Friday, 17 February 2017

Truth, spin, bullshit and lies

In my childhood, I was taught not to lie, to tell the truth. Parents, teachers, priests would all say in unison - fibs are bad, truth is good. The world has moved on. Lies in politics once meant the end of a career. Then came Spin. "From their point of view, it looks like this. From our point of view, it looks quite different." Then came bullshit - "I don't know if what I'm saying is right or wrong, and frankly I don't care." Now come lies. "I know it's not true, but it benefits me politically to say it." Of course, lies are not labeled as such by the liars - they're alternative facts.

From trying to find the positive angle to simply lying about things. What Trump's victory is telling us is - it's OK to lie and cheat.

A slogan seen at an anti-Trump demo that has since gone viral reads: "What do we want? Scientific proof. When do we want them? After peer review." Brilliant. Yes - let's all work together to analyse assertions, check facts, point out lies and bullshit.

Agent Fox Mulder's oft-repeated quote "I want to believe" from the 1990s TV show The X Files is the other side of the coin. Liars need people to lie to. Disaffected voters want to believe in what 'alternative' politicians are telling them, the alternative to the mainstream, the establishment, the elites, that they blame for their woes. They shut their eyes and ears to uncomfortable truths, preferring the opiates offered to them by the liars.

It's about knowing. Facts. Truth. It takes effort, to read, to follow complex arguments, sift through long documents; but above all it takes trust, trust in sources of information. 

Russian communism was based on lies. Soctiechnika - the technique of manipulating society based on dezinformatsiya, and provokatsiya - taught to functionaries at party and security service schools. The 'Four Ds' - distract, deny, distort, dismay, used from Bolshevik times to the present days. "You Soviets lock up your dissidents into psychiatric hospitals!" "So what - you Americans lynch negroes." Today it's no different. In Soviet days, the party newspaper was called Pravda - truth - it's readers knew its leaden, turgid dogma was anything but. Putin's Russia has moved on. Out goes the Marxist-Leninist doctrine, in come racy game shows, light entertainment to leaven the propaganda that's designed to confuse; rather than to foist a turgid world view on the people, the Kremlin today is saying that everything's rubbish, nothing's real, give up, trust no one.

Lies, manipulation, deceit - verbal and visual. Photoshop gives editors the power to create images that look real enough to believe. Below: a flying saucer, shortly before crashing into the frozen lake at Jeziorki. Or not. 


When the current shit-storm over Trump, Putin, Brexit, and here in Poland over dobra zmiana has finally settled down, hopefully without undue bloodshed, the voters of the world will rub their eyes and start demanding peer-reviewed proof - about climate change, about migration and the economy, about how our nations and our businesses are run, how our tax money is spent. Trust but verify, to quote Ronald Reagan. Things will get better; it is cyclical. There's a long wave in history, not so much repeating as rhyming. I'm forever optimistic, this is no time for world-weary cynicism. Succumb to it and the bastards will have won.

Finally, Senator John McCain, speaking at the Munich Security Conference today: "We must never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our values  - truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, hope against despair."

Our values. Very much so.

I'll leave it there.

This time last year:
How much spirituality do we need?

This time four years ago:
The Chosen Ones

This time five years ago:
Fixies in the snow

This time eight years ago:
Just the ticket

3 comments:

whitehorsepilgrim said...

That's an interesting quote by Mr McCain. I agree that "We must never cease to believe in the moral superiority of truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, hope against despair." His calling them "our values" may be correct if he is addressing us personally, but these aren't "our" values in the context of whole nations. Our challenge is to convert the majority of people back to truth, freedom and hope, indeed to show people what these terms mean.

As an engineer, truth is at the centre of my profession. What traffic will use that bridge? Is it strong enough? What will it cost to build? Is the safety of people building and using it assured? What are the assumptions and risks? Likewise by analogy for doctors, accountants, farmers, hairdressers and everyone else pursuing a profession. How sad that people in the profession of leadership (isn't that what politics should be?) so often profit from lying!

Gordon Hawley said...

Please stop spreading your nonsense.

The fact is John McCain visited Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria, right before civil wars broke out in all of them.

He is one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Hell bent at fermenting war with Russia at all costs. He is a paid agent of the arms industry and works with the hawks in the Pentagon. He is responsible for the war in the Ukraine and the rise of ISIS.

MICHAEL LUTHER-DAVIES said...

Duda who promised help with the CHF mortgages in Poland.