In the realm of non-mystical, non-religious reality, the mainstream view is, or at least has been, that can be definitively distinguished by evidence, according to agreed-upon evaluative rules. It is purportedly the job of journalists to apply these rules, and damaging to politicians to be caught in lies.
That is not to say there have not been numerous hoaxes perpetrated on the public post-Descartes, from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to Joseph McCarthy, through the Tonkin Gulf Incident and the Weapons of Mass Destruction. But most people accept the truth about these matters once evidence comes to light. Of course politicians of all stripes sometimes overreach and exaggerate, shade or spin the truth, or hold on to convenient beliefs that aren't really correct. But we've been in new territory ever since George Bush II, as famously encapsulated by Paul Krugman's satirical headline: Shape of the Earth, Views Differ.
Still, we eventually found that no, Saddam did not have Weapon of Mass Destruction ™ and that he was not the mastermind behind 9/11, and even Republicans generally agree with this. But now we're in a new era which is definitely qualitatively different, in which one of the major political parties lives in an alternate universe, and the corporate media's addiction to Bothersiderism prevents them from coming down clearly on the side of reality.
Digby discusses the wacko hoaxes that sent America's
But of course it is not just on matters of historical fact that the Republican party has abandoned objective reality. The party also rejects science as a whole. As a group for the Brennan Center reports (one that includes old fashioned Reality Based Republicans such as Christine Todd Whitman and Chuck Hagel):
Objective data and research are essential to effective governance and democratic oversight. But over the last few decades, the safeguards meant to keep government research objective and publicly accessible have been steadily weakening. Recent administrations have manipulated the findings of government scientists and researchers, retaliated against career researchers for political reasons, invited outside special interests to shape research priorities, undermined and sidelined advisory committees staffed by scientists, and suppressed research and analysis from public view — often material that had previously been made available. In many cases, they have appeared to pay little political price for these missteps. This trend has culminated in the efforts of the current administration not only to politicize scientific and technical research on a range of topics, but also, at times, to undermine the value of objective facts themselves.Do read the whole thing.
Now, we are at a crisis point, with almost weekly violations of previously respected safeguards.
- The acting White House chief of staff reportedly instructed the secretary of commerce to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — a part of the Department of Commerce — issue a misleading statement in support of the president’s false assertion about the trajectory of a hurricane, contradicting an earlier statement released by the National Weather Service. The secretary of commerce reportedly threatened to fire top NOAA officials in pressuring them to act.
- The Department of Agriculture relocated economists across the country after they published findings showing the financial harms to farmers of the administration’s trade policies.
- The Interior Department reassigned its top climate scientist to an accounting role after he highlighted dangers posed by climate change.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted rules that prevent leading experts from serving on science advisory boards and encourage participation by industry-affiliated researchers.
- The White House suppressed a report showing a toxic substance that is present in several states’ water supplies endangers human health at levels far lower than previously reported by the EPA.
Anyway John Quiggin sums up our plight:
Apparently, one side, based on eyeballing, thinks the earth is flat, while the other, relying on the views of so-called scientists, or the experience of international air travel, regards it as spherical, or nearly so.
In the past, before the rise of partisanship, we would have agreed on a sensible compromise, such as flat on Sundays, spherical on weekdays, and undetermined on Saturdays. Moreover, there was a mix of views, with plenty of Democratic flat-earthers, and Republican sphericalists. . .