The Hedgehog Review – Untruth has been spreading with new ease and abandon, and often to undemocratic effect. “Conventional wisdom has it that for democracy to work, it is essential that we—the citizens—agree in some minimal way about what reality looks like. We are not, of course, all required to think the same way about big questions, or believe the same things, or hold the same values; in fact, it is expected that we won’t. But somehow or other, we need to have acquired some very basic, shared understanding about what causes what, what’s broadly desirable, what’s dangerous, and how to characterize what’s already happened.
Some social scientists call this “public knowledge.” Some, more cynically, call it “serviceable truth” to emphasize its contingent, socially constructed quality. Either way, it is the foundation on which democratic politics—in which no one person or institution has sole authority to determine what’s what and all claims are ultimately revisable—is supposed to rest. It is also imagined to be one of the most exalted products of the democratic process. And to a certain degree, this peculiar, messy version of truth has held its own in modern liberal democracies, including the United States, for most of their history…”