How America skidded from 'truthiness' to 'post-truth'

It's been a long strange trip from George W. Bush's "truthiness" to Donald Trump's unapologetic lies

How far we've come from Bush-era 'truthiness.'
(Image credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Eleven years ago, in the first episode of his show on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert did a bit about "truthiness" that came to stand for the George W. Bush era. "We are a divided nation," Colbert said, "between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart." What mattered wasn't the truth in some objective, verifiable sense, but what felt true to you — or, as it happened, to a president who was unusually reliant on communiques from his gut.

Many Democrats would surely be quite happy to return to a time when they worried merely about the effect Bush's truthiness might have on public debate. Because now America is confronting a new dimension of this problem, brought on by the 2016 campaign. We've truly entered an era we can call post-truth, which was recently named Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year for 2016. It isn't just that too many people are finding their own truths. It's that an entire apparatus has sprung up to make truth less meaningful and less influential.

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