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The Truth Isn’t the Truth! Or Is It?

Science, philosophy, politics, and religion are frequent topics for writer and public speaker Catherine Giordano.

In what some are calling a post-truth society, it is important to remember that the truth is the truth.

In what some are calling a post-truth society, it is important to remember that the truth is the truth.

Who Said, “Truth Isn’t Truth”?

Rudy Giuliani, who was once hailed as “America’s Mayor,” has been reduced to being a shill for Donald Trump. As he tries to defend the indefensible, he frequently ties himself into elocutionary knots.

Sunday, August 19, 2018, was one of those times. The host of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd, was pressing him to explain the many contradictions in the various stories put out by Trump and his defenders about “the Russia thing,” as Trump has called it. Giuliani became extremely agitated and blurted out, “Truth Isn’t truth.”

Giuliani is not the only one in Trump’s orbit who has denied that truth is truth. KellyAnne Conway, a White House adviser to President Trump, when confronted with a fact that didn’t match her narrative, said that there were “alternative facts.”

What Is Truthiness?

Stephen Colbert is famous for his satiric impersonation of a conservative TV host on the Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report. On the very first show on October 17, 2005, he did a bit about “truthiness.” He defined truthiness as “a belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support.” It is “truth that “comes from the gut” and not from facts.

Truthiness became Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year in 2006. It was defined as “truth coming from the gut, not books; preferring to believe what you wish to believe, rather than what is known to be true.”

In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary chose post-truth as the Word of the Year. They defined it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Colbert said post-truth was a rip-off of truthiness.

Comedian Bill Maher satirizes this trend of using the gut rather than facts as a way to ascertain truth. On his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, he does a bit called “I Don’t Know It for a Fact…I Just Know It’s True.” On one show, when he introduced the bit he explained that he started doing this bit before Donald Trump, but it is particularly relevant now. He said, “There are things I can’t prove, but I just know they are true; and now that, of course, is how we actually operate the government.”

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert defines truthiness on his show.

Stephen Colbert defines truthiness on his show.

What Is Donald Trump’s Relationship to the Truth?

The issue of truthiness is very relevant now that Donald Trump is President. He lies constantly and his lies are often whoppers. He says things that are obviously untrue and easily proven to be untrue. He tells new lies to cover up for his previous lies. He even contradicts himself—saying one thing, then saying the opposite, and then going back to what he previously said.

The Washington Post has taken to counting the number of lies Trump has told publicly since he became president. The total as of August 1, 2018 (day 528 of his presidency) is 4,229. Do the math—it is an average of 7.6 lies a day.

Trump’s lying is getting worse.

  • In the first 100 days of his presidency, the average number of lies was 4.9 per day.
  • In June and July of 2018, the number of lies per day was 16. He set a record on July 5, 2018, when he told 79 lies in a single day.
  • In the first year of his presidency, he told 2,140 lies, but it only took him six months to double that number.

There is a stunning Washington Post graph and database that illustrates the facts about Trump’s false and misleading claims, i.e. lies. Please take a moment to look at it.

Giuliani tried to clarify his statement that “truth isn’t truth” by saying that “there are different versions of the truth.” No, there are not different versions of the truth; there are not alternative facts. There is the truth that is backed up with evidence and proof and there are false statements (lies or mistaken beliefs). It has become a cliché, but I’ll repeat the phrase attributed to the late Senator Patrick Moynihan: “You can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.”

There is ignorance when you don’t know the facts. There is misinformation when you think something is a fact when it is not. There are falsehoods when you willfully refuse to learn the facts, or deny the facts, or worse yet, tell lies and call them facts. When the evidence shows that you are wrong, you must stop listening to your gut and start accepting reality.

Here Is What They Said

Has America Become Fantasyland?

How did we become a post-truth society? How did we reach the point where people can say the truth isn’t the truth? How did the lines between reality and illusion become so blurred?

