Cover Story: Is Truth Dead?

Invoking a graphic design first used in its trademark 1966 cover story, “Is God Dead,” the latest edition of Time magazine poses the more contemporary question: “Is Truth Dead?”

The cover story draws primarily on an exclusive interview with President Donald Trump exploring a number of falsehoods and alternative facts, including his thus-far-unsubstantiated accusation that President Barack Obama wiretapped him during his campaign and his equally unsubstantiated claim that 3 million undocumented immigrants voted in the presidential election, as well as other fanciful allegations.

"The more the conversation continued, the more the binary distinctions between truth and falsehood blurred, the telltale sign of a veteran and strategic misleader who knows enough to leave himself an escape route when he tosses a bomb,” Time magazine’s Michael Scherer says of his interview with President Trump.



“Rather than assert things outright, he often couches provocative statements as ‘beliefs,’ or attributes them to unnamed 'very smart people.' During the campaign, he claimed falsely that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s father had consorted with the assassin who killed John F. Kennedy. Now as President, Trump argued that he had done nothing wrong by spreading the fiction, since it had been printed in the National Enquirer, a tabloid famous for its unconventional editorial standards," he says.

“Trump has discovered something about epistemology in the 21st century,” Scherer continues. “The truth may be real, but falsehood often works better.

"It is for this same reason that Russia deployed paid Internet trolls in the 2016 campaign, according to U.S. investigators, repeatedly promoting lies on U.S. social networks to muddy the debate. In the radical democracy of social media, even the retweets of outraged truth squadders has the effect of rebroadcasting false messages.

'Controversy elevates message. And it keeps the President on offense… Since winning the White House, Trump has employed this weapon at specific times, often when he is losing control of the national story line. He pulled the trigger on Nov. 27, a day after Clinton’s vanquished campaign agreed to join in a recount of votes in Wisconsin. Over the course of that day, Trump sent out 11 tweets, averaging 18,440 retweets, expressing his outrage over the situation. But the two most widely read and shared, by wide margins, were the false ones."

8 comments about "Cover Story: Is Truth Dead?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 23, 2017 at 11:02 a.m.

    Trump's "thus far unsubstantiated accusation" about wiretapping is no different than the thus far unsubstantiated accusation that the Russians hacked the election. Where is the evidence of the latter, and why does the absence of evidence have no effect on media speculation?

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., March 23, 2017 at 11:16 a.m.

    @Douglas Ferguson: I'd say the main difference is that the President of the United States was the one saying it. Re. Russia's involvement in the U.S. presidential election, the director of the FBI just confirmed they are investigating that. I think you are right that anything beyond that is speculation. But it's okay for the media to speculate on things, so long as they make it clear that it is speculation. If you read Donald Trump's verbatim comments in the Time magazine interview, he believes his own speculation is the truth, hence Time's cover story: "Is Truth Dead?" Here's the Q&A: 

    Time magazine: Is there anything different about making these kinds of predictions without having the factual evidence as President?

    Donald Trump: I'm a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right.

  3. Fern Siegel from MediaPost, March 23, 2017 at 11:39 a.m.

    The evidence of Russian election interference comes from 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies.
    But your false equivalency is precisely what underscores the 'Time' article!
    Some peope will not accept truth if it contradicts their beliefs. Instead, they will embrace --  and excuse -- Trump's lies -- even if it denigrates a free press and independent judiciary, hallmarks of American democracy.
    Trump has disgraced himself -- and thus his country -- repeatedly. It's time for his supporters to stop defending the outrages and start protesting the assault on the office. The presidency is too important to be demeaned on a daily basis.

  4. Jon Currie from Currie Communications, Inc., March 23, 2017 at 1:46 p.m.

     Perhaps Doug you would find some evidence if you turned the channel from Fox News.  

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, March 23, 2017 at 6:37 p.m.

    Doug, I sure hope that College of Charleston is about dancing lessons!

  6. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, March 23, 2017 at 6:48 p.m.

    Dear John Grono from GAP Research:  I just want to extend my most sincere thanks for making my day, my week, and my year (so far) with that exquisite comment. I'm still in awe of it.  And my face hurts from grinning. Seriously.

    Please accept this virtual five-star OMG! award.  You earned it. 

  7. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston replied, March 24, 2017 at 8:07 a.m.

    Thanks for a dignified reply. Seriously, I take your comments with the same respect accorded my inquiry. But I've never seen the news media go after an elected President with such vigor, maybe because they are not accustomed to being provoked. The other comments to my inquiry, however, reflect the sore loser response of people in the 19 states that voted for the weakest Presidential candidate in my recollection. It is comforting to know that California and New York cannot determine the outcome of a United States election, if "united" still means anything. Trump is giving his supporters what they wanted. If he fails, we can still respect the process. I am still waiting on hard evidence from those 17 intelligence agencies.

  8. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., March 24, 2017 at 8:25 a.m.

    @Douglas Ferguson: re. never having seen the media "go after an elected President with such vigor," we have never elected a President like Donald Trump before. Politics aside, MediaPost focuses on the media part of the story and Time's "Is Truth Dead" cover is relevant news for the industry -- and arguably -- for the world. The most remarkable part is it is based on an exclusive interview with Trump and that he agreed to the premise of it. I recommend reading it and judging the truth for yourself.

    See the full transcript here:

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