The shrinking role of facts and evidence-based analysis in American public life poses a threat to democracy, to policy making, and to the very notion of civic discourse.
This is the alarming conclusion spelled out in the RAND Corporation’s recently released 300+ page report provocatively titled “Truth Decay.” The co-author of this report, RAND political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh, is Jeff Schechtman’s guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast.
The report’s authors compare what’s happening now in the public arena to four other historical periods when truth was under siege: the era of “yellow journalism,” the rise of tabloids and talk radio, the impact of television on news media, and even the advent of so-called New Journalism.
What the authors found, Kavanaugh says, is that disagreements over objective facts have never been so wide and so deep.
The RAND report examines the growing lack of trust in institutions, the erosion of civil discourse, the ever-worsening political paralysis and lack of policy discussion, and the disengagement of citizens from the political process.
While “Truth Decay”makes many recommendations about how we might unwind all of this, the report also constitutes a warning about the possible end of democracy as we know it.