Kurt Andersen presents the answer to these questions in his book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History. He takes the reader from colonial times to the present day to demonstrate how the United States has always been a post-truth society, and how this malady is more virulent now than ever before. (Although Andersen focuses mainly on the United States, his analysis applies to other industrialized nations, too.)

  • It began with the Protestant Revolution. Once there was only one truth—The Church told people what to believe. But with the Protestant Revolution, everyone could become his own theologian. Many competing religions sprang up, closely followed by religious persecution. The colonists came to the New World to escape this persecution and their desire to find their own personal truth came with them.
  • The Enlightenment brought many new philosophies, new scientific findings, and an emphasis on rational thinking to the new world. This was a good thing. However, it also meant that what people had always thought was true, wasn’t necessarily true. The world was changing very fast, too fast for some people. People who wanted to hold on to the “eternal truths” of religion, began to ignore or deny reality.
  • America also attracted the disaffected, the dreamers, and the individualists. A person could become whatever he wanted to be. A person could make his own reality.


Are You Living in Fantasyland?

Kurt Andersen maintains that fantasy-based thinking has always thrived in the United States, but it surged in the 1950’s, and after the rise of the internet, reality-based thinking is close to being smothered to death by the omnipresent irrational ideas.

  • Do you believe in the literal existence of witches, ghosts, angels, demons, Satan, mermaids, Big Foot, zombies, dragons, or the Loch Ness Monster? If you believe in one or more of these (or many others like these), you may be living in Fantasyland.
  • Do you believe in any of the many conspiracy theories that are currently popular, such as, the moon landing was faked, aliens from outer space landed in Roswell, New Mexico and the government is hiding it, the 2012 massacre of the Sandy Hook Elementary School children did not happen, Barack Obama was born in Kenya, or Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizzeria in Washington D.C.? If you believe in any of these (and the many other conspiracy theories), you may be living in Fantasyland.
  • Do you deny the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that shows that the Earth is billions of years old, evolution is true, human-made climate change is happening, and vaccines do not cause autism? If you deny the truth of one or more of these (or of any scientific facts you find inconvenient), you may be living in Fantasyland.
  • Do you believe in any supernatural phenomena such as the existence of an afterlife, ESP, psychics who can predict the future or talk to the dead, astrology, telekinesis, or mental telepathy? If you believe in one or more of these (and the many others), you may be living in Fantasyland.
We all need to be careful to separate what is true from what we want to be true.

We all need to be careful to separate what is true from what we want to be true.

How Can We Support Truth?

I get it. Living in Fantasyland is fun and comforting. Sometimes I go to Fantasyland myself.

  • Sometimes there is a little corner of my mind that believes in astrology. I do this because astrology says I am an Aquarius, and I like the characteristics ascribed to Aquarians. However, I don’t consult horoscopes for guidance in my life. I know astrology is not true and I am just playing make-believe.
  • Sometimes there is a little corner of my mind that likes to think aliens from outer space arrived on Earth thousands of years ago and interacted with humans. I like science fiction, so every now and then I like to think about this. I know this is not true, but it is fun to think about it.

So I am saying, play video games if it is fun for you, engage in cosplay or Civil War reenactments if you enjoy full immersion in fantasy as a form of recreation, and go to church if you like that sort of thing. Take a little vacation in Fantasyland, but always remember where the boundaries are between truth and fantasy.

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to find the truth. Sometimes rational-thinking is hard. Here are a few tips if you want to be part of the reality-based community.

  • Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. (Or see on Fox News.)
  • Trust the mainstream media. They fact check everything. Sure, they sometimes get something wrong, but when they do, they correct it promptly.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of confirmation bias where you believe something just because it fits in with your other beliefs.
  • Check for bias in yourself and in the information that you receive. Don’t believe something is true just because you want it to be true.
  • Do the research to find the objective evidence for the information you receive.
  • Don’t become part of a cult led by a charismatic leader. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Finally, remember that truth is truth. And the truth is out there.

