The Truthiness Won’t Set You Free

January 27th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted

Stephen Colbert | The A.V. Club:

> AVC: You’re saying appearances are more important than objective truth?

__SC:__ Absolutely. The whole idea of authority—authoritarian is fine for some people, like people who say “Listen to me, and just don’t question, and do what I say, and everything will be fine”—the sort of thing we really started to respond to so well after 9/11. ‘Cause we wanted someone to be daddy, to take decisions away from us. I really have a sense of [America’s current leaders] doing bad things in our name to protect us, and that was okay. We weren’t thrilled with Bush because we thought he was a good guy at that point, we were thrilled with him because we thought that he probably had hired people who would fuck up our enemies, regardless of how they had to do it. That was for us a very good thing, and I can’t argue with the validity of that feeling.

But that has been extended to the idea that authoritarian is better than authority. Because authoritarian means there’s only one authority, and that authority has got to be the President, has got to be the government, and has got to be his allies. What the right-wing in the United States tries to do is undermine the press. They call the press “liberal,” they call the press “biased,” not necessarily because it is or because they have problems with the facts of the left—or even because of the bias for the left, because it’s hard not to be biased in some way, everyone is always going to enter their editorial opinion—but because a press that has validity is a press that has authority. And as soon as there’s any authority to what the press says, you question the authority of the government—it’s like the existence of another authority. So that’s another part of truthiness. Truthiness is “What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.” It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.

Which explains, in a nutshell, why Jayson Blair, James Frey and Dan Rather were all good for a right wing flirting dangerously with fascism: They make “truthiness” seem like a safe place to go hide, since it spares you the discomfort of figuring out what’s true, or daring to maintain that there could be an objective truth.

And it’s what makes the faddish use of “     is objectively    ” all the more Orwellian. The people using it most are the ones who have retreated farthest into telling us they “know” things are better in Iraq than “the MSM” are reporting. They swim in a sea of subjectivity they’re peddling as something other.

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