Todd Akin and the post-fact society

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Story by MITCHELL BROWN (For The Muleskinner)

Politicians often say ridiculous things. The recent comments of Rep.Todd Akin(R-MO.) are the latest example.
By now I’m sure most people are familiar with what he said– “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try  to shut that whole thing down.”
After uncorking his comments, a backlash ensued. Much of the opposition came from Akin’s own party, as a number of Republicans, including Mitt Romney, recommended that Akin drop out of the race. According to a recent story in the Kansas City Star, top GOP of ficials asked Akin not to attend this year’s Republican National Convention.
Much has been said about Akin’s use of the term “legitimate rape,” with implications that he was reducing the severity of such a ghastly act. But what I found to be just as shocking was Akin’s denial of biological fact, saying that, as through some type of magic, a woman who has been impregnated by a rapist can shut that whole fertilization thing down.
Akin’s statement is inconsistent with human biological functions. I would suspect that a person who would believe such a thing wouldn’t have even the most rudimentary knowledge of biology, and ironically, Todd Akin sits on the House Science Committee.
The words of Akin illustrate a greater issue– the rise of a post-fact society, a climate in which arbitrary little things like facts are dismissed at will, as elected officials are now free to make things up as they go along.
Other recent examples of the post-fact society include Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), without evidence, accusing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Rep. Allen West(R-Fla.) proclaiming that 80 Democrats, yet naming no specific names, in the House Of Representatives are covert Communist party members.
The promotion of bogus claims is not exclusively relegated to the political arena. The media, particularly pundits who make no attempt to display any sort of objectivity, has a hand in the matter, too.
I recently heard talk-radio host Bill Cunningham say that the Environmental Protection Agency is a socialist organization. But the EPA was created during Richard Nixon’s presidency, making the claim patently false. I caught Cunningham’s bit of misinformation, but how many people listening at home didn’t?
People are more likely to buy into misinformation when they lack a factual counterpoint. It’s  important now more than ever for ethical journalists to be on our toes. We have the ability to provide that counterpoint.
The reasons we’re in a post-fact society are both political and  social. In my opinion,  the post-fact society is one byproduct/after-effect of the Bush administration and the Iraq War, which was sold on a false pretense of Weapons of Mass Destruction being stashed in Iraq, but none were found.
Another factor is the self-esteem movement that places protecting a child’s self-esteem above rewarding them for getting the answer right, basically giving everyone a trophy just for showing up.
The post fact society has created a climate in which it is now acceptable for someone to deny valid, factual information when it doesn’t coincide with his or her own viewpoint, which is the equivalent of a kid putting their fingers in his or her ears.
It shouldn’t be acceptable for adults to act in such a manner, but in a post- fact society such behavior seems to be catching on.