What Do You Think?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 Catherine Giordano

I welcome your comments and questions.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 09, 2018:

Larry Rankin: A mistake may be false, but it isn't a lie. There is ignorance when you don’t know the facts. There is misinformation when you think something is a fact when it is not. There are falsehoods when you willfully refuse to learn the facts, or deny the facts, or worse yet, tell lies and call them facts. Thanks for your comment.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 08, 2018:

Interesting read.

People speak the truth when they speak the truth. Most folks do at least sometimes.

Everyone one is erred on occasion.

Some folks are just never right. Those that aren't ever right usually are doing it on purpose for personal gain.

Like a test. It's one thing to do poorly. It's another to miss every question.

Hope you're doing well. I think you're wonderful.

Ann Carr from SW England on September 07, 2018:

Yes. I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of American politics but I do think that Trump is dangerous because he doesn't listen and he thinks he's above criticism and above the law - an extremely dangerous attitude, mostly for others.


Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 07, 2018:

Ann Carr: Thank you for your comments. It is only one third of Americans supporting Trump. They call them the Republican base.

Right now the Republicans control Congress and they turn a blind eye to everything for fear of alienating the Republican base that they need for their own reelection.

If the Democrats can become the majority in the Congress in our 2018 mid-term elections this November, they can probably put the brakes on and maybe even impeach him.

Mike Pence is Vice President and will take over if Trump is removed or if he resigns. Mike Pence will do many of the same things that Trump is doing, but at least he is not crazy.

Trump also makes me sick. I turn off the TV if he is on. I'm very scared and the whole world should be scared. Remember, Hitler began as an elected leader. It could happen again, this time in America, if we are not careful.

It is being called "a cult or personality." His followers love him no matter what he does. Even the ones who are losing their jobs because of his tariffs still support him.

His supporters refuse to see the truth. They make up their own "truth."

Ann Carr from SW England on September 06, 2018:

We do of course have a gut feeling if we are perceptive and sensitive but even that has to be supported by fact, as you say.

I think the current (as in at least 10 years!) trend towards not providing facts to people about national issues, is that the politicians are either incompetent or they are focussed on their own interests, probably far more of the latter. We have similar problems here but, thankfully, nothing like Mr Trump. There is certainly a lack of facts and preparation in many strands of our government.

What I don't understand is that so many of the American people still seem to support him. How does he hood-wink them all? I find just looking at him makes me feel ill and uncomfortable. In my opinion he is arrogant and not very intelligent.

The truth is the truth is the truth... How often do we have to say it? I think he would rewrite history (if he could write) and make himself world ruler, if they would let him. Impossible? I'm not so sure anymore. Scary!

Well written, Catherine, as your hubs always are. Your arguments are clear and concise, creating a 'fresh' read.


Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 04, 2018:

Kathleen Cochran: I wish we didn't still have to be discussing it for the last 2 or 3 years (primaries, general election campaign, and presidency). The reason we are still discussing it is that the lies and the dismissal of truth as a standard for conclusions and decisions is still with us, and in fact, gets more prevalent with each passing week.

I thank you for your comment and your decision to live in the reality-based world.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 04, 2018:

Doris James MizBejabbers: When you compare ancient ideas about the solar system to current ones, the facts didn't change, just the interpretation of them. But you are right in that what was once generally believed to be "fact" was actually not true. However, now we have a scientific method which results in fewer false interpretations.

As the those secret government experiments, they are not so secret. The government is comprised of people and these people are just as susceptible to confirmation bias and all the other foibles of the human mind that result in non-rational thought.

I'm sure you have seen those optical illusions where one line seems longer than the other, and even when you get a ruler and measure them and this gives you proof positive that they are both the same length, you still see them as different lengths. Our minds are not always rational.

My rule of thumb is that if a magician (or an illusionist (as the more honest performers call themselves) can do it on the stage, illusion is probably the best explanation for what we are observing.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on September 03, 2018:

Great article, Catherine, as usual. But I can't believe we are still discussing this point 18 months later. We've all know what we were dealing with since the primaries. Where is the surprise here?

