The four years of the Trump administration have been painful — indeed, traumatic — for a great many people, for a great many reasons. One source of distress has been the administration’s unprecedented assault not only on the truth itself, but also on the idea that truth matters more than political expediency. This has created an unusual challenge for journalists, who have always had to deal with politicians whose relationship with factuality is, shall we say, complicated, but who have never encountered an administration that misrepresents facts and actively advances falsehoods so constantly, so brazenly, and so reflexively.
Despite its early discussion about the galling behaviour of Agent Orange, his surrogates and the emergent trend of reputable journalists calling out their blatant falsehoods, this very good Scholarly Kitchen piece sets out the responsibility of preprint servers to do the same with wacky claims and dangerous lies.
Be all that as it may, for the purposes of this post let’s take it as given that there is such a thing as objective truth, and that it matters what the truth is. Furthermore, let’s stipulate that factual claims can generally be confirmed or debunked by appeal to empirical evidence, and that it therefore matters whether evidence supports the claim that America’s voting machines were infected with algorithms created at the behest of the late Hugo Chavez, or the assertion that Republican observers were barred from vote-tallying facilities, or the claim that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager ran a child sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor. If we can all agree, for the sake of argument, that there is such a thing as objective truth, that it matters, and that it can generally be established by appeals to evidence, then we can proceed with the questions I’d like to address in this post.