We need to resist “post-truth” politics. Facts matter, reasonable argument matters; appeals to bigotry and false emotion by demagogues set us on the path to totalitarianism. Post-truthism is not a new phenomenon. What Harry Truman said of Richard Nixon – “He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time” – applies to a lesser or greater degree to politicians throughout history. But if two falsities can be uttered by the same person, then two truths can also be affirmed simultaneously. Walt Whitman, as earnest a poet as ever put pen to paper, declared this prerogative for writers and artists: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” Whitman’s defence of his incongruities is that humans are infinitely complex beings, paradoxical universes unto themselves. This should be celebrated, no less than the complexities of quantum physics or diverse societies. It is no concession to post-truthism to say that two apparently contr...

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