I spent the past week on vacation in Orlando, Florida with family, including a couple of our grand kids. A week at theme parks with pre-teens is both exhausting and exhilarating! The technology behind some of the newer rides is astounding. We’ve come a long way from “It’s a Small World” to the new Avatar rides at Disney and the Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios. Recent technological advances alter reality in such a convincing way that, even when you know you are being tricked, you are swept up in heart-pounding fantasy and transported to wholly different worlds. Extraordinary, really.
As predicted in my post before leaving for vacation, this week’s headlines have been replete with topics worthy of our attention. From the Helsinki summit to the escalating trade war to the continuing heartbreak among families separated at our Southern border, many questions invite our consideration: what have we become as a nation? What are our obligations as Americans to seek the truth? How can we reclaim a sense of moral integrity in a time when short-sighted greed and political bullying seem to have become normative?
For me, one news story stands above the others: the altering of the White House transcript of the Helsinki press conference where a question asked of President Putin by Reuters reporter Jeff Mason was completely eliminated from the transcript despite a room full of reporters and millions more watching the press conference on live TV. Mason asks, “President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”
Putin responds, according to the English translation of his remarks that was broadcast during the press conference itself: “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
I saw a tape of the news conference. The question was clear. The translation of the answer was equally clear. Yet, both question and answer do not appear on the White House transcript or on the “official” videotape. As of this writing, more than a week after the press conference, neither the transcript nor the edited video have been corrected.
This Orwellian chain of events became even more sinister in the days following the press conference where, according to Time magazine, in regard to the trade war currently hurting American farmers, the President told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, “it’s all working out.” He warned those in the audience against believing the news. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump said. For some, the quote immediately recalled a line from Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
And then, the President conveniently reversed himself on Russian interference in the 2018 mid-term elections, saying in a tweet, that the Russians are actively trying to help the Democrats! Again—do not believe what you’re seeing and what you’re reading…It’s all working out.
We now have direct evidence that contradicts “facts” from the White House. What might initially seem as a ludicrous attempt to distort the truth becomes muddled in the mire of multiple narratives being promulgated simultaneously from the President and his supporters. Americans become distracted, disoriented and disillusioned. Repeating a narrative—even one that is demonstrably false—over and over again, has the effect of making it seem true.
We become exhausted in trying to select which lies to confront, which wrongs to right, which myths to explode. How many “little lies” get lost in the shuffle? And every day—day by day—the sheer volume of falsehoods becomes ever greater as we are inundated by an altered reality with no relationship to the techniques used in Florida theme parks that make kids and adults squeal in wonder, and which carry infinitely greater consequences.