NYT on “Post-Truth” Era – Pt. 418

Writing in the NYT (where else), Adam Kirsch (ahem) pushes the left’s sexy ‘post-truth’ meme into the literary realm (“Lie to Me: Fiction in the Post-Truth Era”):

American novelists have long complained about the ability of real life to outstrip fiction. In his landmark 1961 essay “Writing American Fiction,” Philip Roth observed that “actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and the culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist.” The figure Roth cites is Charles Van Doren, of quiz-show scandal fame; but place Mr. Van Doren next to Donald J. Trump, and you can measure the change in the nature of credibility over the past half-century.

In other words, paranoid Jewish intellectuals will always find conspiratorial threats in the air, all the more of an urgency when the perpetrators are high-profile Gentiles.

The problem is that, more and more, people seem to want to be lied to. This is the flip side of “reality hunger,” since a lie, like a fake memoir, is a fiction that does not admit its fictionality. That is why the lie is so seductive: It allows the liar and his audience to cooperate in changing the nature of reality itself, in a way that can appear almost magical. “Magical thinking” is used as an insult, but it is perhaps the most primal kind of thinking there is. The problem for modern people is that we can no longer perform this magic naively, with an undoubting faith in the reality of our inventions. We lie to ourselves now with a bad conscience…

 Fiction was one solution to this quandary, allowing us to suspend disbelief in the way that Coleridge said was essential for literature. But the postmodern solution is even more powerful: It is the simple shamelessness that allows us to recognize a lie as a lie but still treat it as if it were a reality. Reality shows are a trivial example of this technique, but when it comes to politics the same process can have deadly results. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was published, like “Moll Flanders,” with no name on the title page; it, too, claimed to be a true account of real events — in this case, a meeting at which Jews plotted to take over the world and destroy civilization. Perhaps some of its readers, when it first appeared around 1903 and even today, sincerely believed that this was a real document.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

Jesus Christ (no pun intended).

It’s always about them. Why is that? It’s getting rather tiresome.

The problem with our “post-truth” politics is that a large share of the population has moved beyond true and false. They thrill precisely to the falsehood of a statement, because it shows that the speaker has the power to reshape reality in line with their own fantasies of self-righteous beleaguerment.

Translation: White Christians in unsophisticated Middle America are under the fantastical notion that they, as a people, are under assault by (ahem) coastal elites.

In a bit of a twist (for the NYT), the obligatory mention of Trump happens at the end of the piece, rather than the beginning:

From its beginning, the novel has tested the distinction between truth, fiction and lie; now the collapse of those distinctions has given us the age of Trump.


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