What’s one to make of the recently published document alleging that the Russian secret service has compromising material about Donald Trump?
Trump has called it “fake news.” Vladimir Putin has called it “rubbish.” Since both men are pathological liars, their denials do nothing to undermine the possible veracity of the charges. Quite the contrary, if you believe that both men always lie—and there are sound reasons for holding this view—then it logically follows that their denials confirm the truth of the allegations.
Of course, we don’t know that both Trump and Putin always lie, and that uncertainty translates into uncertainty about the allegations. Still, the fact that they mostly lie, that they have contributed mightily to the production of fake news and the creation of a “post-factual” world, does invest the allegations with more plausibility than they might perhaps deserve.
In any case, the irony is that the question of veracity is meaningless in the post-factual world both Trump and Putin have championed. Fake news is news, and lies are facts in that world. Russia’s troops never invaded Ukraine and Barack Obama is an Islamic radical. If so, then why shouldn’t Trump have consorted with Russian prostitutes? Indeed, why shouldn’t Trump be on Putin’s payroll?
Unfortunately, when facts and fiction become interchangeable, rational discourse ceases, democracy ends, authoritarianism flourishes, and force rules.
The problem isn’t the report or its allegations. The problem is Trump and Putin. They broke down the barrier between truth and falsehood and effectively transformed everything—from rigorous scientific proofs to the wildest of conspiracy theories—to “narratives.”
The bottom line is this. Trump and Putin, and everything they stand for, must be repudiated—and made impossible—for the world of facts, reason, and logic once again to be possible.