Dick Cheney Celebrates a World Where Facts Don’t Matter

Without the “media filter,” conservatives can get away with blatant lies.

Dick Cheney is thrilled with the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s tweets have made his dream of a world free from the accountability of the press and basic realities come true:

I think one of the reasons people get so concerned about the tweets is it is sort of a way around the press. He doesn’t have to rely upon, uh, rely upon — this is the modern era, modern technology. He’s at the point where we don’t need you guys anymore.

Conservatives have long complained about a “media filter” that supposedly doesn’t let them get their messages across. If the media were somehow distorting the words of conservatives that would be one thing. But there’s a reason a media filter exists: to provide some sort of reality-based check on whether a politician is being truthful or not. Without some sort of filter, communications from politicians are nothing more than propaganda.

So when Cheney celebrates the notion that Trump can bypass the media, he’s not championing the notion of truth over bias. He’s lauding a world in which a politician can falsely claim that, say, there were millions of fraudulent votes cast when nothing of the sort ever happened, and millions of his followers will blindly believe it without verification.

But then, that sort of fact-free environment isn’t a new creation of Donald Trump. It was the modus operandi of the George W. Bush Administration as well:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Donald Trump is simply the apotheosis of an already sacred cant in Republican politics: facts don’t matter. Only propaganda does. Liberals are commonly mocked for likening Trump and his acolytes to fascists and Nazis, but it’s impossible to ignore the parallels in doctrine. When you untether your ideology from fact, and when the only thing that matters is your message and the ability of your propagandists to convince the faithful of any new reality you wish to create, very dangerous things can happen. That’s true of any ideology, but particularly of ones that depend on nationalist xenophobia.

And again, it’s not just Trump. In the same interview, Cheney himself partook in the same up-is-down, nothing matters funhouse mirror version of reality:

One of the most important things [President-elect Trump] can do is exactly the opposite of what his predecessor did. With respect to Iran and nuclear weapons, and don’t make the mistakes that the situation he is inheriting from the Obama administration represented. With respect to our status in the world, the capabilities of our forces, the belief on the part of I believe many of our friends and allies that they can no longer trust the United States or count on our guarantees. I think we need to do major progress and reverse the Obama policies and not that’s not a place for President Trump to start.

Every single sentence in this statement is untrue. Much to the disappointment of anti-imperialist liberals, Barack Obama has maintained and expanded America’s military and economic commitments to the rest of the world. Donald Trump, by contrast, has threatened to pull out of NATO, ally with Russia, and defund our military support for our allies overseas. It is Trump who has allies nervous that they won’t be able to count of us.

What Cheney wants, of course, is a bombing and invasion campaign against Iran on behalf of multinational oil companies–a campaign that would threaten to cause catastrophic damage to the economic and national security of America and the entire world. But that fact doesn’t matter. And Cheney, like Trump, is now freer than ever tell whatever lies he wants in order to get his way.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.