Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between President Donald Trump's talk about "fake news" and liberal celebrities and elitists who pretend to know reality from fiction. Actress Olivia Wilde and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken teamed up for a joint interview with The New York Times to talk about truth and lies and the merits of having a skeptical opinion when it comes to politics.
Wilde is making her Broadway debut in "1984," a play based on George Orwell's 1949 novel which takes place in a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian government. Franken, a former cast member of "Saturday Night Live," who as a senator has championed liberal causes, has published numerous books on political satire including, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."
"Politics ought to be based on actual facts and objective truth. That's hard to find sometimes," Franken said. "It's adorable to think I made a living by pointing out that people were lying. And, people seemed to care about it back then. Now we have a president who calls the news media the enemy of America."
Wilde observed the meaning behind performing in the play based on Orwell's book and its applications to current events.
"The great point of this play is that we have to get beyond 'groupthink' and start thinking for ourselves. I don't plan to convert large groups to the left, not if they came in as Republicans. But, I want everyone to leave the theater questioning what we've been told and knowing that's our job," she said.
The problem today was that "we've hit another level of outrageousness because there's no source that is universally trusted to fact-check," Wilde maintained, and blamed "internet journalism" where people no longer questioned the source.
As for lying, Franken stated, "I have to believe there are people who know they are lying," but stressed it wasn't always clear.
"Sometimes, it ain't so cut and dry. But, I had a colleague tell me that the easiest person to fool is yourself," he said.
Wilde offered a moment of clarity when it came to the truth, celebrities and double standards, but quickly turned to politics and the president.
"We all carry technology in our pockets. And, we're somewhat aware that it's being made by people who aren't being paid enough in unsafe conditions. But we make allowances because we've decided that it's necessary. We're sort of lying to ourselves. There's a complexity in how we accept truth. The problem comes when we start creating our own truth to support potentially dangerous decisions, like the president is doing," she said.
It wasn't long before she got more personal, comparing Trump to a toddler.
"Kids lie without any real strategy. That's why Trump seems so much like a toddler sometimes. His tendency to lie, when it's clearly a lie, is something small children do. They also bully and take toys from each other. It's something you're supposed to grow out of by the time you're 70," she said.
Wilde also stated she resented "when I express an opinion, some people will assume it can't be true, or it must be self-serving, because I'm a celebrity, but I'm genuinely interested in sharing information."
Franken cautioned Wilde from making determinations about why people choose to believe what they do.
"We have to be very careful about saying that people are not voting in their self-interest. That's one of the things that some people who voted for Trump don't like about so-called elites: 'I know what's better for you than you do,'" Franken said.
The Broadway production of "1984" begins Thursday.
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