I think we can all agree that there has been plenty of fake news coming from both sides. Fake news is usually intentional, although in some cases it is the result of honest mistakes. But lately we are seeing an entirely new type of untrue news. I call it Imaginary News. Here’s a good example from the Huffington Post.
I watched President Trump’s press conference with the alleged “meltdown,” and all I saw was Trump talking the way he normally talks. The Huffington Post watched and apparently saw some other set of circumstances. That means we have three possibilities to consider:
1. Huffington Post saw the situation accurately while I was hallucinating.
2. My version of events is accurate and Huffington Post hallucinated.
3. Both the Huffington Post and I were hallucinating.
When I was younger, I would have automatically assumed that I was right and the Huffington Post was either intentionally lying or deluded. My more mature understanding of the world is that most people are hallucinating most of the time. We live in our own personal movies. This is a perfect example. Millions of Americans looked at the same press conference and half of us came away thinking we saw an entirely different movie than the other half. Many of us saw Trump talking the way he normally does, and saying the things he normally says. Other people saw a raving lunatic, melting down.
Those are not the same movies.
So how can we know who is hallucinating in this case? The best way to tell is by looking for the trigger for cognitive dissonance. In this case, the trigger is clear. Trump’s unexpected win forced the Huffington Post to rewrite their mental movies from one in which they were extra-clever writers to one in which they were the dumbest political observers in the entire solar system.
You might recall that the Huffington Post made a big deal of refusing to cover Trump on their political pages when he first announced his candidacy. They only carried him on their entertainment pages because they were so smart they knew he could not win.
Then he won.
When reality violates your ego that rudely, you either have to rewrite the movie in your head to recast yourself as an idiot, or you rewrite the movie to make yourself the hero who could see what others missed. Apparently the Huffington Post chose to rewrite their movie so Trump is a deranged monster, just like they warned us. That’s what they see. This isn’t an example of so-called “fake” news as we generally understand it. This is literally imaginary news. I believe the Huffington Post’s description of the press conference is literally what they saw. If you gave them lie detector tests, they would swear they saw a meltdown, and the lie detector would say they were telling the truth.
There are two clues that the Huffington Post is hallucinating and I’m not. The first clue is that they have a trigger and I don’t. Reality violated their egos, whereas I was predicting a Trump win all along. My world has been consistent with my ego. No trigger. All I have is a warm feeling of rightness.
The second clue is that the Huffington Post is seeing something that half the country doesn’t see. As a general rule, the person who sees the elephant in the room is the one hallucinating, not the one who can’t see the elephant. The Huffington Post is literally seeing something that is invisible to me and other observers. We see a President Trump talking the way he normally talks. They see a 77-minute meltdown.
I’m writing more on this topic in my upcoming book.
You might want to read my existing book because the new one will be out in October and you’ll want to read that one second.