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Obama: 'You Have to Believe in Facts'

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

His speech warned of the dangers of Trump's attack on truth.

Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday, former President Barack Obama had some carefully considered words to say about the current political climate and, without explicitly naming him, our current POTUS.

"We have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets 90 percent of the vote because all the opposition is locked up, or can't get on TV, is a democracy," he explained at a point in his speech.

His talk then became more pointedly about Trump's recent antics.

"The denial of facts runs counter to democracy, it could be its undoing," he said. "Which is why we must zealously protect independent media, and we have to guard against the tendency for social media to become purely a platform for spectacle, outrage, or disinformation... You have to believe in facts. Without facts, there is no basis for cooperation. Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up."

Obama's speech warned of the fall of Democracy in the West and the rise of racist white nationalist groups taking over, and the power of social media to hurt knowledge:

"Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained--the form of it--but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. In the West, you've got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism.

Who needs free speech as long as the economy is going good? The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media--once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity--has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories."

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