Water everywhere - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Plenty of ink has been spilled about the information age, which has since turned into the misinformation age, but it now seems the post-truth era is taking hold when it comes to basic history and facts, endangering more than the integrity of the U.S. election.
It’s impossible not to link what’s going on with U.S. President Donald Trump and the trends we’re seeing with younger generations and their lack of media literacy, awareness and, frankly, intelligence. At a time when everyone has a portal to a world of information in their pocket, this is truly shocking.
Late last month, The Guardian reported on a study of adult Americans between the ages of 18 and 39 (known as Millennials and Gen. Z) that found nearly two thirds of them are unaware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Forty-eight per cent of those asked could not name a single concentration camp established during World War II, while 23 per cent said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, while 12 per cent said they had not even heard of the Holocaust and 11 per cent said Jews caused the Holocaust.
This comes at a time when Trump has been regularly criticizing The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which aims to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of [the United States’] national narrative.”
Trump recently denounced the project, calling it a “twisted web of lies” and announced his own educational reform with the 1776 Commission, which he says will teach “the miracle of American history”.
Some have compared what’s going on with Trump to Nazi Germany and have said Trump is working to create his own version of the Hitler Youth, but really it just seems like the continuation of a strategy he used to win the presidency in the first place back in 2016. He has lied constantly (The Washington Post says Trump hit the milestone of 20,000 falsehoods in July of 2020 in just over 1,200 days) and actively challenged facts. He has politicized facts and science, triggering a feeling that for many Americans, a disproved falsehood can be an opinion, rather than a lie. Furthermore, by rejecting information from top doctors and scientists, he’s levelling the playing field, positing that all opinions are created equal.
After all, it was Kellyanne Conway who gave us the now-infamous “alternative facts” answer when discussing the attendance at Trump’s inauguration, seemingly opening the door to a post-truth world where two people could look at a number of people and come up with different answers, with one believing a wrong answer under the guise of an opinion.
Trump and his supporters are demonstrating a clear effort to rewrite history, so it should come as no surprise that more Americans are turning their backs on facts. Trump is telling them facts just aren’t that important anymore.
The study in The Guardian also has a more sinister angle to it. In dealing with the Holocaust, we know that many Trump supporters are now emboldened to be upfront about their racism. What we’re seeing feels like a not-so-subtle attempt to rewrite a dark chapter of world history. Whether it’s Trump denouncing a project aimed to educate Americans about slavery and the contributions of Black Americans or the Holocaust study, many wrongs against minority populations are being scrubbed clean before our very eyes.
The truth will always be the truth and more and more every day it’s becoming clear that we may have to fight to keep it that way.