“Truth is stranger than fiction,” the saying goes, and this poses a real challenge for fiction writers. More so than ever today, in our post-truth era. Yet it’s a challenge that’s being met, often brilliantly.
Noah Hawley offers an excellent example. Not only is Hawley a gifted novelist—his latest, Before the Fall, made the New York Times100 Notable Books list last year—he is a masterful screenwriter as well, as exemplified by the first two seasons of “Fargo” in particular.
Much of Before the Fall concerns the 24-hour news cycle and the ways in which appearance vies with reality. In fact, the novel’s denouement revolves around these issues. But the book is such a gripping, suspenseful read that you’re only concerned with turning the pages. The issues raised do resonate after you put the book down, though.
The story (not the plot) is similar in “Fargo.” Set in the Upper Plains, the series contrasts the (mostly) polite and plain-spoken people who live there with the violent and chaotic spin of American social and political change. It does not do this overtly; both seasons are set in the past. Yet it’s there, and you become aware of it as you go along.
In both the book and the TV series, Hawley does what writers are supposed to do: dig inside his characters to present their truth. That’s one thing that has not changed in our current climate and it means that truth continues to have a bright future—at least in fiction and film.
If you had any doubts about what’s ahead in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, an alarming story in today’s papers—archaic media which attempt to purvey “facts”—should provide some clues as to what’s coming.
The post-truth item in question: a persistent story on social media claiming that Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington, was harboring young children as sex slaves as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton.
Believing the Hillary Clinton-led pedophile pizza story to be true, an incredibly ill-informed young man drove six hours from North Carolina to D. C. with his rifle to conduct a “self-investigation.” He managed to get off a shot before he was arrested.
As scary (and to me, unbelievable) as this story is, here’s something even scarier: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Trump’s choice for national security adviser, has been promoting the supposed Hillary Clinton-pedophilia connection on Twitter. His son and advisor, Mike Flynn Jr., continues to do so, even claiming that Edgar Welch, the deluded North Carolina man who drove to Washington to “investigate,” was a plant to discredit fake news websites. As though fake news sites needed discrediting.
I don’t want to live in a post-truth world. If you don’t either, then join me in standing up for the facts whenever and wherever you can.
Update: Mike Flynn Jr. has apparently been dismissed from the Trump transition team. As of this writing, his father remains on board.