Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.
Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They aren’t just up for debate, they’re up for purchase.
You can find legislative priorities that are written like an online dating profile. Some fudging here, some exaggeration there. If the data doesn’t fit your political objective, just commission a study to twist the narrative in your favor and .?.?. Voila! The truth is now negotiable.
We’ve become so accustomed to it, we’ll happily pay for fictitious nuclear power plants and have impassioned discussions about sanctuary cities that don’t exist.
I would say it’s our dirty little secret, but the rest of the world is starting to catch on.
And that’s bound to happen when you try to emblazon something ridiculous on something as official as, say, a state license plate.
If you’ve not been following the story, the University of Central Florida recently finished an amazing season of football. The Knights went undefeated and knocked off Auburn in a big bowl game.
But, because UCF plays in the Walmart of conferences and because the lords of college football tailor everything around brand-name schools, the Knights never got a shot at the four-team playoff that typically determines the national championship.
It stinks, no doubt about that. And it’s worth arguing, too.
But proposing a bill in the Legislature that would declare the Knights as national champions on an official state license plate?
Heck, why not celebrate perjury while we’re at it?
Is this what Donald Trump has wrought? Has the president normalized alternative facts so much that the Florida Legislature thinks it’s okay to purposefully immortalize something of obvious dispute?
How about this for an alternative license plate:
Florida, where reality is in the eye of the beholder.
I talked to a pair of state representatives about this last week. Both are local, both are UCF grads. And both Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, and Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, seemed sincere about wanting to honor a football team and reward a fan base.
But their rationale was all about wins and losses, and strength of schedule and historical precedents. Those are fine arguments to have in a sports bar, but not in state statutes.
They seemingly had no concern that the actual premise of the license plate was, you know, mostly bogus.
Now you can say this isn’t a big deal. After all, it’s just a lousy license plate. But I say there’s a larger point here. I happen to think the truth is a big deal. I think once you agree to rules, you should abide by them. And I don’t think a legislature should be bragging to the world that alternate truths are acceptable.
Think of it this way:
Since she won the popular vote in the last election, why shouldn’t Hillary Clinton ask the Florida Legislature to declare her president of the United States? Like UCF, she has a legitimate, numbers-based argument. The only thing standing in her way are the freakin’ rules.
Just like UCF.
And since we’re on the topic of rewriting history, I want to set the record straight about something else that’s been bothering me. A lot of people want to dispute this, but I was the stunt double for Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth in all of the Thor movies.
Yes, I may be shaped like a bowling ball and look like a Shar-Pei, but that’s my truth and I’m sticking to it.