December 12, 2019: What is “truth” in America’s post-truth fog, and how can we find it?

“Ours is a nation of liars, John. We lie about the big things, we lie about the small, we lie about it all… Why? Because lies elevate our self-esteem, blame somebody else, defend our tribes, and are worth a lot of money.” Such are the words of a fictional character, Morgan Whitaker, spoken to his son, John, ca. 2028. [1] Morgan continues, “Remember, John, America’s most important commodity is doubt. Spawn it, you paralyze correction and get rich. Remove it with dogma, you create impossibly perfect certainty. You’re dealing with cunning primates. Never forget that.”

If the previous 30-years have not proven this is America's reality, the last seven have. Truth is now the enemy of political dogma as physical truths in nature have been the enemy of mythical aspects in religious dogma for centuries. But lies and dogma imply conscious knowledge of truth. What is "truth" in a post-truth America, and how can we find it?

The fog started long ago. Postmodernism led the way. Postmodernism was born from a mid-twentieth-century notion that Western reason was responsible for or could not stop the Great Depression and two world wars, so reason was to be replaced by pseudo-reason, by all appearances, on its own terms. As Wikipedia has it, while "Various authors have criticized postmodernism as promoting obscurantism…" postmodernists claim, "objective facts are dismissed as naive realism." Like the conservation of mass/energy and angular momentum, Newtonian mechanics or Maxwell's electromagnetism - from which all working technologies are built, performing just as science designed them to work. From the beginning, leftist French postmodernists of the 1950s and '60s claimed a paradox: the truth is there is no truth. Then they proclaimed the "truth of relativity" of values, traditions, norms, knowledge. This served to dismantle moral judgment, which requires a footing on social norms of assumed certainty, which happened to have been the individualistic utility of this "philosophy." But postmodernism aimed at much bigger game. In Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut's, French Philosophy of the Sixties, we find that once Marxism could be seen to fail its meeting with human nature, postmodernism became the radical Left's tool against the West built on ancient Greek philosophy and European Enlightenment foundations of reason. [2] To emphasize its anti-West posture, every other culture became its favorite. A minority of anything became superior to the majority of anything else. And all which was not Western took on the halo of what Bertrand Russel termed, "The superior virtue of the oppressed."

However, at the root of right-reason is a core of healthy doubt; a recognition of fallibility to preserve open-minded examination in the interest of truth. Postmodernists transformed this doubt from a stimulus for knowledge to paralysis. By the end of the Sixties, French postmodernism infected American universities, which commenced to flush its untreated (and untested) notions in torrents from academia to literature, media, and policymakers. A public philosophy of relativism began to leach its way through the American psyche. Postmodernists were building a vacuum. But the human psyche abhors a vacuum, especially for those losing their traditions. The vacuum was looking for a way to fill.

What the postmodern Left pioneered as doubt in knowledge was eventually embraced as doubt in facts by our political Right. Alternative facts, declared by Trump apologist Kellyanne Conaway, and truth isn’t truth, pronounced by likely-to-be-indicted Rudy Giuliani, were just what the postmodern Left declared under guard of academic freedom. [3] The Right recognized this postmodernist implement for breeding doubt and dogma for political gain through lies, practiced with such alacrity that as Paul Waldman writes, “lying is not only permitted but mandatory.” [4]

These lies, doubt, and dogma are now the grist of Right-wing American radio talkers in support of Trump, like Rush Limbaugh (I listen daily), hatched by removal of the Fairness Doctrine. [5] Just one day after DOJ Inspector General Horowitz released his report exonerating the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s Russia connections but not their FISA procedures, Limbaugh claimed the very opposite of IG findings. "The IG report confirms there was...there is an ongoing coup to get rid of Trump," he said. [6] Limbaugh has even divined that Russians who met Trump’s team over 140 times weren’t Russian, but FBI agents seeking entrapment. Limbaugh’s delivery is masterful. After 28-years of practice, America has no better liar. Thus, a better propagandist than even Sean Hannity on FOX, also a first-rate liar. As 69-year-old Limbaugh likes to tell, “I know all about this stuff, my dad was a lawyer.” (Not his strongest moment.)

But when confronted with over 30-years of experience in law by Inspector General Horowitz, 8-years as IG, with his staff having reviewed almost one million documents and 170 interviews of over 100 people with all the FBI levers at their disposal, who do we believe, Horowitz, or a talk-radio propagandist?


Let's see…


Who can say?

