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It is better to be informed by the truth than be controlled by lies

If you think truth and a fact check is the answer? Don’t you believe it?

Of late I have been trying to stretch my thinking to incorporate a deeper construct of just what truth means, or doesn’t mean.

I had grown up with a black and white version of what truth actually is.

Now observations have, almost certainly, even against my will, opened up a wider, if not uncomfortable appreciation of the depth of truth. Hence my previous two posts.

So I want to move on and explore just what might be done to prevent the language of Morrison from cementing a permanent place in Australian politics.

Firstly, though it’s important to understand just what those who uphold a more conventional view of, what truth is, are up against.

The left of politics doesn’t have a shock jock. The right of politics controls the radio airwaves.

Rupert Murdoch controls 70% of the news media in Australia.

The right of politics now almost wholly owns our television media. The exception, of course, is public broadcaster the ABC, who are regulated so as to give both sides of politics a fair go even if one side doesn’t have a case.

Then, of course, there is digital media where at least there is an equal playing field even if it is corrupted by the munificence of money on the right.

The result of this means that our lives have been controlled by the noise of the mass media. The sad thing is that we listen.

In doing so we have suffered collateral damage in so much as we have seen a significant rise in anti-media and post-truth and a wavering of the values of honesty, ethics and responsibility.

So, as you can see the left in Australia are really up against it when it comes to exposure.

Now let’s try to understand just what post-truth is. Ironically, and probably because lying in politics has become so bizarrely used in political language that it has become perhaps one of the most talked about meme words of our time.

The 2016 “Word of the Year Oxford English Dictionaries” entry described post-truth as the public burial of “objective facts” by an avalanche of media “appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

We live in a time where ordinary folk have discarded science, fact and reason for “self-truth”. A truth that is only comprehended by the individual. They have concluded that truth can be seen in perception, not what is but what they perceive it to be.

We see what we are thinking and feeling; seldom what we are looking at.

Because people have opted for their own particular personal truth rather than the science of it.

It is they who shout the loudest. The rest of us are content with the facts we enquired about. Often our opinions are based on feelings rather than their understanding and the difficulty is separating the two.

Life is about perception. Not what is but what we perceive it to be.

In 2018 The Conversation online told us that “post-truth” was only a short journey to bullshit. That bullshit was part and parcel of the Trump/Morrison era of telling lies, half-truths, exaggeration and plain old gilding the lily:

Ever greater sections of the population are ready to ignore facts, and even to accept obvious lies willingly. Not the claim to truth, but the expression of the ‘felt truth’ leads to success in the ‘post-factual age’.

Post-truth depends as well on buffoonery, bits and pieces of colourful communication designed to attract and distract public attention and to interrupt the background noise of conventional politics and public life.

Post-truth also includes forms of public discourse commonly called bullshit. It comprises communication that displaces and nullifies concerns about veracity. Bullshit is hot air talk, verbal excrement that lacks nutrient. It is shooting off at the mouth, backed by the presumption that it is acceptable to others in the conversation.

Post-truth depends as well on buffoonery, bits and pieces of colourful communication designed to attract and distract public attention and to interrupt the background noise of conventional politics and public life.

It is tantamount to placing ones emotion before one’s logic.

Bullshitting is bad enough but when someone believes their own, that is intellectual dishonesty.

So how do we overcome this bullshit, this buffoonery of endless lies, assertions of fake news and repetitive false opinion?

Have we really reached the point in politics where TRUTH is something that politicians have persuaded us to believe, like “alternative facts” rather than TRUTH based on factual evidence, arguments, observation and reason?

When the Prime Minister makes a false statement about our Co2 emissions saying we will meet our Paris commitments in a cantor and he repeats it over and over.

James Fernyhough noticed after Morrison’s elevation to the top job:

Australia’s new prime minister Scott Morrison showed this week he has mastered one of US President Donald Trump’s most amazing tricks: the ability to make claims he and every one else knows are complete nonsense – and to make them with total impunity.

When he continues to make this statement even when his own department and various fact-checkers say he is wrong.

People often argue from within the limitations of their understanding and when their factual evidence is scant, they revert to an expression of their feelings.

How do we rebut him?

The Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita – of Romulus My Father fame – in 2017 wrote an essay in which he explored the principle of post-truth and how we might improve our relationships with others.

