In a world where the president of the United States frequently lies to the American public, and where "alternative facts" are often treated as seriously as the truth, how are Americans supposed to protect and defend their democracy? The answer isn't simple, but a piece of it lies in Michiko Kakutani's debut, The Death of Truth. If you haven't picked up this essential book yet, these quotes from The Death of Truth will inspire you to read it as soon as possible.
For over three decades, Michiko Kakutani was one of the most influential book critics in the United States. As the former chief book critic for the New York Times, she had a reputation for making, and sometimes breaking, the literary careers of iconic writers including Zadie Smith, Jonathan Franzen, and George Sanders. But, following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the esteemed critic decided to take a break from writing about other's books in order to write one of her own.
The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump is Kakutani's debut, and to say it's a doozy would be an understatement. A biting critique of the current administration that features dozens of literary quotes and historical facts, it examines Trump's "assault on language" and its degrading effects on America's democracy.
The Death of Truth is certainly worth reading in its entirety, but in case you need little more convincing, here are nine quotes from this important book that will inspire you to pick up your own copy.
"Without commonly agreed-upon facts — not Republican facts and Democratic facts; not the alternative facts of today's silo-world — there can be no rational debate over policies, no substantive means of evaluating candidates for political office, and no way to hold elected officials accountable to the people. Without truth, democracy is hobbled. The founders recognized this, and those seeking democracy's survival must recognize it today."
"How did truth and reason become such endangered species, and what does their impending demise portend for our public discourse and the future of our politics and governance?"
“Trump’s ridiculousness, his narcissistic ability to make everything about himself, the outrageousness of his lies, and the profundity of his ignorance can easily distract attention from the more lasting implications of his story: how easily Republicans in Congress enabled him, undermining the whole concept of checks and balances set in place by the founders; how a third of the country passively accepted his assaults on the Constitution; how easily Russian disinformation took root in a culture where the teaching of history and civics had seriously atrophied.”
“Trump, of course, is a troll — both by temperament and by habit. His tweets and offhand taunts are the very essence of trolling — the lies, the scorn, the invective, the trash talk, and the rabid non-sequiturs of an angry, aggrieved, isolated, and deeply self-absorbed adolescent who lives in a self-constructed bubble and gets the attention he craves from bashing his enemies and trailing clouds of outrage and dismay in his path.”
“Trump’s mendacity is so extreme that news organizations have resorted to assembling lengthy lists of lies he’s told, insults he’s delivered, norms he’s violated, in addition to hiring squads of fact-checkers. And his shamelessness has emboldened politicians around him to lie with even more effrontery than ever. Republicans in Congress, for instance, blatantly lied about the effects their tax bill would have on the deficit and social safety net provisions, just as they lied about how much it would help the middle class, when in fact it was all about giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich.”
“As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 book, 'The Origins of Totalitarianism', 'The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.'"
“The most appalling racist, sexist, and perversely cruel remarks are served up on social media, often with a wink or a sneer, and when called out, practitioners frequently respond that they were simply joking—much the way that White House aides say Trump is simply joking or misunderstood when he makes offensive remarks. At a November 2016 alt-right conference, the white supremacist Richard Spencer ended his speech, shouting, 'Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!' When asked about the Nazi salutes that greeted his exclamation, Spencer replied that they were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.”
“At the same time, Trump continued his personal assault on the English language. Trump’s incoherence (his twisted syntax, his reversals, his insincerity, his bad faith, and his inflammatory bombast) is both emblematic of the chaos he creates and thrives on as well as an essential instrument in his liar’s tool kit. His interviews, off-teleprompter speeches, and tweets are a startling jumble of insults, exclamations, boasts, digressions, non sequiturs, qualifications, exhortations, and innuendos—a bully’s efforts to intimidate, gaslight, polarize, and scapegoat. Precise words, like facts, mean little to Trump, as interpreters, who struggle to translate his grammatical anarchy, can attest.”
“The postmodernist argument that all truths are partial (and a function of one’s perspective) led to the related argument that there are many legitimate ways to understand or represent an event."