Such tools, leveraged by the Right (or anybody: Stalin, Mao, Hitler), are not novel, but their sweeping magnitude is new to this country. The closest example to what our Right-wing has raised to a refined art comes from Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine for the Nazis. [7] And as with 1930s Germany, such machinery is not about tribal turf alone. Moral philosopher Stuart Rachels charts a clear path from the rejection of truth to loss of trust to despotism. [8]

But there's another problem. Given that virtue so cherished by the ancients and the early Christians is dead on the New Right in America; [9] given character no longer matters in America; given winning the world while losing one's soul is how things get done, not the starry-eyed preachings applied to daily life by some wandering carpenter, then perhaps Mr. Horowitz, like ex-Attorney General and Trump loyalist William Barr, also an experienced lawyer, is just a partisan liar. How complicated things get in a post-truth country. [10]

So, where can we find truth through all this smoke? There’s no better source of truth than science. Nature tells us unconditional truth through measured data with zero concern for human political perversities. Problem is, much of what we deal with is not conducive to scientific measurement. But it is subject to that foundation of science targeted by liberal postmodernists and GOPP conservatives: reason. [11]

Take for example…Trump. Here’s a man who bragged about his adultery and draft-dodging; [12] a man who claimed to raise $6M for veterans (it was $2.8M), found guilty of misusing those funds, fined $2M, and the “charity” dissolved; [13] a man found guilty and penalized $25M for stealing millions of dollars from thousands of students at his fake university; [14] a man found after two years of Mueller’s FBI investigation to have colluded (not “conspired”) with Russia to cheat the 2016 election, obstructing justice 10 times. [15] Notice, the Mueller Report was validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. [16] Of the thousands of media reports concerning Trump’s corruption from center Left (CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, WaPo) to Left (NBC, NPR, NYT) to hard Left (MSNBC), all but a handful of their reports have been correct. The mainstream media was validated by Mueller, the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, our own observations, and Trump himself. I saw and heard Trump deny his payoffs of prostitutes; deny he or his staff had any contact with Russia; deny he had business with Russia; deny Obama was born in the USA, and deny his extortion of Ukraine, to name a very few examples, then admit to all of it. Including his extortion of Ukraine, which he denies, admits, then denies again. [17] After all, who can keep track? Not even the lifelong liar.

So, if Trump says something, and the mainstream media, CIA, NSA, FBI, or any of the other 14 intel agencies contradict him, is the question “Who’s telling the truth?” a hard call to make?


There’s also fact-checkers like, PoltiFact (Pulitzer Prize winner), and who risk their very lives against Russian assassins for revealing so much murder and corruption by Trump’s best friend, Vlad. [18] Naturally, some sites self-designate as fact-checkers only to hawk their propaganda—be weary. For Trump, PolitiFact has page after page of his “Pants On Fire” lies, and more for “All false statements involving Donald Trump” (pull up a chair). [19] The Washington Post keeps a tally of Trump’s lies, totaling 13,435 after 993 days in office. This doesn’t count the number of Trump lies since birth. Given he’s almost 74; we can estimate (excluding lies in the womb [20]) that he’s lied approximately 365,437 times since he could first babble and drool. If Trump’s luck holds out, he might exceed a half-million lies before he’s hanged. At last, Trump can earn something honestly, without cheating to make up for his defects.

Pause to consider this argument. Right-wing media is composed of Goebbels-like propagandists; Trump has established his place in history as a serial liar and one-man crime wave; the mainstream media has an established track record, validated by the FBI, Republican Senate, and personal observation; all of us have eyes and hears that with simple honesty reveals these truths. Isn’t it plain common sense to look to ourselves and the Left-wing media (with reasonable skepticism) for facts, at least when it comes to Trump? I reference all the above for just this reason: proven performance.

It seems to me, the only way to find the truth is to be able to tell the truth. To do this—our biggest obstacle in tribal America—requires we divorce our tribe / Party / identity. Otherwise, as “cunning primates” we’re obligated to lie for it, just as I lied for my conservative tribe until the Iraq invasion. You’ll lose that sense of faux “community” and ersatz-belonging, but you won’t foul your surroundings with devout liars either.

But there’s yet another problem. We now possess a system solidifying clannism combined with techno-capitalism that kills democracies they spring from. Our impulsive passions support the multi-billion-dollar business models of Facebook (Fakebook?) and Twitter that leverage passions for profit and a national meltdown stoked by foreign hostiles. By American business ethics, why should Facebook care? Business in America is about the dollar, not the flag.

First, regulate social media until their ears bleed. Then implement the systemic solutions of Johnathan Rauch. [21] In agreement with our Founders, don’t rely on humans to do the right thing. Rely on their laws and institutions, reasoned, structured, and implemented to save us from emotions we know will betray us when the time comes. Make gerrymandering illegal, as does the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Eliminate primaries begun in 1912. Primaries cater to cranks and force each candidate to outdo the other in their appeal to base radicals, forcing candidates to somehow turn normal in the general election. Thanks to the primaries, Trump was mainstreamed by a mere 11% of the total national electorate (14M of 129M). [22] Make Congressional votes opaque again so representatives can vote freely, not as a performance for special interest groups tracking their every move. Bring back pork-barrel politics. It was removed by good intentions because it was a waste of money, but now these politicians have nothing to trade in their deal-making. Require by law that all members of Congress must live full time during their tenure in D.C., not renters Monday-Thursday. Bring back the old social gatherings between Parties, when a single Representative would dine with another of the other side to discuss policy. In ways peculiar to humans, under face-to-face conditions, they’ll venture into other matters like family, hobbies, and upbringing. Imagine that. As a Senator once said, “It’s really hard to hate your political opponent when you know his wife and kids.” [23] In short, make the system humane, reasoned, and capable of sustaining civilization, not burning it down the way we’re about to.

