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Truth decay: The real national emergency

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Etched into the wall of the Central Intelligence Agency’s main lobby is a Bible verse that characterizes the CIA’s mission in a free society. It reads: “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

From this writer’s perspective, the current war on facts and truth by way of the vicious attacks on the news media as “fake news” and the birth of “alternative facts” is a war on democracy.

The late Isaac Asimov, a professor at Boston University, once wrote, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States. This strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Today, we have a president who is a model example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This concept suggests that the less knowledgeable and competent one is, the more you believe in your own superlative abilities. Further, it causes one to reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but the incompetence of those affected robs them of the ability to realize it. Is this not President Trump in a nutshell?

Trump claims, on a continuing basis, that “no one knows more than I do” and then creates his own facts and truths in support of such an expansive knowledge of issues, most of which are lies and fabrications. As the political journalist, George Will put it, “…he does not know what it is not to know something,” thus the biggest lie of all is his assertion of universal expertise.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” This thought is timelier now than when spoken many years ago.

We are now living in a nation where top leadership and millions of our citizens are in denial of the facts and truths regarding empirical scientific evidence, the necessity of higher education and advancing the use of critical thinking skills.

Due to the Trump administration, the USDA and the EPA have ordered their scientists to no longer speak to the public about their research. The CDC canceled its planned international conference on the health impacts of climate change. The pursuit of facts and facts themselves mean nothing to the Trump White House.

The Scientific American recently published the following: “Ultimately, a healthy democracy depends on science. The pursuit of truth, having an informed citizenry and the free and open exchange of ideas are all cornerstones of our democracy. That’s one thing that always made America truly great — the fact that, when all is said and done, evidence and the truth would always win the day in America. Without that, we join the league of ordinary nations.”

As a nation, we are well down the slippery slope of being duped into believing that the news media is “the enemy of the people,” that truth and facts are what Trump and his administration and Fox News say they are. Thus, there is no need to listen to any other sources. The FBI and federal judges are biased and opposed to Trump. We are being invaded by hundreds of thousands of Hispanic immigrants made up mostly of drug smugglers, rapists, criminals and the infirm bent on destroying our nation.

Yes, we have a national emergency — and it is truth decay.

If truth and facts don’t matter to Trump and one-third of the U.S. population, especially when they are inconvenient, what’s next? Our Constitution and laws?

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.