It's a looming question for any reader of the news and follower of current events:Time magazine's "Is Truth Dead?" cover this week does well to capture the zeitgeist of public discourse in the early months of Donald Trump's presidency. The central article travels through the place of truth in American public life, all the way back to the beloved fable of a young George Washington confessing to cutting down a cherry tree, up to the unbelievable tweets coming out of the White House.
So where does Trump, who granted a long interview for the issue, stand on this thoroughly red-white-and-blue value? He believes in it too, he declares. But it is, of course, his own version of it. "Truthful hyperbole," as he calls it, was the basis of his campaign, much like his business strategy before the improbable launch into politics.
Trump's tendency to blurt out (or rather tweet out) both blatant and ambiguous falsehoods is in itself not the real threat, the article says. The deeper worry is the consumption, and acceptance, of his words by a large chunk of the citizenry. The statements with the least grounding in reality — like the claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump's headquarters — are the ones that gain the most traction on Twitter. Do people actually believe him, or rather find some kind of value in spreading what they know may well be lies?
The cover's blunt inquiry into the current state of truth in the U.S. mirrors the now 50-year-old iconic cover of Time that read, "Is God Dead?"