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Literally, Seriously, and Institutional Integrity

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Literally, Seriously, and Institutional Integrity

National Affairs June 21, 2021
OtherMiscellaneousCulture & Society

Most people who care about American public life would admit that our political rhetoric is in a bad way. We seem to no longer understand the role veracity should play in the public sphere.

Donald Trump, for one, seems to have had a preternatural gift for mendacity during his time in the White House. At times, major media outlets seem more interested in advancing narratives that comport with their politics than in sticking to the facts, while some minor outlets spread patently false news stories with abandon. Fringe groups on both the far left and the far right traffic in conspiracy theories. Some "fact checkers" critique obviously satirical material, while others "correct" facts they find inconvenient.

Part of our problem is encapsulated by the now famous phrase "seriously, not literally." Journalist Salena Zito offered this approach to understanding some of President Trump's musings, suggesting he often conveys meaning without getting precious about precision. He's making a point, the argument goes, and the literal truth of the matter is subordinate to the overarching story — a story that may have some underlying truth to it.

Continue reading the entire piece here at National Affairs

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Andy Smarick is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo by Andrii Yalanskyi/iStock

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