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 02, 2018:

Catherine, I think we are on the same page. I wasn't trying to say that Darwin and Newton were proven wrong. I just meant that their given "facts" are now being questioned and investigated. Our place in the universe changes as we revolve around the sun and as the solar system moves about the galaxy and the galaxy moves about the universe. What were facts to people who believed they were in a stationary universe are no longer facts because we found that our universe is not stationary and, for instance, what really was fact thousands or even hundreds of years ago is not necessarily true today.

No, I've never heard of the Amazing Randi, but I do know of the secret military psychic experiments in both the U.S. and Russia and how they are used to spy on each other. My husband, ex-military and CIA can't talk about them, but he tells me that there has been some success with these programs. I put more stock in that than in debunkers of wannabees.

I agree that your articles are always good, and it shows that you put that many hours into them. I think our discussion proves one point that you made in this one. We each have our own truths based on the "facts" presented to us.

BTW, I always love Paula's comments and it reminded me of an economist I saw on TV today. She advocates and elaborated on some countries that have much longer terms for politicians (She is not an American). She called off a couple of countries that have 9-year terms for their leaders and said that gives the leaders a chance to do their jobs without having to focus on fund-raising and campaigns every 2 to 4 years. It is a point well taken, but I don't think we could put up with 9 years of good ole boy Trump and some of the others.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 02, 2018:

Paula, Thanks so much for your compliments. I put a lot of hours into every essay I write, sometimes as much as 30-40 hours what with research, writing, editing for the best flow, proofing, and creating the images.

I don't think all politicians are bad because there are some who truly want to serve the people. Since you are from New York, I'll mention Mayor Bill de Blasio. However, all politicians must sometimes make compromises because that is how politics works. I don't like it when they do, but I want them to stay in office because half a loaf is better than none.

I don't want to throw all politicians into the ocean, but I do wish people would vote the bad ones out of office. By bad, I mean those who use their public office for private profit and vote in favor of the 1% and against policies that would help everyday people.

If these bad politicians sometimes make you feel ill, you are not alone. If you haven't already done so, read mt essay, "Trump Anxiety Disorder: Trump Is Literally Making Us Sick."


FlourishAnyway from USA on September 02, 2018:

That’s something I didn’t know!

Suzie from Carson City on September 01, 2018:

Hi Catherine....I know one truth for certain and that is that you write fabulous articles regardless of topic. They're always interesting, informational & meticulously written.

To offer a humble opinion here, I have never found Rudy to be quite as impressive as his reputation claims. Then again, when it comes to politicians in general, I am rarely impressed, and becoming less & less so. In fact, my friend, they all make me literally ILL! My idea of the best news ever, is to know that every New York politician, past or current, has been dropped into the middle of the ocean on the other side of the world, without a raft! ( I single out NY for obvious reasons but admit they're not the only ones who need to go for that ride!)

Anyway, Catherine, it's good to see you again & always a pleasure to read your work. Peace, Paula

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 01, 2018:

Doris James-Mizbejabbers: Thanks for your comment. You made a number of good points that I would like to address.

Have you heard of The Amazing Randi? He is a magician who offered $1 million to anyone who could prove he or she had psychic powers in a controlled scientific test. He's never had to pay, although there are many who have tired. Some thought they could trick Randi, but others sincerely believed that they had these powers and were shocked when they could not pass the test.

I have never heard that Darwinian evolution and Newtonian physics have been disproved and these are subjects I have done quite a lot of research on. What you might be referring to is refinements to the theories as new discoveries are made.The essential theory still stands. I don't think that there is a single scientific finding that survives even a decade unchanged, much less, centuries. That is how science works.

As for Donald Trump and Alzheimer's, that is a pretty safe guess. Omarosa who has known Trump for 15 years and who worked in the White House said he is definitely losing it. I recommend you read something else that I wrote: "How Many Kinds of Crazy is Donald Trump." Alzheimer's may be the least of his mental illnesses. https://soapboxie.com/us-politics/How-Many-Kinds-o...

