Post-Truth and Disability Rights

I’m not comfortable with the term “post-truth” and I don’t use it. I see it as a Stalinist phrase, the answer to the old tyrant’s rhetorical question: “If Stalin was such a bad guy, why do all these people have to resort to attributing to him almost entirely quotes he didn't make, or manipulate his actual quotes just enough to make them seem evil?”

Post-truth is “good Stalin” and I believe no one should employ the term. But it is here like candy and coconuts which is to say it’s as much a fact as Koba himself. I’ve always liked this observation by Christopher Hitchens: “Stalinism was, among other things, a triumph of the torturing of language. And, unlike Nazism or fascism or nuclear warfare, it secured at least the respect, and sometimes the admiration, of liberal intellectuals.”

One may insert post-truth right there.

Nevertheless, and without irony, or at least profligate irony, I’ve been thinking about disability and post-truth, largely because tough minded disabled protestors have been bleeding, have been dragged from their wheelchairs, earning the respect of millions while defending the principle of health care as a human right. Is it possible that disability is to post-truth as iodine is to goiter.

This is because the disabled body was always a fiction. In short hand, there are no disabled people, only disabling circumstances. The later is a pleonasm—one should say obstacles and be done with it but there are categories of experience that always beg an extra word. Truth and disability are alike in this regard. Disabling condition and post-truth sit comfortably side by side until a wheelchair user insists on life.

The problem with post-truth is it’s birth. A concatenation of neoliberal management (politicians employ emotion in public, run the government heartlessly behind closed doors, see Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, George W. Bush) and the academic turn toward post-modernism with its relentless interrogation of “fact” as idee fixe, produces a world of spin.

Thinking charitably post-truth is the linguistic canary in the coal mine, it’s very existence means bafflement and subjectivity are all we have.

Except you have disabled bodies. Remember: they don’t exist. Only human beings are real. In a post-truth political world dragging a paralyzed person from her wheelchair means all human beings are inconvenient. Disabled protestors are doing the nation a service: proving a post-truth society has no compunction ridding the world of problematic persons, which brings us back to Stalin:

“When there's a person, there's a problem. When there's no person, there's no problem.”

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