Column: Your Opinion Is Not Reality

July 15th, 2020 8:00 AM

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson has a Republican pedigree and an evangelical Christian background. He wrote profound speeches for George W. Bush, who was mocked as a mangler of the English language. Today he sounds like a speechwriter for the gaseous opening of the Brian Stelter show on CNN.

 A headline for a recent column was "Trump has taken up residence in an alternate political reality." Gerson writes the most urgent national challenge is "the president inhabits a different country from the rest of us."

One of the most consistent (and consistently annoying) tropes of Stelter's CNN is claiming their opinionated hot takes are "reality." That they deal in Facts. When the president disagrees with their opinionated hot takes, he's living in an "alternate reality." We all remember how in "reality," Trump wouldn't last a year, the walls were always closing in, Robert Mueller would get him removed from office. Did that end up as "reality"? 

Then consider what "reality-based" Gerson describes as Trump's current belief system.

"The novel coronavirus is harmless....hydroxychloroquine is still a miracle drug....Trump's handling of the pandemic is an example to the world....Black Lives Matter is a movement of looting and violent subversion...the Confederacy is part of our 'heritage'....Police brutality is the desired norm."

That, in "reality," is not an objective description of Trump's beliefs. It's a hostile political cartoon, like so much of CNN's reporting from "Reality." 

We could play Gerson's game easily against the CNN worldview, where Andrew Cuomo's handling of the pandemic is an example to the world, where Fox News Channel is a movement of racism and violent subversion, and abolishing law enforcement is the desired norm. Does that sound like a fair and sober description of liberal "reality," or does it sound like editorializing?

This is precisely why the "news" networks are disparaged. The power to describe "reality" can become the power to define the terms, and to conservatives, they can sound like terms of surrender. The "news" providers heavily insist to the public that in "reality," everyone has to bow to liberal "expertise" about the world or else be disparaged as somewhat unhinged. 

It is obvious to everyone that Donald Trump boasts and exaggerates about his greatness. Just as it was obvious that Barack Obama never needed to boast or exaggerate about his greatness. He had CNN and the rest of the "objective" media gang to do it for him. 

It should be obvious that the "news" deals in part with facts, but so much more of it these days is what Dan Rather called "context and perspective." The heavily biased "context" can make many Americans skeptical of the "facts" located somewhere inside all that. 

Gerson was making a larger and less cartoonish point about the president being unwilling to consider opposing points of view, even within his circle of advisers. Every president should be pressed to consider dissenting views and advice. But you can hardly say Trump isn't faced with that dissent everywhere, and even within his team, he has to wonder which adviser is going to burn him anonymously in Gerson's newspaper.

It's not yet "reality" that Trump will lose in November, but the media huffed that in "reality," Trump never had a chance in 2016. The odor of that arrogance has never dissipated. No one should pretend 2020 is like any other year we can remember. That's why we should all be humbler about defining the "reality" of our future.