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 01, 2018:

Very good article, Catherine, well written and researched. I think we all have our own truths depending on the way we were raised and influenced, but even scientific "facts" are sometimes disputed and proved to be wrong or, at the least, a little off-base as more facts or evidence enter the picture. Darwinian evolution and Newton's theory of gravity are two examples that are in question today. Some people are actually psychic and can prove it by "scientific testing". I don't think their truth is living in Fantasyland to them.

Anyway, I learned some new words from you today as I'd never encountered them before. We had a saying back in the Dark Ages when I was a kid: (Name) had rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth. I think this describes our POTUS. Do you think he may have a little touch of Alzheimer's?

Sharlee on September 01, 2018:

Catherine, very good advice.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 01, 2018:

Catherine you are a treasure. I see your point.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 01, 2018:

Sharlee: It does take effort to find the truth. I usually like to do my own fact checking. If I some news posting on facebook, I usually go to see if there are least two objective sources saying the same thing.

As to the media, there are some that interpret facts consistent with their bias. But that is different from lying. If you think a news story is "slanted," find another source for the story and see what it says.

Sharlee on September 01, 2018:

Just my opinion - I think one has to really dig to find the truth. In regards to media, it is clear to me that they no longer consider truth. Much of what is reported is taking the truth and twisting its context. One does not have to dig too far to see that truth. I enjoyed reading your article, well done and interesting.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 01, 2018:

Don Shepherd: Thanks Don. I kind of like that line myself. We all need a little fantasy in our lives, but we should never mistake it for truth.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 01, 2018:

Eric Dieker: Maybe I should paraphrase the opinions/facts statement and say, "You can have your own bias, but you can't have your own facts. I used (cherry-picked?) examples in my article to support my thesis that people don't seem to know what truth is or even care whether or not things are true; they believe that something is true just because they want it to be true. Thanks for your compliments on my writing.

Don on September 01, 2018:

'Take a little vacation in Fantasyland, but always remember where the boundaries are between truth and fantasy."

I love this line!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 01, 2018:

FlourishAnyway: I lived in New York when he ran for mayor and I didn't like him then. There are many who think that he responsible for many of the 9/11 deaths because instead of putting the Command Center in Brooklyn as he was advised to, he put it in the World Trade Center so he could use it as a convenient love-nest for him and his mistress. As much as I disliked Giuliani I never expected him to become the dithering idiot that he is now. He is definitely a deplorable person. Thanks for your comment.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 01, 2018:

Mary Norton: I hope this is like a fever. The temperature has spiked, and will now go back to normal. Thank you for your comment.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 01, 2018:

Marvelously done. Perhaps too one sided i think. But isn't everything these days. I thought that some Socratic Dialogue, Cartesian Logic and some Wittgenstinian Word meanings would have shown more balance and credibility.

As usual your writing was a great read and very interesting. I love those words and reference to comedians. I think Oxford is the best of all dictionaries. Your history reference is cool.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 31, 2018:

Rudolph Gulliani is an utter idiot who has completely undone his legacy of being America's Mayor. Hillary was so right when she called Trump people deplorable.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 31, 2018:

It is sad to see what is happening in the United States now. I hope that the truth will prevail.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 31, 2018:

Cecil Kenmill: You are right--we all live in our bubbles. The internet helps with that. On facebook, for instance, You mostly only get to see information you are likely to agree with. Thanks for your comment.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 31, 2018:

John Hansen: Once you hear the word truthiness, you wonder why it wasn't part of the English language for centuries-it perfectly describes how people think.Thanks for your comment.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 31, 2018:

Much food for thought here, Catherine, and an interesting read. So we have new words to add to our vocabulary...truthiness and post-truth. Maybe I'll have to try to incorporate them into my writing sometime. I enjoyed this article.

Cecil Kenmill from Osaka, Japan on August 31, 2018:

We all live in our little bubbles. In today's world, there is no reason or need for people to learn anything new. Unfortunately, it will get a lot worse before it gets better.

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