After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump by Nathan Bomey, Prometheus Books, US $25.00, Pp 270, May 2018, ISBN 978-1633883772
We are living in the post-truth society in which there is no respect for truth and facts. Everybody from the president of the country down to an ordinary person has built his or her life on lies. We accuse President Trump of founding his politics on lies and skewing the facts but the truth is that most of us tell lies about ourselves. On the social media, we present images of our lives that are not true. We read and spread fake news. In After the Fact, Nathan Bomey says that it’s tempting and perhaps even reassuring to describe President Trump as an outlier. But the truth is there is a little bit of Trump in all of us – a willingness to misrepresent reality to achieve selfish goals, deny irrefutable facts that make us uncomfortable and cling to our own preconceived notions of the world. Bomey argues that Trump did not usher the post-fact era into existence. He was a product of it. He was its inevitable outcome.
To understand how this happened, we must relinquish any pretense that this is a one-sided problem. Bomey argues that it is a bipartisan epidemic. Democrats are also guilty, albeit not to the same degree as Republicans during the 2016 campaign. Most people who use social media are contributing to this crisis. Social media has given us the ability to twist the facts on a sweeping scale, transforming us into our own personal publicists and political spin doctors while provoking deep-seated misunderstanding and interpersonal division. Through tools like Facebook and Instagram, we cultivate false impressions purposely or inadvertently deceiving others about our lives. This increases the likelihood that our family, friends, and acquaintances will fall prey to depression, resentment, vulnerability, and isolation – which collectively blocks of distrust and even later.
Bomey says that during his 2016 election campaign – and during the first year of his presidency – Trump repeatedly skewed the facts, evaded the truth, and stirred up a discussion based on rumors, innuendos, and outright concoctions. He spun falsehoods about the threats posed by refugees, Muslims, criminals, and innumerable other boogeymen. He fibbed about his own achievements, misled voters about his opponents, circulated conspiracy theories, deceived the public about legitimate journalism, and grossly mischaracterized a multitude of political issues. You can argue that the facts have never founded the foundation of political discourse. But, Bomey argues that promoting and capitalizing on misinformation is easier and more rewarding than ever. Trump simply exploited that new reality. And it helped him win the election.
Trump has always understood the power of tinkering with the truth. After all, he famously articulated in his 1987 book, Trump: The art of the Deal, precisely how he manipulates the press and the public. Trump then wrote, “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do.” Trump wrote, “That is why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of the exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.” During the 2016 elections, Trump only practiced what he had written.
After the Fact is a nuanced contribution to an overheated discussion on a key political question of our times. Bomey powerfully argues that we have entered post-truth era where the truth carries no value. Everybody uses falsehoods and lies to achieve his or her goals. He convincingly argues that President Trump is the product and symptom of such a society. After the Fact is not a political book in the traditional sense but a study of modern American society where politicians like Trump can easily succeed. Bomey offers new and innovative perspectives on both the American society and politics. After the Fact is a much-needed addition to the existing literature on American society and politics. Every American should read it.