So ends this second of five irregular posts before the U.S. Senate takes our first step to monarchy.

[1] Brett Williams, The Worst of Things: America in the 21st Century, Combustible Books, 2019
[2] Postmodernists decided Western reason was responsible for two world wars, so reason was to be replaced by pseudo-reason, by all appearances, on its own terms. Luc Ferry & Alain Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, UMass Press, 1990.
[3] Alternative facts, Wikipedia. Caroline Kenny, Rudy Giuliani says 'truth isn't truth', CNN, August 19, 2018
[4] Paul Waldman, href="" rel="external"Why the Republican commitment to lying will outlast Trump, Washington Post, December 10, 2019.
[5] The Fairness Doctrine required both sides of an argument be presented to balance naturally unbalanced humans. Dylan Matthews, FCC fairness doctrine, Wikipedia. Matthew Haag and Maya Salam, Everything you need to know about the Fairness Doctrine in one post, Washington Post, August 23, 2011
[7] Joseph Goebbels, Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, AVON, 1979
[8] Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, McGraw-Hill, 2010
[9] Virtue is a community characteristic, communities were killed by individualism.
[10] If Trump had an operative brain cell, he’d use his term of “shithole countries” on this one. Not a material shithole, a moral shithole. Given morality is outside his purview, no such connection is possible.
[11] GOPP: Grand Old Putin Party.
[12] Max Rosenthal, The Trump Files: Listen to Donald Brag About His Affairs—While Pretending to Be Someone Else, Mother Jones, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016. Trump says sex in the Eighties was 'his personal Vietnam', Daily Mail, video. Steve Eder and Dave Philipps, Donald Trump’s Draft Deferments: Four for College, One for Bad Feet, New York Times, Aug. 1, 2016. Tim Mak, Draft-Dodger Trump Said Sleeping Around Was My ‘Personal Vietnam’, The Daily Beast, Apr. 13, 2017
[13] Merrit Kennedy, Judge Says Trump Must Pay $2 Million Over Misuse Of Foundation Funds, NPR, November 7, 2019
[14] Josh Hafner, Judge finalizes $25 million Trump University settlement for students of 'sham university', USA TODAY, Apr. 10, 2018
[15] The Mueller Report Paperback , The Washington Post, April 30, 2019.
[16] CRISTIANO LIMA, Senate Intel's newest Russia report undermines pro-Trump conspiracy theories, POLITICO, 10/08/2019
[17] Grace Panetta, Watch Trump openly admit on live TV to doing the thing he's accused of in the impeachment inquiry, Business Insider, Nov 22, 2019. Sonam Sheth and Grace Panetta, Trump essentially admitted on live TV to doing the thing he's accused of in the impeachment inquiry, Business Insider, Nov 22, 2019. Conrad Duncan, Fox News host Tucker Carlson admits media is right about Trump’s lying: ‘He’s a full-blown BS artist’, The Independent, 28 November, 2019. Jen Kirby, Donald Trump just tweeted he paid back his lawyer for the Stormy Daniels hush money, VOX, May 3, 2018. Kevin Liptak, Trump now says both China and Ukraine should investigate Bidens, CNN, October 3, 2019. INAE OH, Trump Admits He “Lightly Looked” at Developing a Russian Building Project During the Election, Mother Jones, NOVEMBER 30, 2018. ERIC LUTZ, TRUMP ADMITS RUSSIA HELPED HIM WIN, DENIES IT 20 MINUTES LATER, Vanity Fair, MAY 30, 2019. Merrit Kennedy, Trump admits son met Russian for information on opponent, BBC, 6 August 2018. Glenn Fleishman, , FORTUNE, December 19, 2018. Veracity of statements by Donald Trump, Wikipedia.
[18] Eliot Higgins: Searching for facts in a 'post-truth' world, BBC, HardTALK, 12/11/2019
[19] All Pants on Fire! statements involving Donald Trump, PolitiFACT. All False statements involving Donald Trump, PolitiFACT.
[20] “Excluding lies told in the womb.” Which raises a question: If Trump tells a lie in the womb and nobody hears it, is it a lie?
[21] Jonathan Rauch, How American Politics Went Insane, The Atlantic Monthly, JULY/AUGUST 2016
[22] 2016 United States presidential election, Wikipedia. Results of the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, Wikipedia
[23] The Senator’s name is lost to memory.
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Published on December 12, 2019 19:59
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