One of the worst things about the Trump era is the way it’s normalized bald-faced lying. I don’t mean cherry picking or exaggerating or twisting facts. I mean people just telling outright lies because they figure no one will bother checking—and if they do, well, who cares? You can ignore it or bluster your way through it, just like Donald does.
Here’s an example. It’s not an important one, but it happened to catch my eye a couple of days ago. Over at National Review, Michael New decided for some reason to criticize a month-old column about teen pregnancy programs by Aaron Carroll. Here is New:
Carroll’s interest in the rigorous evaluation of sex-education programs is commendable. However, like many of his colleagues, Carroll eagerly criticizes abstinence-based programs without evaluating the effects of other types of teen-pregnancy-prevention curricula.
This is just flatly untrue. Carroll’s column is here. Click the link if you want to check me. The bulk of the column is indeed about abstinence-only sex education, but paragraphs 12 and 13 are explicitly about reviews of “other” curricula (“Comprehensive programs reduced sexual activity, the number of sex partners, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, and sexually transmitted infections… increased the use of protection… improved knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and outcomes”).
I understand that this is hardly the biggest deal in the world. What gets me, though, is that it’s not just untrue, it’s obviously untrue to anyone who clicks the link and scans Carroll’s piece even casually. It’s the kind of thing you’d put in print only if you’ve learned from Donald Trump that nothing matters anymore. Just say whatever’s convenient and move on.
By the way, New also says this:
Overall, the decline in the teen-pregnancy rate is one of the unheralded public-policy success stories of the past 25 years. Teen-pregnancy rates reached their peak in 1990 and have fallen every year since then.
This is absolutely true, and it’s true for teen birthrates as well. Here are the overall teen birthrate stats from the CDC:
Neither New nor Carroll suggest how teen pregnancy and birthrates could have plummeted so astonishingly over the past 25 years. But whatever caused it, it has to be something that’s been happening steadily for the past quarter century, so it’s not abstinence-only sex education, and it’s probably not contraceptive use either. It’s a mystery. What kind of thing might have peaked around 1990; affected the entire country; and had a bigger impact on blacks and Hispanics than on whites? Can you think of anything else like this? I can.