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Letter: Half-truths and lies endanger our democracy

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We are part of The Trust Project.

The catch-phrase “Perception is reality” took hold in the world of advertising in the 1980s around the same time Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” began appearing in bookstore windows.

Ad and PR types urged the new wisdom on each other: “Perception isn’t just like reality; it is reality.” And so it was that magical thinking took hold in the world of advertising and the broader commercial culture. Reality is not fixed in fact. It’s in the mind of the consumer. And the voter.

Perception trumps reality to an unprecedented degree in today’s politics, fueled by extremism, social media and the phenomenon of Trump.

On the afternoon of Trump’s inauguration, he loudly disputed clear evidence that the size of his crowd was smaller than that of the outgoing president four years earlier. We soon learned about “alternative facts.” News media started keeping a daily count of Trump’s untruths: Over his four years in office, he made 30,000 untrue or misleading statements, an average of 21 a day.

Surveys indicate most Republicans believe Trump’s biggest lie yet — that he actually won the 2020 election. Republican officials are planning how to win the White House in 2024 even if their candidate loses the official vote count.

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It’s one thing to admit that politics is the art of the half-truth. The art of untruth in today’s politics treads dangerously close to totalitarian methods. American democracy is at risk.

Norman Senjem, Rochester

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