Longtime Connors Newsletter subscribers and Utterly Moderate Podcast listeners know how concerned we are about post-truth America — that is, the fact that we now live in a time where objective facts are becoming less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how American conservatives are regularly lied to by Fox News, Newsmax and OAN about a variety of issues, whether it is supposedly stolen elections or climate change or immigration, among other topics.
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But on this podcast episode we want to turn a critical eye toward those who feed American liberals misleading information.
Many in the leftwing bubble tell “virtuous lies,” a concept created by this episode’s guest, Jacob Mackey. These are empirically-flawed claims — espoused as empirically-sound and authoritative by those who propagate them — that further a social justice agenda made by some academics, activists and partisan media outlets on the left. People make these claims without realizing or acknowledging the weak, unsettled, or even sometimes nonexistent empirical support behind their assertions.
Liberal audiences believe these claims because they fit their worldview, make them feel good, and come from credentialed people who they trust.
Additionally, for a liberal to oppose a virtuous lie would be to align oneself with “bad” people on the other side (supposed bigots, know-nothings, etc.). Jacob Mackey argues that to correct a virtuous lie is to oppose the noble goals of one’s tribe and/or to signal that one does not take the problem seriously.
The left tells a number of virtuous lies, particularly about issues related to race and gender, including claims regarding the gender pay gap, gender identity, racial inequality, microaggressions and implicit bias, to name a few (here is a great discussion of the very unsettled research regarding microaggressions).
This of course doesn’t mean that these are not real issues, or that everything the left says about them is false. But many claims made by academics and partisan media outlets on the left about social justice issues present biased analyses of topics as if they are the settled, authoritative consensus.
The misleading information being fed to liberals and conservatives within their ideological bubbles is contributing to feelings and beliefs becoming more important than facts for many Americans on empirical matters, people becoming increasingly comfortable bending reality to their beliefs (instead of adjusting their beliefs to match the preponderance of the evidence), and millions of people losing faith in notions of facts and expertise.
As post-truth scholar and friend of the podcast Lee McIntyre argues, “[W]hat seems new in the post-truth era is a challenge not just to the idea of knowing reality but to the existence of reality itself.”
We need to work together as a country fix this! We hope you enjoy our conversation exploring this issue in this episode.
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- “Please Listen Carefully” by Jahzzar (Free Music Archive)
- “Star Blessed Night” by Ketsa (Free Music Archive)
- “Draw the Sky” by Paul Keane (licensed through TakeTones)
- "Reading by Lamplight" by Maarten Schellekens (Free Music Archive)
- "Last Dance" by Jahzzar (Free Music Archive)
- Mitt Romney speech and Bruce Springsteen commercial publicly available on YouTube.