The Facts Must Matter: On “The Trouble with Reality”

It was nonsense, but somehow garnered praise from Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery, who said: “single greatest thread I have ever read on Twitter. It is important to get out of cozy, convenient worlds. Filtered reality is troubling for a democracy, particularly when coupled with arrogance and an unwillingness to listen. And in its way a Federalist Paper for 2016.”
There are counterforces. And maybe this is a place to begin the reckoning. Now, Gladstone argues, because so many of the official statements from the administration are false or contradictory, they’ve lost much of their meaning, which means reporters will want them less, which means losing access is not something they need to fear. This helps to explain the rampant and racist birtherism that plagued President Barack Obama’s two terms. The reporters must have those quotes, no matter how bland and predictable, to finish their stories; so to keep the quotes coming, they may leave out some juicy facts. He currently lives in Boston, where he is the editor-in-chief of Redivider. Gladstone’s ending advice — outside of protesting and organizing and calling representatives — is nearly the same as where she began, and nearly the same as most mainstream pundits. “This is about the American experiment and whether it fails,” Gladstone said. In the book, Gladstone explains,
Traditionally, reporters cultivate powerful White House sources whom they can call when they need a quote. Still, her case that our realities need to be closer together is unassailable, and making the invisible visible is a good place to start. One example: In a 2006 study, Emory University professor Drew Westen found that people had no problem accepting that the candidate they opposed was hypocritical but had significant problems accepting that the candidate they supported was also hypocritical. In the book, Gladstone writes,
Part of the problem stems from the fact that facts, even a lot of facts, do not constitute reality. For the public, this is a terrible deal. In many ways, the Trump administration has helped to relieve the press of what Gladstone sees as their most pernicious and harmful bias: access bias. That is good, for now. There is only one. Or, more accurately: Realities. My facts reflect the world as it is. ¤
Bradley Babendir is a fiction writer and critic. Donald Trump’s facts, as a rule, do not. In the meantime and in the future, we will have to confront other problems more intrinsic to human nature. When they found one, their brain reacted in the same way addicts’ brains do when they get their fix. I am sincere. But in a two-party system such as ours, this seems to have more of a theoretical value than a practical one. Reality is what forms after we filter, arrange, and prioritize those facts and marinate them in our values and traditions. The distances between the realities of people living in the United States of America have been widening for a long time, perhaps since Fox News launched in 1996, or since President Bill Clinton signed welfare reforms into law, or since candidate Ronald Reagan’s southern strategy, or since CNN’s launch in 1980, or since candidate Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, or perhaps always. But if those sources are upset by something the reporters write, they won’t pick up the phone. So, as Gladstone says, “we have to live somewhere. Gladstone’s confidence that the facts will eventually assert themselves is galvanizing, but the book can’t tell us when, or how, or why. Reality is personal. But there are never two rational people. It also explains, now, the way that many liberals have latched on to conspiracy theories stemming from the Trump team’s documented — though still hazy — involvement with Russia. JUNE 3, 2017
ON THE MORNING of November 9, 2016, the day after Donald Trump’s victory, hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield and executive producer Katya Rogers talked about the future of their radio program, On the Media. The question then becomes: How do we do the opposite of what we are hardwired to do? If you think I am cracking wise to make a point, you are mistaken. My facts are correct. Remaining open to new information requires not investing too much in one candidate. This has already been demonstrated in a handful of isolated incidents, like the shunning of Kellyanne Conway by CNN’s State of the Union and other similar programs because of her consistent unreliability. So we construct cozier, more comprehensible versions [of the world], move in and hunker down.”
This is compounded because, according to research, voters who supported the losing candidate are vulnerable to believing in conspiracy theories. This is demonstrated day in and out on Twitter, where many liberal figures have embraced Eric Garland, a “strategic intelligence analyst,” according to his Twitter bio, who gained prominence with an unreadable 120-tweet thread using “game theory” to prove conspiracy theories about Russia. And it is me. I only know they voted for Trump, which is inconceivable to me. Her new book, The Trouble with Reality, can be seen as a means of preventing that failure from happening, through a look backward at how Trump’s rise was partly due to the press coverage that helped him even as it criticized him. Still, it is only nearly the same, as Gladstone makes room for what others don’t: somebody has to be right. Brain scans showed that participants reacted as though they were facing a threat and looked for a way out. There is no reason to think that this will continue into another administration, presuming we do not end up with one that lies as boldly as this. They’ll still only know what they know. She writes,
If [there were] two rational people, after pooling and verifying each other’s evidence, [they] would come to the same conclusions, right? They would revise their views to fit the facts. As philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” Even if citizens are willing to admit large gaps in their knowledge, it doesn’t get them far. His victory required Vladimir Putin,” Gladstone writes. “It aligns with the liberal code: It is impossible that one such as Trump could arise spontaneously in our exemplary democracy. Gladstone stays away from the debates that have filled column inches since November, like what role sexism, racism, and economic anxiety played, and instead digs for something more fundamental and inextricable from our society: the nature of our reality. Gladstone suggests having the “patience to defer judgment” in myriad contexts. Which is to say, I can not conceive of it. I do not know the facts of his supporters, not really.