From now until November, we'll be featuring election news and analysis in this space, with looks at local races as well as the fight for the White House (see this week's special coverage beginning on page 18). Our goal is to help separate fact from fiction, the truth from the...
... Bullshit and Lies
DONALD TRUMP has defied the laws of gravity, baldness and basic truth. (Politifact awarded him 2015's Lie of the Year honors.) He's prone to exaggeration and much worse, and yet his polls stay aloft — causing the most astute pundits to ponder: Have we entered the "post-truth era"? Writing in Politico magazine late last month, Jack Shafer examines the limitations of fact-checking journalists while citing philosopher Harry Frankfurt's famous essay "On Bullshit." In that piece, Frankfurt makes a distinction between lies (knowingly misleading) and simple bullshit (not caring about facts): "Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about."
Matt Taibbi, in Rolling Stone, takes it a step further, noting a politician's best defense when confronted with a lie: Blame it on media bias. Taibbi concludes by blaming the media himself: "American news audiences have had their fantasies stroked for so long that they can't even remember stuff that happened not that long ago." (He was referring to TV audiences, not Inlander readers, of course.)
Things That Go Boom
Inevitably, guns and the question of what to do with them will dog candidates along the campaign trail. President Barack Obama announced this week his intentions to use executive actions on firearms, prompting Republican candidates to cry foul. ("This president wants to act as if he's a king, as if he's a dictator," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Fox News Sunday.) Meanwhile, armed anti-government protesters took over a group of federal buildings in Burns, Oregon, forcing candidates to walk a fine line between right-wing constituents and law-and-order types. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for one, advised the group to "stand down."