The limits of fact-checking: Why doesn't exposing politicians' lies hurt them?

The point isn’t that we should absolve Trump of his transgressions with the truth because “everybody does it,” but that his highly unreliable narrations from the campaign trail alert us to how the political mind behaves when it abandons all attempts at self-discipline. What other candidates have made covert, Trump has made overt.

Pick a year, pick a politician, pick a candidate, and I’ll bet that I can locate lies in profusion without much effort. We can’t return to the “truth era” because no such harbor has ever existed. Lying has long been normalized—it’s a good bet that the first oration contained a pack of lies. To ask fact checkers to usher in a truth era with their columns, ratings, lists and rewards when lies and bullshit remain so entrenched in our politics is to ask too much. Ask any exterminator: It’s one thing to spot the vermin, it’s a whole ’nother thing to eliminate it.

So should the fact checkers abandon their Pinocchios and trash their Pants on Fire meters and let the lying liars lies? Of course not! The truth matters! But campaign 2016 teaches us that the truth matters in politics less than any of us ever believed. Just ask the fact checkers. And Donald Trump.

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