How the Coining of Truthiness Predicted a Revolution Nobody Needed
Stephen Colbert predicted Donald Trump on October 17, 2005. He just didn’t know it yet.
When the Colbert Report made its satirical debut, Stephen Colbert presented the world with a word he created:
- “Now I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the Wordanistas over at Webster’s are gonna say, “Hey, that’s not a word!”
- Well, anybody who knows me knows I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books — they’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I want to say it happened in 1941, that’s my right.
- I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart. And that’s exactly what’s pulling our country apart today. ’Cause face it, folks: we are a divided nation. Not between Democrats and Republicans, or Conservatives and liberals, or tops and bottoms. No. We are divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart.
- Consider Harriet Miers. If you think about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination’s absurd. But the president didn’t say he thought about his selection. He said “I know her heart”. Notice how he said nothing about her brain? He didn’t have to. He feels the truth about Harriet Miers.”
- And what about Iraq? If you think about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn’t taking Saddam out feel like the right thing? Right here? Right here in the gut? Cause that’s where the truth comes from ladies and gentlemen. The gut.
- Do you know you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now somebody’s gonna say, “I did look that up and it’s wrong.” Well mister, that’s cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.
- Now I know some of you may not trust your gut… yet. But with my help you will.
- The Truthiness is: anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you.”
- You can’t prove truthiness with facts. You can only prove truthiness with more truthiness, in a process called: Truthinessiness”
This was October 17, 2005. Colbert described his character as a “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot”.
The American Dialect Society named truthiness Word of the Year in 2005.
Merriam-Webster named it Word of the Year in 2006.
It is defined, formally, as “the belief or assertion that a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.”
A little over 10 years later, Donald Trump is elected president.
Politifact awards Trump the Lie of the Year almost every year.
He won in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
On the Wikipedia page, Veracity of statements by Donald Trump, there are 215 references documenting various lists with lies and falsehoods he has spoken since taking office.
Pretty much anybody who has worked with Donald Trump has stated he lies or exaggerates. The architect who designed the Trump Tower, Der Scutt, said “He’s extremely aggressive when he sells, maybe to the point of overselling. Like, he’ll say the convention center is the biggest in the world, when it really isn’t. He’ll exaggerate for the purpose of making a sale.”
Philip Johnson, another architect, said in 1984 that Trump often lied.
It isn’t necessarily that other politicians don’t lie, as stated by Professor Robert Prentice:
“Here’s the problem: As fact checker Glenn Kessler noted in August, whereas Clinton lies as much as the average politician, President Donald Trump’s lying is “off the charts”. No prominent politician in memory bests Trump for spouting spectacular, egregious, easily disproved lies. The birther claim. The vote fraud claim. The attendance at the inauguration claim. And on and on and on. Every fact checker — Kessler, FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, PolitiFact — finds a level of mendacity unequaled by any politician ever scrutinized. For instance, 70 percent of his campaign statements checked by PolitiFact were mostly false, totally false, or “pants on fire” false”
An average of around 15 lies per day, or 18,000 lies in just 1,170 days of office by one study.
It’s not that you need one example of Trump lying to use. Trump is the example.
He’s the very definition of what Colbert joked truthiness was about. Except, this isn’t a satirical comedy show. This is real.
In the middle of a global pandemic; with a well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot. As our president.