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“So 2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it. Together, we have it within us to turn back these attacks, right these wrongs, repair this damage, restore reverence for our institutions, and prevent further moral vandalism. Since Trump’s inauguration, Washington Post photographers have set out to explore the country, through portraiture and audio interviews.

Both can be seen, at least in part, as consequences of what a sobering new study by the Rand Corporation describes as an epidemic of “truth decay.” The nonpartisan think tank describes this phenomenon as an increasing disagreement about basic facts, a blurring of the line between opinion and fact, an increase in the relative volume of opinion over fact and declining trust in previously respected sources of information.

The report faults leaders on both sides of the immigration debate for misusing data and statistics, blurring the line between opinion and fact.

There has been a steady decrease in violent crime over the past 25 years, yet more Americans across the ideological spectrum believe that crime is increasing. Polls show the perception has been on the rise since around 2000.

“In most walks of life — the military, business, the intelligence community, philanthropy, even baseball — there is more and more reliance on …

rigorous analytical techniques,” said Rand president and chief executive Michael D. “It seems that it’s only in national policy making and the discourse surrounding it that the trends are moving in the opposite direction.” “Truth decay” is not unprecedented.

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