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Saturday, September 1, 2018

In a world where opinions are valued more than fact, government is occupied by fools & narcissistic morons

In a world where opinions are valued more than fact, government is occupied by fools & narcissistic morons

Back in the day, people would vote for politicians based on policies and values. These days, we've seen people quite proudly declare that they vote for politicians such as Donald Trump or Pauline Hanson, because they 'speak their mind'. This indicates that many voters are more interested in a politician's opinion than in their competence or integrity. It also indicates, that when politicians do speak their mind, it will only reflect the populist opinion of the day in order to get elected.

Similarly, back in the day, people would read newspapers to get the facts on particular events. These days, many of the mainstream news services report opinion as though it was fact. Nek minnit, people are running around citing the rantings of Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and their ilk as being fact, when they are really just highly-paid, unqualified polemicists looking to stir division and controversy.

As author Toni Aleo once incisively reflected,  'opinions are like assholes, everyone has one, and most of them are just full of shit'.

Harsh, but nailed it.

When real journalists report facts, provide context and question the claims, actions and double-standards of politicians, these pollies and their cortege of unquestioning devotees scream 'fake news' and blame 'post-modern, neo-Marxist relativism' for daring to provide evidence-based reporting.

Even Kelly-Anne Conway, counsellor to the puerile, maladroit and feckless US President Donald Trump, declared that falsehoods spoken within the Trump administration were simply 'alternative facts' ... so yeah ... this is where we're at ... the greatest empire the world has ever seen, is ruled by a feeble-minded fibber who transmogrifies rubbery opinions and blatant bullshit into 'alternative facts' to suit his narcissistic need for acceptance and popularity among small-minded people who can't accept the slightest challenge to their ignorant world view that often manifests in bigoted attacks on people who are not white, not Christian, not heterosexual, and not right-wing.

Way back in 1920, journo and satirist, Henry Louis Mencken made a blistering observation of what the ultimate fulfilment of democracy would be when the people get exactly what they want. In an era of post-truth Trumpism where opinion is more valued than fact, Mencken's words have proven disturbingly prophetic when he predicted that 'on some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron' ... but hey, at least Trump 'speaks his mind'!

Some of Trump's deluded and fanatical followers are Christians who blindly support him, overlooking his lies, indiscretions and infidelities, while claiming he is annointed of God. The only thing Trump is annointed with is golden showers from Russian hookers. As Willz, one of our guest bloggers recently remarked, it is more like Trump is the anti-Christ who banged the whore of Babylon.

In Australia, the Liberal Party which is currently dominated by extremist right-wing Christians, has dramatically slashed funding of the ABC and SBS. These publicly-funded networks have charters that require them to provide balanced reporting of fact rather than opinion. Yet the rabid right-wing attack ABC and SBS for being too left-wing ... apparently when you're so right-wing that reports of other views and facts that don't suit your little circle of ignorance, must be part of a neo-Marxist, left-wing agenda. With their benighted heads buried so deep in the right-wing paranoia of shock-jock vituperation, balanced reporting looks like a left-wing conspiracy to the rabid right.

The rabid right will claim that they stand for freedom, truth, Christian values, while accusing the left-wing of being snowflakes who are easily offended and who stand for political correctness and social justice (apparently this is an insult in the feeble-minded minds of the rabid right). Yet many on the extreme right curl into fetal positions when the cognitive dissonance between their ignorance and truth gets too much. They'll then revert to one of their comfortable positions: stop same-sex marriage, stop abortion, stop Islam, stop socialism ... yada, yada, yada.

Instead of trying to make the world a better place, to understand facts without going fetal when truth doesn't match their ignorance, they'll wrap themselves in their national flag and accuse the more enlightened of being elitists, traitors, do-gooders. Apparently nothing says patriotism like championing fascism, neo-Nazism and vilifying more moderate voices.

In a world dominated by social media, tweets and memes hold more weight than peer-reviewed, evidence-based dissertation. Even the fustian Trump fires off brash tweets that his minions are left having to justify and defend ... after all, truth is not important in the post-truth world of the Trump empire ... truth is whatever you're told and don't dare challenge it.

Here's some advice for those who get their news from tweets, memes and Fox:

Tweets do not necessarily equal truth ... and truth does not always equal fact, because truth can be based on interpretation rather than context. For example, two people looking at a symbol painted on the ground, one claims it is a 6, the other claims it is a 9.

Which person is correct? Are both correct? Are both wrong? What they have both said may be truth. It may be a 6 or a 9. However, the 'fact' will depend on a number of things. Did the artist intend on it being a 6 or 9. If so, then only one of them is correct, although the 'fact' was ambiguous because it looks like both a 6 and a 9. In this case, one of them needs to reorient their position to see the fact. Perhaps, the artist intended for it to be both a 6 and a 9, so in this case, both people are correct. Perhaps the artist had painted the letter 'g', in which case both people are wrong. What this shows, is that we can't just accept someone's opinion no matter how correct it looks. We should always question, we should always put things into context. This example demonstrates the inherent problem in dissing relativism, because the opposite of relativism is absolutism. An absolutist would defend to the death their view of this, whether it was a 6 or 9, yet they could have been incorrectly oriented or it may have been a 'g' and not a number at all.

The problem is that for a lot of people, their narrow world-view needs to be boiled down to its most simplistic. Former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, realised this and reduced his policy statements to three-word slogans, such as 'stop the boats' and 'axe the tax'. These resonated with his fans, however, it completely ignored the complexity of the issues that underpinned the situations that he was talking about.

Canadian professor and philosopher, Marshall McLuhan (1911 to 1980) summed up the situation well, 'a point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted or insight and understanding'.

Interestingly, McLuhan also astutely observed that 'Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be'. Politicians are not interested in fact, truth and what's good for society, but merely in twisting facts and truth for their own self-serving desires.

In a world of alternative facts, opinionated shysters, deceitful politicians and a gullible public, who needs critical thought when it can't fit into a meme or a slogan?