The cult of ‘my truth’

NPR is only the latest institution to fall to woke relativism.

Frank Furedi

Frank Furedi

Topics Politics USA

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It’s never a good sign when a society’s cultural elites start to see facts as an inconvenience. When leading figures in the media describe the truth as an obstacle to ‘getting things done’, you know you’re in serious trouble.

These are the words of Katherine Maher, the new CEO of America’s National Public Radio (NPR). During a TED talk in 2021, when Maher was still CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, she announced that ‘our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that is getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done’. ‘That is not to say that the truth doesn’t exist’, she added, ‘or to say that the truth isn’t important… [but] one reason we have such glorious chronicles to the human experience and all forms of culture is because we acknowledge there are many different truths’.

This was concerning enough when Maher was in charge of the leading online encyclopaedia. It is even more so now that she is the head of NPR, home to some of America’s most popular radio shows. For Maher, it seems that truth and facts are an obstacle to promoting the elite’s woke agenda. Indeed, she recently suspended long-time NPR editor Uri Berliner for writing an essay denouncing the station’s turn towards identity politics. This then prompted him to resign.

The idea that there are ‘many different truths’ is not a new one. Just look at the rise of that odious phrase, ‘my truth’. Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle was famously praised by Oprah Winfrey in that infamous 2021 interview for speaking ‘her truth’. As it turned out, Meghan’s ‘truths’ had a tendency to differ from other people’s recollections. Ultimately, it didn’t matter if what she said was technically, objectively true. Her claims were true in the eye of the believer. Today, that’s apparently good enough for our cultural elites.

Time and again, leading journalistic institutions insist that pesky facts cannot be allowed to get in the way of all-important woke narratives. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the current vogue for rewriting history – the prime example of which is the New York Times’ 1619 Project.

Launched in 2019, this long-form journalism project – which was later adapted into multiple books, a documentary series and a school curriculum – aimed to revise the history of the US. It claimed that the US was founded not on the values of liberty and democracy, but on racism. It argues that the year 1619, not 1776, marks the true founding of America, because that was when the first slaves were brought to the English colonies. The project insists that the US was founded for the purpose of entrenching slavery. The US is racist, it claims, by design.

The 1619 Project is propaganda masquerading as history, unapologetically abandoning facts and evidence. Not that this seems to matter to its academic apologists. In one review of the book, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, Cornell University historian Sandra Greene admits that 1619 includes ‘factual errors’ and ‘several chapters [that] simplify to the point of distortion’. She nonetheless praises it as a ‘necessary book’.

Writing in the same vein, Leslie M Harris, professor of history at Northwestern University, said that she helped to fact-check the 1619 Project and found it made ‘avoidable mistakes’. Her advice, Harris writes, was ignored by the New York Times. Still, she nevertheless believes that the ‘attacks from [the project’s] critics are much more dangerous’ than its inaccuracies.

When the truth is seen as something dangerous, it is almost inevitable that it will be suppressed. It is only a matter of time before free speech is limited to protect the public from potentially harmful facts. US Supreme Court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recently articulated this view when she said that First Amendment rights could be ‘hamstringing the federal government in significant ways’ in its fight against so-called misinformation. As we now know, federal officials have been leaning heavily on social-media firms, especially since the pandemic, to remove ‘misinformation’ from their platforms. But all too often the information that has been censored has turned out to be either wholly true or at least plausible. Stories that have been suppressed include revelations from Hunter Biden’s laptop and from Anthony Fauci’s emails.

This is where the philosophy of ‘my truth’ leads us. After all, if there is no one objective truth, then reality can be designed and invented by the elites. Facts can be revised or censored as our rulers see fit. We must continue to seek out the truth for truth’s sake, before we lose touch with reality entirely.

Frank Furedi is the executive director of the think-tank, MCC-Brussels.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics USA


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