Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
As Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has faced multiple accusations of sexual assault and misconduct — some of them from women who said he assaulted them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s — Republicans have responded with some truly bizarre takes.
Many Republicans, however, opted for a more subtle and sinister defense: discrediting Washington Post reporting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with many of his fellow Republican senators, initially stated that Moore should step aside if the allegations were true. Local conservative voices were less restrained.
AL.com contributor John Robb cast doubt on The Post's story by referring to the paper as "very liberal," implying that "liberal" meant biased. These defenses are nothing new, but in context they represent a new low in Americans' relationship to media.
The right-wing refrain of "Fake news!" is clearly meant to discredit unflattering media. It is nakedly partisan and untruthful, but the conservative reaction to Moore's sexual misconduct reveals an even darker side of America's distrust of the news. Earlier attacks on the media were based on perceived partisanship. However, criticism of The Post's Moore story is set apart by the exceptional strength of the women's stories and the heinous nature of the charges. Moore's supporters reject the story purely for ideological convenience rather than for partisan distrust.
Moore's supporters have to put themselves through mind-melting logical contortions to avoid changing their position. It's not enough to believe that The Post is biased. That alone doesn't prove Moore innocent. Moore's defenders have to believe that any media they disagree with is trying to manipulate them. Therefore, they believe, it must be false. Any news that runs counter to Moore's campaign must be lying. Truth is relative to convenience.
Pundits are quick to criticize media bubbles: the idea that our views are constantly reinforced by a flow of similar opinions. But the attitude that has taken hold in Alabama is worse than a bubble. It's an ideology where any inconvenient fact has to be a lie. Rather than a bubble, it's an iron curtain, an ideological bear trap. It's a quicksand that my fellow Alabamians have chosen to sink into.
My state prides itself on traditional family values. The first thing Alabamians ask new neighbors is, "What church do you go to?" And yet my state is poised to elect a sexual predator to the U.S. Senate. It is not partisanship that has driven Alabama neck-deep into hypocrisy. It's not even a refusal to acknowledge facts. It's the attitude that an objective truth does not exist, because, in Alabama, truth is synonymous with convenience. Alabamians have given up the ability to look inward and question their own beliefs, and so we are powerless to resist men like Moore who feed off our ignorance.
Alabama is not uniquely vulnerable to this ideology. The attitudes that are encouraging my state to elect a man accused of preying on young women are infecting the rest of the nation. The flood of falsehoods spewing from the executive branch are slowly changing America's definition of truth. If we are unable to commit to the truth, even when it is inconvenient, we will be powerless against manipulative leaders and toxic ideology. We will be voiceless in our own democracy.
Nate Rogers is a freshman computer science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.