Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY HERE at SimanaitisSays, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was quoted saying, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Today in Part 2, Kurt Andersen amplifies on this theme in “How America Lost Its Mind,” in the September 2017 issue of The Atlantic. Andersen, by the way, was co-founder of Spy magazine, which from 1986 to 1998 delighted many of us with its satire, including describing a New York real-estate mogul we had never heard of as a “short-fingered vulgarian.”

Truthiness. Andersen cited satirist Stephen Colbert: In portraying a right-wing commentator’s defense of “truthiness,” Colbert ranted, “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist.”

This and other images by R. Kikuo Johnson from The Atlantic, September 2017.

“Face it, folks,” Colbert continued with his satire, “we are a divided nation… divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart… Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

The Subjective vs the Objective. “What’s problematic,” Andersen wrote, “is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts.”

“We have passed through the looking glass,” Andersen wrote, “and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.”

Reality and Fantasy Blurred. “America,” Andersen wrote, “was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P.T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump.”

“In other words,” Andersen said, “Mix epic individualism with extreme religion, mix show business with everything else; let it all ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.”

Near the end of Andersen’s lengthy essay, he wrote, “It will require a struggle to make America reality-based again. Fight the good fight in your private life…. If you have children or grandchildren, teach them to distinguish between true and untrue as fiercely as you do between right and wrong and between wise and foolish.”

“And fight the good life in the public sphere…. Progress is not inevitable, but it’s not impossible, either.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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