59 In inaugural speeches in American history, presidents have mentioned “truth” only in a handful, and invariably as a passing flower: a “simple truth,” a “deep truth”, or a pleading reference to “these. truths ”of the Declaration of Independence. Joe Biden broke tradition on January 20 by putting the truth itself and fighting misinformation at the heart of his speech.
“The past few weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson,” he said. “There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and most importantly as leaders – leaders who are committed to honoring our Constitution and protecting our nation – to stand up for the truth and to conquer the lies.
How not to invoke the truth? He was surrounded by lies. Behind him was a crime scene, the Capitol, recently overrun by believers who lie that the election had been stolen. In front of him, along the National Mall, was a memorial to the 400,000 Americans at the time who died of coronavirus, a toll exacerbated by lies spread by officials and their disbelief in scientific facts. Above him, heading south on Marine One, his conspiracy theorist predecessor had just fled the truth he had lost.
Announcing a mandate for truth and “rejecting the culture in which the facts themselves are manipulated and even fabricated” is a bold, bizarre and precarious position for any politician, especially in the hyper-polarized and dominated social media 2021. Is Biden missing a pound sterling truth-seeking record, as president, he’s going to lie. (Most presidents do, if not at the Trump level, and Biden has already, regarding the deployment of the Covid vaccine). It was a series beautifier, plagiarism and fiber ever since his career in Washington began in 1973, just as Watergate’s lies were being discovered, an era in which confidence in government has never fully recovered. Today, “our confidence in the entire United States information system – journalism, healthcare, education, science – is in tatters,” says Sam Woolley, director of propaganda research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement.
Still, Biden has no choice but to fight. “For four years we suffered under an administration that wholeheartedly embraced the most pernicious types of spin-doctoring and lies,” says Woolley, “and it was extremely effective. Seventy percent of Republicans thinks the election was not “free and fair”. About half of Americans say they will delay or refuse to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. It’s much harder for Biden to achieve the rest of his agenda – defeating Covid, improving healthcare, tackling climate change and racial injustice – if he can’t eliminate misinformation and restore confidence in people. institutions necessary to implement it.
“Biden is right to bank much of his popularity on the idea that the truth can matter,” says Larry Tye, co-author of Demagogue, a new biography of Senator Joe McCarthy. If there’s a single historical analog to Donald Trump’s four-year reign of lies, Tye says, it’s McCarthy’s four-and-a-half-year crusade against communism, which began in 1950 when he held up a list. of what he baselessly claimed to be 205. Communist spies at the State Department. And “if there is a single black mark on Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential record,” he spends much of his first term as McCarthy’s “chief facilitator”, which not only allowed McCarthy to submit. elected officials and appointed to mock surveys, but also for Communist paranoia continues to spread throughout America. Biden should be less like Ike, Tye says, and more like Margaret chase smith. Then the only woman in the Senate, in 1950, Smith challenged his fellow Republicans by delivering a speech outright denouncing McCarthyism to McCarthy in the Senate. Her “Declaration of conscience” sparked the final downfall of McCarthyism and remains hailed as Smith’s crowning achievement.