Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trump and Truth

il n'y a pas de hors-texte […] — Jacques Derrida
Translation: "There is no outside-text."
It is usually mistranslated as "There is nothing outside the text"
by his opponents to make it appear that Derrida is claiming
nothing exists beyond language […].
 "Of Grammatology", tr. by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, 1976.
(Original French published by Éditions de Minuit,
Paris, in 1967, as "De la grammatologie"), 158-59 [...].)


            In attacking Donald "Trump's relentless assault on truth," Eugene Robinson in a column in mid-June 2016 assumes truth's existence. I agree with Robinson that truth exists and that Trump undermines the concept — and thereby undermines a crucial bond for human society.
            Trump was born in 1946 and is in part a product of his time, in this case in ways that can be clarified by talking with academics — especially academics in the humanities — who were on university campuses in the latter part of the 20th century, and by reading such books as Eric Hoffer's thoughts on fanaticism in The True Believer from 1951 and, preeminently, George Orwell's 1948/49 masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
            In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the spokesman for a totalitarian Party tortures the protagonist and tells him "Reality is inside the skull […]. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of nature. We make the laws of nature" and the triumph of the will of the Leader and power of the Party determines truth.
            This idea was cleaned up from the mid-1960s on to become "strong social construction": the idea that not just people's views of reality are determined by their cultures but reality itself is constructed "inside the skull[s]" of people interacting.
            And that academic idea trickled down or "osmosed" up or over to politicians, to where Neal Gabler in the Los Angeles Times could talk about a Karl "Rovism [that] posits that there is no objective, verifiable reality at all," and you can get Rove claiming "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality [...]."

            As Karl Rove would say, Robinson is part of "the reality-based community"; Donald Trump is not, and that makes him far more dangerous than more traditional liars.

Reference: Eugene Robinson, 
            "The challenges in covering Trump’s relentless assault on the truth," The Washington Post 16 June 2016. <>
            "Trump’s relentless assault on truth," The Ventura County Star, print edition 18 June 2016, page 9B; on-line 17 June 2016. <>

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