"So, what I told you was true ... from a certain point of view."

For just about ever, it has been us tweed and scruff liberals who have argued that truth is, well, fluid.

People of different genders, different ethnic traditions, different generations are going to have different life experiences and see the world differently, for reasons that are obvious and inevitable.

Rather than get upset about it or deny it, this way of thinking went, accept it, even embrace it. It makes life more interesting and may lead many of us to some useful and mind-expanding alternatives. Or at least some really good Ethiopian food.

At the very least it allows us to live in close proximity with one another without anyone feeling the need to hate the people who see things differently.

And it was the conservatives, political and social, who offended us by insisting on knowing and bowing down to one immutable truth, promulgated directly by God and/or transmitted to the rest of us by his chosen emissaries.

Of course we saw right through that. The powerful didn't believe in One Truth any more than we did. They were too smart for that.

But it was useful for them to pretend that they did believe it, and to insist that the rest of us must, too, because it kept the rabble from challenging their betters.

That was then.

Now the supposed conservative politician who sits at the head of the most powerful institution in the world is the one with tenuous ties to anything that might be called the truth. He spins whatever fantasy occurs to him, sometimes in ways that can't possibly help him or his cause, dismisses those who challenge him as "enemies of the people" and sends his minions to demand that we give full credence to his "alternate truth," as if it would be rude to the man and disrespectful to his office to do otherwise.

And the institutions of the old left, led by the New York Times, are the ones offering us "The Truth." If only we will subscribe to their newspaper or website. Which more and more people are — and to The Washington Post, ProPublica and The Salt Lake Tribune — in part out of a feeling that nothing makes sense any more and we need a trustworthy institutional voice to bring us back to a useful, fairly firm, sense of reality that we can act upon.

The difference, of course, is that the old liberal social relativism, for all its flaws, was basically live-and-let-live. But the new alternative reality, which has bled from click-bait fake-news websites into the Oval Office, serves to pit group against group, encouraging mistrust, division, exclusion and even violence, all in a divide-and-conquer approach.

The divisive lies are mostly aimed at brown people and foreigners, charging that they are overwhelming us, bringing crime and disease and fraudulently voting, by the millions.

And then there's that parting shot at the president who was dark and, in that universe, foreign, the one about the supposed wiretapping of the now-president.

That, though, may have been a lie too far, and unraveling it may lead to digging up the truth about the new administration's Russian connections. Even if people like Utah Rep. Chris Stewart want to play misdirection by blaming the messengers.

But the point of this new freedom of thought is the same as the purpose behind the old one truth: to control the masses so they don't ask too many questions as the rich get richer by eating out the sustenance of the working classes.

Of course that would be the kind of free thought that would be embraced by people who think that freedom consists of having no health insurance, no environmental regulations, no vaccination or other public health standards, no robust system of public education, no support for the arts and humanities, no restraints on what big business can do to the little guy.

The rich man's freedom takes him to the bank. The poor woman's freedom takes her to an early grave.

Obi-Wan was right. It all depends on your point of view.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, prefers a point of view that involves a large chair, a big TV and a college basketball game.

gpyle@sltrib.com