Writing in The Canberra Times, of post-truth Kim Hyunh observes that:

First, instead of constant polling, we can judge and assess truths via a “call to seriousness”. To say, “Get serious will ya!” or ask, “Seriously?” is not to be snide or dismiss someone as “a joke”. Nor is it purely fact checking. Rather it means engaging in good faith and robust conversations about common issues of substance.

This might mean asking, “On what authorities are our claims based? Have we considered the best possible information sources? Are we speaking with humility and confidence about things we know well, or are we bullshitting? Do we need to place a check on our interests and emotions?

But for me a call to seriousness also means regarding others in the same way that Trump supporters regard their president. A CNN reporter famously said that Trump’s critics took him literally but not seriously, while for his supporters it was the other way around. In supporting people in our lives, it is valuable to take them seriously, but not always literally.

Olivier Goldhill in a piece for Quartz said this:

The fact that so many people are upset at Trump’s lies shows that we still value and recognize the truth. “At the moment, enough people are aghast, and precisely because they expect people to be truthful about what they’ve said,” says Blackburn. In other words, the distress over “post-truth” discourse is in itself an indication that truth lives on.

I would be the first to admit that we are really up against it. We have a formidable list of opponents stacked against us. There is an urgent need for our schools’ curriculum to include a politics component.

If you find yourself in a discussion on a debating site present your facts ask them for theirs and be polite. What the post-truth believers want you to do is lose your block. Don’t. Be polite and get out of the debate. They hate politeness.

Sites like The AIMN play an important role in so much as we keep the faithful well-informed, supplied with the facts, ideas and opinions, contrary thoughts and self-criticism.

The Australian Government is full of some of the most committed liars we have ever witnessed and you can, now that they have confirmed that they can get away with it, be assured that it will get worse before it gets better.

A recent survey conducted for the Royal Society Open Science showed that, in Australia, once politicians were caught out lying around four times the support for them declined.

A similar survey in the US showed that even when politicians lied up to 80% of the time, support for them barely wavered.

The survey results raised the question about the importance of fact-checking what politicians say, with findings showing that voters came to a decision based on “emotion and gut feelings” rather than the facts.

There was a time when Australian politicians, where caught lying, inadvertently or on purpose, or by mistake, they would immediately correct themselves.

Nowadays when confronted with an opposing view that has commonly accepted facts on its side. Facts, that challenge the fundamental principles of the enlightenment. Facts, which are premised on the belief that there are objective facts discoverable through investigation, empirical evidence, rationality, and scientific means of enquiry. They will still lie.

My thought for the day

Do you shape the truth for the sake of a good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there is always pain in truth but there is no harm in it.

 

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20 comments

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  1. whatever

    This is the Right suddenly adopting the Post Modernist critique about a ‘plurality’ of cultural narratives.
    They adopt only what suits them, of course. As long as you include Corporate Tax cuts within your crazy, misinformed misunderstanding of the world the Right will champion your wilful ignorance.

  2. Terence Mills

    The Reserve Bank are telling us that our economy is in crisis mode and that we need urgent government spending on infrastructure to get things moving. Yet we have a government ideologically committed to slashing revenues into the future at a time when those revenues could be contributing to economic stimulus.

    So the government has to turn to borrowing to fund infrastructure at a time when we have been assured that government debt – which has doubled under this government – would be paid down.

    Doesn’t seem to make much sense to me !

    And now I hear that the government’s legislative priorities are to repeal the Medevac laws and introduce new religious freedom laws.

  3. Peter F

    Terence, we must understand that, if the Tax laws are passed, the coalition has achieved all that it told the electorate it intended to do.

  4. whatever

    Something that has been hapening on ABC Radio lately is quite disturbing.

    The 7 AM news bulletin is always headlined by LNP talking-points (which are exactly the same groupthink headlines in The Australian). The transition from the usual ABC news that you were listening to an hour ago is very noticeable. Its almost like a cadre of LNP stooges started their morning shift at our ABC and got that “NewsCycle” spinnining the way they want it to.

  5. Matters Not

    In Australia we have Hugh White saying we must spend much more on weapons of war – more aircraft, submarines and the like. That’s his ‘truth’ – his construction of reality – that leads him to arm up.

    Yet, in the United States we see Soros from the Left and Koch from the Right coming together to pursue a different path.

    In one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history, Soros and Charles Koch, … are joining to finance a new foreign-policy think tank in Washington. It will promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing.

