iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Gerard Bush

GET UPDATES FROM Gerard Bush
 

The Death of "Truthiness" in the Age of Social Media

Posted: 08/31/2012 11:18 am

The fact that we live in what is seemingly the most transparent era in the history of the United States, thanks to social media platforms, and many folks' incessant need to now over-share the most minute of details of daily life, makes this election cycle mired in half-truths and brazen dishonesty all the more shocking. Paul Ryan made his stunning debut onto the national stage at the GOP convention on Wednesday night. In his off-the-rack suit and relatable 'aw, shucks' young, Jimmy Stewart swagger, you did not know if you were about to witness a monologue that you might expect from Mister Rogers. But in very short order, Ryan got right down to brass tactics and in many instances dishonest "tactics" about his positions, the blame for the current state of the economy, and a general commitment to, as Stephen Colbert coined the phrase: "truthiness."

Lets start with the poignant, yet blatant lie about President Obama's promise to keep a GM plant in Jonesville (a town in Wisconsin, Ryan's home state) open only to see its doors shutter in December 2008. I don't know if you caught that, but not only didn't Obama make such a promise, the indisputable fact is Obama wasn't even president on December of 2008 when the plant finally closed its doors and consequently raised the already suffering unemployment rate of this economically depressed town. For good measure Ryan even added that he had a friend with whom he grew up that happened to be one of the GM factory workers to lose his job because of Obama's "failed policies" and "broken promise." Twitter was set a blaze with a "wait a minute, huh, did he really just say that' reply -- but Ryan was only just getting started. We must all remember that Romney's head campaign pollster Neil Newhouse is now infamously quoted as saying, "Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

Healthcare, Romney's "Sword of Damocles," has been hanging over his campaign from its inception. Ryan quickly made political hay of this Romney deficit with this zinger: there is "no place for Obamacare in a free country." Subsequently a litany of tweets from among the most respected journalists in the country swiftly responded via Twitter including @ezraklien who said, "My understanding is that the Romney campaign's position is that Obamacare does have a place in a free country. That place is Massachusetts."

Wednesday night it became clear that the GOP has yet to receive the social media memo that you can't speak with a fork tongue any longer and get away with it. The social voters are all watching and engaging in conversation with one another on these platforms. When the truth is discovered only moments after a lie is propagated, it is immediately exposed and becomes about as inconspicuous as a Republican elephant behind the proverbial telephone pole.

The Obama administration, or at the very least some of its monied supporters, are not completely innocent in this arena either. A false ad from an Obama supporting Super-Pac (Priorities USA Action) implicitly blaming Romney's Bain tenure for the death of one of the investment firm's employee's wife from cancer, as a result of not having healthcare, was simply not true. She died five years after Bain closed the plant in question. Although, for a time, the ad was effective in that it painted a shocking, albeit partial, and as a result dismal picture, framing an icy, take no prisoners Mitt Romney. The fact checkers proved that little nugget untrue, not even coming close to passing the red face test and quickly disseminated over the Twitterverse. You see, this is all part of the problem -- the sugar high that political campaigns have become so addicted to is just that, a short term high. The advent of social media effectively bypasses campaign commercials and the so called "lame stream" media. It instead speaks directly to the voters and as such, will forever change the election process in this country. It will certainly be interesting come November, to learn if 'truthiness,' or the truth, will win the day and ultimately our country's future.

Correction:: A previous version of this post incorrectly implied the Obama administration, not the Super-Pac (Priorities USA Action), was responsible for an anti-Romney ad.

 

Follow Gerard Bush on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GerardBush

FOLLOW POLITICS