[T]this White House, unlike any other, has already crossed the threshold into a space where facts appear to mean nothing.
Eventually, the President’s daily policy outrages, his caustic insults, and his childish Twitter rants will fade into history. But it will take years to gauge the impact of having a habitual liar as President. When words like “science” and “progress” become unmoored from their meaning, the effects are incalculable. And let’s not kid ourselves: those words today are under assault with a ferocity we have not seen for hundreds of years.
The United States is now a country with dozens of unofficial government “resistance” Twitter accounts.
What happens to a society that accepts denialism as a way of life? Nearly a decade ago, I published a book about the growing number of people who, when confronted with an unpleasant reality, chose to embrace a more comfortable lie. Denialism—whether it stems from suspicions about vaccines, dread of G.M.O.s, or even confusion about climate science—is often rooted in fear. . . . . Reason, patience, and education don’t always work. But they go further in confronting those fears than self-satisfied condescension.
But we are now led, in an age of unimaginable scientific achievement, by the most narcissistic and thoughtless denialist ever to have entered public life. His denialism is not based in fear, it’s based in arrogance. And it must not be forgotten that denialism kills. Climate change, which Trump has denied and dismissed, has already had a grave impact on the world’s poorest people. Far from making America safer, Trump’s immigration plan will cause clear harm, not least to American soldiers.
How many of our country’s schoolteachers must consider, every day, whether to explain to their students that the President is a liar? The alternative—simply accepting those lies—would be devastating. It would change our language and change us, if we let it.
On April 22nd, Earth Day, scientists will march on Washington to show their fealty to facts. There are people, in science and out of it, who are opposed to the idea of theoretically detached researchers showing themselves to be political in this way. They might better ask in what world would Americans have to stage a march to honor reality. Unfortunately, that world is now upon us. Facts deserve our support. And lies do not.