    This is a radical notion in Washington, where every major think tank promotes some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism. Soros and Koch are uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States. The street cred they bring from both ends of the political spectrum — along with the money they are providing — will make this new think tank an off-pitch voice for statesmanship amid a Washington chorus that promotes brinksmanship.

    When Soros and Koch (who are opposite ends of the ideological spectrum) can see the metaphorical light, there yet might be a light at the end of the tunnel for us as well. Hugh White should note.

    https://johnmenadue.com/stephen-kinzer-in-an-astonishing-turn-george-soros-and-charles-koch-team-up-to-end-us-forever-war-policy-boston-globe-30-june-2019/

    For those not au fait with the two mentioned.

    BESIDES BEING BILLIONAIRES and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common. They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its “forever war” and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.

    Wonders will never cease.

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    Mr Lord, all what you say is indeed true, but it is only possible because the people have discarded any semblance of critical thought, lazily accepting whatever they are told or read or see, and thereby making it almost a given that those whose sole aim is to befuddle and confuse, find it very easy to succeed. As you point out, there is no better example than this dork of a PM, who can continue with impunity because he knows he has the complete support and backing of almost the entire media. But this really begs the question, are we as so-called educated population, so vulnerable, so pliable ?

  7. wam

    What a great start to a Wednesday, lord!
    After half an hour freezing in the pool, your recurring thought on how truth never ‘harms’ warmed me up.
    I thought of the times you could have discussed the truths about the election result in Queensland.
    Did the bob brown’s ‘caravan’ influence the result in Queensland true false prefer not to answer
    The timing of the trip was a deliberate decision? true false prefer not to answer
    The confrontation in townsville lost labor votes and boosted the green vote in Queensland true false prefer not to answer

    Men of our age went through a time when menzies and the war set the truth. Perhaps that explains your ignorance of rashomon (or Ugetsu).
    Perhaps this quote may be easier”
    The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. John F. Kennedy
    Those who believe that the libs are better economic managers are accepting the truth of a myth and making the lie true???
    ps
    Now that the tax change has passed: How do you feel, bob? Just like xmas 2009???

  8. Kaye Lee

    Very interesting MN.

    War is such a waste of time, money and resources. But those who have invested their lives in the military are blind to other solutions. It is utterly ridiculous to think that the billions we are spending on outdated weapons of war are any sort of deterrent to nations who already have vastly more military resources at their disposal.

    As I have said many times, Australia should stick to what we are good at – emergency response, disaster relief, humanitarian aid, search and rescue, peacekeeping and rebuilding.

    If you help your neighbours they are much less likely to want to harm you. Modern warfare will have nothing to do with bombs – but as always, the Coalition wants to spend a potload of money on last century’s methods.

    PS The tax cuts haven’t passed the senate yet wam

  9. Andrew Smith

    Jane Mayer in Dark Money speaks of the ‘media assembly line’ developed with support of Kochs et al. using academia and think tanks to do ‘research’ which is then used and spun by media, and below the line comments, while any policy message or model legislation is being sold to MPs, advisors and committees. Further, her description of the objective is disturbing, not influencing ‘what we think’ but ‘how we think’ or not.

    One finds it difficult with too many, including educated, Australians (like English, Turkish etc.) who prefer short glib one liners to communicate or not, presenting their opinion or belief as a yes/no question demanding agreement or incapable of asking an open question then patiently listening to the answer. Sign of impatience, haste, insecurity and fear of hearing something different or difficult to process.

    This is similar to Lynton Crosby’s comment that it’s about ‘getting to people’s hearts not heads’ to react on key issues (code for facts don’t matter but emotions do?), especially manipulative when it comes to the oldies (buzz in mother’s aged care facility was that economy is booming….).

    I also have noticed how ABC News 24 has been influenced with constant QLD focus running up to elections (e.g. some bulletins first 10-15 minutes) on drought (no mention of climate change), farmers, firies, families, vox pops, domestics etc. all presented with focus upon emotions, while expert or qualified explanations or background lacking.

    Think we are in a transition of both demographics where younger generations of diversity or non Anglo Irish background will become more empowered and traditional media will be challenged further by declining ageing audiences, but where does this lead us who knows?

    One good story on the machinations or why Conservatives and radical right libertarians feel compelled to manipulate media, messaging and the public, especially voters, is that they know they cannot gain or maintain power through promoting policies not appreciated by the majority; manipulating voters and key electorates.

