths, and yet reality itself—birth, change, death—is not waiting for us to sort things out.    

BOOKS
The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Lawrence Otto
The Assault on Reason: Our Information Ecosystem, from the Age of Print to the Age of Trump by Al Gore