Donald Trump was wrong to believe that if he repeated a lie many times it would become a reality. It did not.
Trump lost the presidential election. By a lot. Official results give him 232 electoral votes, and 306 to Joe Biden. And while it does not determine the winner, Biden also received 7 million more votes than Trump nationally. The current president is not only a loser, he’s a sore loser.
Trump’s Twitter account ironically includes the word “real” — @realdonaldtrump — but it’s loaded with fiction. For example, Trump wrote “I WON THE ELECTION” to his 88 million followers on Nov. 16, when most of the news media had already projected Biden as the winner and president-elect. Twitter tagged the post with a note saying “Many sources have given other results,” but that did not keep 96,000 people from retweeting the post and another 678,000 from clicking “like” on it.
Trump’s other big lie, aside from claiming he won, was that a huge electoral fraud stole his victory. “Tremendous evidence pouring in of voter fraud,” he Tweeted on Dec. 15. That’s also false. Several lawsuits were rejected by judges around the country, and the Supreme Court refused to hear a Texas complaint seeking to overturn the final results of the presidential elections.
Trump has lost many times. First the Nov. 3 elections, and then the court battles. His humiliation grows with each legal defeat. And every time he loses there’s a new Twitter temper tantrum. All of this could have been avoided if Trump was not such a liar and had acknowledged the results of the elections. But I guess that after lying more than 23,000 times during his presidency, according to the Washington Post, he could not resist the biggest of all lies.
Under the Trump presidency, we are living through the end of truth.
The problem is not just that Trump lies, but that so many people in the United States believe him. A Fox News survey indicated that 77 percent of Trump voters believe he won. That means more than 56 million people believe the victory was stolen from Trump.
And that is false. Trump lost. Period.
But it’s like those voters, those who believe Trump’s lies, live in a parallel universe or another country. “If you watch Fox News, you perceive a different reality than if you read the New York Times,” former President Barack Obama said in an interview with NPR. “And I think that until we can start having a common baseline of facts from which to discuss the direction of the country we’re going to continue to have some of these issues.”
Part of the blame, or the explanation, for this conflict between different information universes rests with social media and the Internet. People often read, follow, retweet and “like” information that agrees with their point of view. What’s more, social network algorithms that flood you with facts and images similar to the ones you already saw create an information bubble or “echo chambers” in Obama’s words.
That’s how we increasingly hear only what we like, and it becomes difficult to escape to other data universes. And truth, your truth, depends on the sources and people you listen to.
There are also governments and organizations that systematically disseminate disinformation through trolls or cyber-soldiers to push certain narratives. Their goal is to confuse, hide the truth and digitally push a point of view.
This creates very practical problems.For example, how do you govern in a country where millions of people don’t believe that Joe Biden is the legitimate president. That will be one of the key challenges of his presidency. Late, and grudgingly, several Republicans — including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell — have been publicly recognizing Biden’s victory. And he will have to knock down, one by one, Trump’s big lies.
“You have a right to your own opinions, but not to your own facts,” is a phrase frequently attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Trump can Tweet whatever he wants, but he does not own the truth and cannot create his own facts. His big lies, like saying that he won the election and that there was massive fraud, have done enormous damage to U.S. democracy. Only with facts and science can trust be
The time has come to repair the damage. One of the best definitions of objectivity I read came from Michael Bugeja, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa: “Objectivity is seeing the world as it is, not as you wish it were.”
The reality is that Biden won, even though lying Trump wishes otherwise. In 2021, without Trump in the presidency, we will start to recover the power of words. There are no alternative facts.