'The Truth Illusion' is a sobering look at the most challenging issue the USA faces today: The Truth. What is it, what can we prove to be the truth and what is the impact on society and the entire nation when its citizens have polar opposite views or different versions of reality.
A different version of reality? Like a parallel universe of what is true and false? Is that even a thing? Isn't reality what happens in front of you, and if you all saw it happen, then it's real?
Well, yes, but as it turns out, as seen in American society today, context is key. Your particular context colors reality and when and how these events stand within the bigger framework of history as you understand it.
Proof is another aspect of determining what is real or not. Still, in today's world of alternative facts, conspiracy theories and fake news, all efficiently delivered to us via social media, it might not be as clear-cut as expected.
A civil war is brewing in the United States, a political divide mainly between Republicans and Democrats over race, sexism, media manipulation, and the spread of misinformation. This split has filtered down to the rest of the country, and a wedge driven between average Americans.
The USA has now devolved into a place where shared realities no longer exist, and democracy is threatened by its misconceptions. Traditional, respected authority figures such as politicians, scientists, teachers and journalists are no longer trusted, accused of spewing fake or twisted facts to push forward their agendas.
It is George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" come to life, where the character of Winston is tortured by Big Brother to believe that "2 + 2 = 5", And when he insists that truth is objective, proven by "2 + 2 = 4", the truth has already been manipulated by the State.
Americans, it seems, no longer trust anybody, not big business, not education, not family and friends, not science or media. This is directly tied to losing trust in their leaders, from a high 77% trust rate towards the government in the 1960s, dropping sharply to 25% during the 1980s with Reagan and Bush Sr in office. The Watergate scandal in the 1970s didn't help. By the time Obama and Trump rolled around, an all-time trust rate of 15%.
So what happens when a society now suddenly only trusts people, many on the internet, who share the same points of view that they do?
Democracy is threatened when its population is encouraged to believe lies, leading to increased chaos, violence and disruption.
And to quote Ethan Zuckerman, civic media scholar: "That may well be when democracy dies. If we have a sufficiently divergent fact pattern that we can't agree on a single reality to try to govern collectively."
It is a bleak view of the future of Western democracy, and hopefully this will change for the better.