When we can’t even agree on reality

Published 7:39 pm Thursday, March 21, 2019

“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.”—Iris Murdoch

It had been going on, of course, for quite a while, but I think the first time I was really slapped in the face with the idea that something was really, really wrong was when White House advisor Kellyanne Conway stepped up to tell a gaggle of White House reporters that no, an administration official had not really done what the whole country watched him do — lie through his teeth, but rather that the chap, in almost ultimate euphemistic fashion, had instead offered up “alternative facts.”

If ever there had been an instant that literally screamed for the presence of Rod Serling, wry smile on his face, burning cigarette held between fingers, tidbit of ominous wisdom offered up, it was that one.

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For we are literally at a moment now in which not some fictional character or even a group of them, but an entire nation full of real, living, breathing, people are suspended between the depths of man’s fears and the height of his imagination—a true Twilight Zone in which the very nature of reality itself is subject to debate and its limits at best ill-defined and at worst non-existent.

The results of more and more studies, not to mention simple observation itself, makes it appear that in 2019 America any given person’s reality may be directly, inextricably tied to the source from which that person gets his news, the fountain of presumed knowledge from which he or she drinks — for some intermittently, for others, all day long.

And that is not only a more frightening thing than ever came from the pen of the good Mr. Serling or those of the splendid group of visionary writers he assembled to create the weekly episodes for one of the finest series to ever grace American television, but it also represents a true, a real and present danger to the American Republic, itself.

Because there is Fox News.

Fox News, which began as a money and mischief-making venture 23 years ago with a ready-made audience of malcontents, suspicious of both the motives and methods of “the mainstream media,” and hence, represented no more than just one more “tell ‘em what they want to hear” 24-hour “news” channel, has since evolved, (or perhaps, more accurately devolved) into nothing more or less than state media for a presidential administration of its liking, a de facto propaganda network for a would-be authoritarian and otherwise laughably dishonest president and his minions.

With the exception of a tiny group of genuine professionals, Chris Wallace, Shep Smith and to a lesser degree, Bret Baier, it’s on-air journalists’/entertainers do not even observe the most basic standards of journalism and instead offer its increasingly devoted audience a combination of unapologetic cheerleading, race-based alarmism and completely unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

Which far, far too many Americans lap up like the mumbo jumbo fire-and-brimstone rantings of a two-bit tent revival in Backwater, USA. “Pack up the babies and grab the ole ladies and everyone go,” with the fictional Brother Love now manifested in an all too real Sean Hannity.

And that’s all fine and dandy for those who prefer their political mother’s milk of a rancid variety, save for one thing: Dishonesty is destructive.

Both American society and the country’s very representative democratic experiment itself rests, suddenly quite wobbly, upon a heretofore solid foundation of truth. In order for the American socio-economic and political systems to function properly requires a shared acceptance of and dependence upon a given set of facts and the ability of news organizations to first discover, then deliver them to “we the people.”

But not Fox.

Fox isn’t interested in facts, or truth, or the reality they combine to create, but rather, the contrary.

At Fox, facts are ignored; the truth is selectively perceived and presented, thereby creating a new, indeed, an “alternative” reality, often barely resembling and sometimes even diametrically opposed to that which actually exists.

Fox News is like a collective Dr.Frankenstein, playing God and creating, well, a monster.

Fox “News” is no such thing. It’s had several, but in its current incarnation Fox can, indeed, rightfully be labeled TrumpTV, repeating and sometimes even drafting the president’s propaganda and then disseminating it.

Hiding truth, spreading lies, creating a false reality in which it seeks, relentlessly to make its devotees’ believe and eschew the very concept of questioning.

We used to call such things cults.

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.