A Rising Post-Truth Environment Undermines the Nation’s Values and Institutions

President Donald Trump Caricature by DonkeyHotey.

Rule of law rests on a foundation of objective truth. In the absence of such a foundation, no system based on the rule of law can survive for long.

In legal proceedings, sufficiency and credibility of evidence determines the veracity of the assertions made. Absent sufficient evidence, claims are dismissed.

At least that is the kind of system that was established under the nation’s Constitutional framework. Indeed, facts were considered so vital that the authors of the Judiciary Act of 1789 drafted language providing for a high degree of transparency. In part, that law prescribed:

That it shall be the duty of circuit courts, in causes in equity and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, to cause the facts on which they found their sentence or decree, fully to appear upon the record either from the pleadings and decree itself, or a state of the caste agreed by the parties, or their counsel, or if they disagree by a stating of the case by the court.

Now, fast forward to today. In an era of intensifying tribal loyalty to the President and partisan affiliation, fact-free claims are advanced over and over again by political leaders and their supporters on radio and television. Loyalty to the President takes precedence over truth, evidence, or fact. Republican institutions, facts, truth, accuracy, integrity, and more are now regularly sacrificed on the alter of loyalty to the President. Wider electoral choice is redefined as “binary.”

The free press and journalists are assailed and threatened in a fashion that more closely resembles an authoritarian system than the Constitutional framework constructed in 1787. Law enforcement, the Department of Justice, and the Intelligence Community are attacked, demeaned, and discredited. Congress’ constitutional oversight authority is twisted into partisan crusades aimed at obtaining sensitive information that could then be used to impede ongoing investigations to satisfy political ends. The Special Counsel has become a particular focus of such tactics.

For example, Conservative Review featured yet another attack on the Special Counsel by radio host Mark Levin. According to that online publication, Levin charged, “…we have a prosecutor who I think believes he has the power to remove a president…” Levin provided no real evidence, demonstrative evidence, documentary evidence, or testimonials to support his claim. That charge was as empty as it was loud. That Mr. Levin qualified his statement with “I think” cannot alter the reality that he provided no credible evidence of any kind to form his assertion, much less advance it.

Considering the absence of evidence necessary to devise it, there is no rational basis on which such a hypothesis could be constructed. What evidence exists argues decisively in the opposite direction. The written authority granted to the Special Counsel upon his appointment last year grants no such express or implied power, nor could it. The Constitution is clear on how a President can be impeached and removed from office.

The Special Counsel has not made any statements, legal arguments, or any other communications even remotely suggesting that he believes that he possesses the authority to remove the President from office. In fact, there is nothing whatsoever to lead any reasonable person to speculate that the Special Counsel believes he possesses the authority, ability, or power to remove President Trump from office.

In a rational world, the absence of evidence would present an insurmountable barrier to any arguments that might otherwise be advanced. But things are now changing. Reason is moving toward extinction.

In the evolving post-truth world of the Trump Era, facts seemingly hold no power, evidence is irrelevant, negative stories about the President are “fake,” and loyalty to Trump is both “truth” and binding obligation. Mr. Levin’s baseless claim is merely the latest fact-free contribution to the rapidly growing body of evidence indicating the emergence of just such a warped state of affairs.

Mr. Levin’s example is also far from an exception. Throughout the talk radio universe and on the Internet, one finds expressions of thoughts, ideas, or arguments that are increasingly decoupled from facts, evidence, or truth.

The Special Counsel’s credibility and the consequences from compromising the integrity of his investigation are minor matters compared to what’s at stake from the torrent of disinformation that is currently flooding the air waves and cyberspace. The rising post-truth environment is anathema to the nation’s Founding principles. It is extremely hostile to the institutions and values that sustain its republican framework.

If its expansion is left unchallenged, this post-truth environment could ultimately give birth to a post-constitutional illiberal framework. That outcome would effectively, if not formally, mark the end of the American experiment in republican government.

Feature Image By DonkeyHotey

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About Don Sutherland 83 Articles
Husband. Dad. American. Believes in America on account of its Constitution, ideals, and people. Character, principle, truth, and empirical evidence matter greatly everywhere, including politics and public policy.