…and so we bid adieu to the phrase “undeniable truth”

Lucy Richards is a “truther.”

Among the other truths she espouses is the belief that the Sandy Hook murders in December 2012 never occurred. Last week she exercised her right to this belief by threatening a parent of one of the slain victims. Now Ms. Richards has been arrested and charged with threats included in notes like this: “You gonna die. Death is coming to you real soon,”

Other truthers declare that the shootings were a government plot to strengthen gun control laws. A man named James Fetzer claims they were initiated by Israel death squads to strike fear into the hearts of Americans. Fetzer is also a Holocaust denier, a fact which, if nothing else, puts things in perspective.

Today we are four days from the fourth anniversary of Adam Lanza’s assault on Sandy Hook Elementary, and insanity remains prevalent. (While Fetzer’s problem appears to be a virulent anti-Semitism, there is little doubt that Lucy Richards and her senses parted company long ago.) But remember when truthers were fun? Of course they weren’t called truthers then, they were just folks who doubted that Americans had actually set foot on the moon. We all had a good laugh and went on about our business. Nobody realized back then that every fact would eventually become deniable, and that no proof from whatever source would ever be credible again.

Conspiracy theorists had in fact made a bigger splash six years earlier when the assassination of JFK became a cause for public debate, books, TV program, and films. But for fifty-three years the fringe element has remained on the fringe. Now it has ascended to the presidency.

During his campaign, minority President-elect Donald Trump employed conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, the integrity of the American voting system, the crime rate in the U.S.—even Marco Rubio’s ancestors—to help him win the presidency. But now, in a dramatic reversal, every truth is a conspiracy theory. Nowhere is that more evident than in recent reports detailing Russian attempts to skew this past November’s election. Donald Trump refuses to accept the facts (and they have become overwhelming) just as he refuses to accept his humiliating loss in the popular vote, or the fact that he sold as many workers down the river as he saved in the Carrier deal.

Trump has no difficulty with this revised position—during the campaign he continually denied statements that had already been recorded, from his refusal to rent to minorities, to his position on the Iraq War, to his gleeful and unrepentant assaults on women. He has made the truth irrelevant and learned how to impugn the credibility of the messenger.

But what happens during a time of national crisis when the CIA or the NSA or the FBI brings him a report he doesn’t like?

Mr. Trump, there are ships carrying missiles to Cuba.

No they aren’t.

In retrospect, Hillary Clinton’s label “basket of deplorables” was far too generous, allowing for the possibility that his lockstep followers have a brain but choose to subvert its ability. These days that belief seems too optimistic. What does seem more believable is that this intellectually limited and fatuous boor has gathered just the following he—and they—deserve.

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