The Truth Is Not a Toy

In Misleading Information On

Out in the open is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the news media. The secret, it is said, is that the president is always hiding something, using Twitter to distract us from whatever the truly important issue is — as though, if we could only regain our focus long enough to locate that important issue, reality would feel solid again. In fact, Mr. Trump is waging an open and public war on journalism. His lies, his insults and his use of Twitter to communicate falsehoods are the truly important issue: They are the force destroying the public sphere.

The bad news is that Mr. Trump is succeeding. Fraudulent news stories, which used to be largely a right-wing phenomenon, are becoming increasingly popular among those who oppose the president. (I prefer not to add to the appeal of such stories by citing them, but an example is the string of widely shared items that purported to link every death of a more-or-less prominent Russian man to Russian interference in the election.) Each story dangles the promise of a secret that can explain the unimaginable. Each story comes with the ready justification that desperate times call for outrageous claims. But each story deals yet another blow to our fact-based reality, destroying the very fabric of politics that Mr. Trump so clearly disdains.

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