  10. Kerri

    It has been so long since I heard truth in political leadership that I am not sure I would recognise?
    The lies overwhelm the public and out goes the baby with the bathwater.
    I just know that I don’t want my country to become a Pentecostal Caliphate.

  11. James Cook

    Great work John. Unfortunately, you are correct when you say that the AIMN does a great job in keeping the “faithful” informed. I say “unfortunately” because the “unfaithful” – those who rely on the “truth” of the MSM – overwhelmingly outnumber us. I cannot see that changing anytime in the near, or even distant, future. Doesn’t mean we won’t keep reading, sharing and trying!

  12. David Stakes

    The repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth is becoming even stronger now.

  13. wam

    Kaye,
    Sadly war wins elections and weapons are easy to sell. Labor is unlikely to question the results of the lnp purchases. or contracts to purchase. This reticence allowed the pynenut to get elected with a question on why he chose the frogs to build the subs in 10 years at $50b rather than german or japanese subs built in Australia by Australians starting 2015. Notr his job and for good measure nothing by labor on robb’s shithouse FTA with china.
    At few words to 7 or 9 and controversy reigns?
    As example if kyrgios and barty were on at the same time who would we watch no comparison but who is most likely to fuck up? so who does ch 7 put on the air???
    As for tax notice bandt big noting himself and downing labor?
    The little prick should be ashamed.

  14. totaram

    wam: “The little prick should be ashamed.”

    For once I agree with you. This seems to be a big problem with the progressive side of politics. If they keep doing this, they can’t ever win. Coalition forever!

  15. John L

    You have the truth, verifiable facts. Then, all the rest, if repeated unashamedly in the face of evidence to the contrary, are lies!
    Call them for what they are!

  16. Matters Not

    Seems to me that the number of ‘facts’ available when considering a particular incident approaches infinity. For example, some years ago, I had a serious car accident and I still can’t work out why. Factually, I know that the car was a Holden. It was new – as was the bitumen on which I was travelling. Rain was falling. The traffic lights were down. The tide was out. The wife was nagging. The mobile was ringing. It was my birthday. We had two glasses of wine for lunch. Rudd was just sacked. Kangaroos were jumping. Birds were singing. Crickets were stridulating very loudly. Etc, etc … The moon was rising. The fish were jumping …

    Yep as long as we have the facts (all the facts), then we know what meaning to give to events. BULLSHIT! Simplistic nonsense.

    (In the end, the Magistrate didn’t even consider the all the possible ‘facts’ available and decided to … Take your pick.)

    Facts, while necessary, don’t provide insight. Just like nails and timber do not make a bulding

  17. Zathras

    Politicians and their parties ares now more driven by certain interest groups than about following ideologies and voters are now much the same.

    Some politicians want to protect various institutions (such as coal mining or the banks) at all costs so inconvenient facts just seem to get in the way and can be brushed aside.

    Likewise, voters are largely controlled by financial self interest and short-term gain and many also have short memories. Some are also addicted to rage and allocating blame for their own problems onto others and both the shock-jocks and the politicians know this and use it. They don’t appeal to facts and logic but rather to emotion, fear and selfishness and there’s at least one political party that is entirely based on such things.

    It’s no longer the truth that matters but, like religion itself, who can tell the most convincing and reassuring lies.

  18. Wobbley

    After the so-called election win by the fascists federally, I was thinking of an old Cheech and Chong skit by where the tormentor in the dungeon repeatedly demands that the old man “sign zee papers”. After more torture and more pleading to know what was demanded to be signed the tormentor finally conceded and divulged that the papers that needed to be signed by the prisoner was to acknowledge that he had not been treated poorly by his captors. Sounds just like the fascist government that was re-elected by the main stream media and the absolutely dumbarse northern and western electorates of Australia.

  19. Terence

    Let’s call it for what it is – The majority of people are stupid – FULLSTOP, END OF STORY!

    From an intellectual, evolutionary perspective, any gains made after the Enlightenment have been all but wiped out in half a century. Most of the population appear to grow to the emotional intelligence level of a 5 year old and then maintain that self- absorbed, narcissistic attitude for the rest of their lives, having no self awareness or empathy for anything outside their tiny orbit.

    In an age where people have more information than ever to base decisions and conclusions on, we appear to be making dumber and dumber decisions.

    There really is no excuse.

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