At the human level, narratives serve as connecting tissue between elites and ordinary people. All of us, high and low, turn to the same sources when we decide what it means to be, say, a “boss” or an “employee” in the context of being an “American.” Disputes over principle and policy are inevitable, and can be fierce, but will be constrained within the boundaries of an account that is morally intelligible to the public at large. In this way, the chaotic swirl of events gets compressed into a field of common understanding: what might be called a shared truth about the world that informs both personal attitudes and political action.
All of that is gone with the wind. The digital age has proved to be an extinction event for long-standing narratives. As the public has gained access to information and communication platforms, elites have progressively lost the ability to mediate between events and the old shared stories. Elite omissions and evasions, falsehoods and failures, are now out in the open for all to see. The mirror in which we found ourselves reflected in the world has shattered.
No established authority remains to settle questions of fact. In that sense, the interpretation of reality is up for grabs.
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