presidential debate

Era of Post-Truth Politics

A political commentator observed after the first presidential debate that we have entered the "post-truth era" of politics in America, where facts are less important than narratives.

Time Magazine featured a major story called "The Fact Wars," which concludes that presidential candidates are battling over alternate universes, charging each other with lying, while avoiding their own accountability for sticking to the facts. Time says political fact-checking fills much of the nightly news and print news columns. But that doesn't stop the distortions from continuing.

Much of the criticism of President Barack Obama's debate performance centered on his failure to call out misleading statements by his GOP challenger Mitt Romney. On the other hand, Romney was lauded for directly confronting Obama during the debate, often with claims that have already been discredited.

Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of Public Relations Firms, lamented in her blog what she called "the decline of facts."

"Researchers have theorized that people tend to seek out validation of their existing beliefs rather than neutrally research some objective truth," Cripps wrote.

The tsunami of information rushing through the Internet overwhelms the instinct to slow down and scrutinize what is true and what is BS. "Ensconced in our media bubbles," Cripps said, "we are used to having our beliefs validated for us and often aren't subjected to serious critiques of what we think." 

Telling falsehoods didn't just start in this election. Time notes that in 1796 supporters of John Adams spread tales of Thomas Jefferson's alleged atheism and loyalty to France, while Jefferson's aides concocted stories about Adams' monarchist sympathies. In fact, the campaigns descended a lot lower than that.

Cripps observes, "The decline of facts is by no means limited to politics. University presidents report that plagiarism on the part of students is on the rise. So, too, is fraudulent scientific research." She could have added bogus advertising claims, falsified media interviews and the myriad of Ponzi schemes that have fleeced retirees, investors and average citizens of billions of dollars.

Redeeming an Offensive Tweet

It is hard to imagine a more embarrassing or insensitive tweet than the one posted by someone at KitchenAid during this week's presidential debate. And it would be hard to top the quick, firm and smart response by the person who manages the KitchenAid brand.

During comments by President Obama where he mentioned his grandmother, this appeared on the @KitchenAidUSA Twitter feed: "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president'. #nbcpolitics"

As reported by Michael Sebastian of PR Daily, the tweet ignited an online firestorm — and a swift apology from Cynthia Soledad, head of the KitchenAid brand. She tweeted:

"I would like to personally apologize to President @BarackObama, his family and everyone on Twitter for the offensive tweet sent earlier. It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won't be tweeting for us anymore. That said, I take full responsibility for my team. Thank you for hearing me out."

Soledad also tweeted individual media outlets that commented on the "offensive tweet," asking them for an off-line, on-the-record conversation about the incident.

Because the response was immediate and decisive, the damage was controlled. By today, there was a tweet on the KitchenAid Twitter feed about a faulty blender, not a smart-ass tweeter.