Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani

Donald Trump has created an industry for writers and book sellers.
To most people I respect it is a great mystery why so many people admire him.  Michiko Kakutani is another who offers some more thoughts on the subject.

Michiko alluded to "Identity" a book Francis Fukyama felt compelled to write after his-earlier book "The End of History" had to be updated as Trump had set back the progressive path had been supposedly set in motion for civilization.
Some thoughts on Fukuyama's latest book (it is very good as well)

The 2008 crash didn't hurt banks, but thousands lost jobs, while others suffered wages cuts and inequality increased.  The people's anger has been diverted with scapegoats such as Mexicans, Muslims, minorities socialistic thinking.  The role of de-regulations is ignored.  The coming issue of increasing automation and artificial intelligence is not brought up.  The 1% are steadily increasing their control while the masses are stirred up truly "fake news."

Gaining power has become ruthless with the first casualty, truth.   Lee Atwater, a Republican operative partially responsible for Ronald Reagan's success once said,  "perception is reality"   Among many other things Ronald Reagan deregulated media resulting in greater concentration of the message senders.  He also did away with service requirements and a fairness policy.  Broadcasters did what was intended, focusing on profits.  News became part of the entertainment package and changed to become part of the profit effort partly through sensationalism and partly through segmenting profitable niches.  Newt Gingrich quoted "As a political candidate I'll go with how people feel and I'll let you go with the theoretician."

Tom Nicholls:  If citizens do not bother to gain basic literacy in the issues that affect their lives they abdictate control over those issues whether they like it or not.  And when voters lose control over these important discussions they risk the hi-jacking of their democracy.

Michiko made some observations after reading "Amusing ourselves to death" by Neil Postman.  Postman discussed the approaches of George Orwell to Aldous Huxley with respect to the predicted future dystopia.  George Orwell visualized a tightening of information through censorship, but also blatant distortion of reality  and most of us cynical future observers have adopted this viewpoint.  Huxley on the other had visualized a drug infused atmosphere where the pursuit of pleasure obscured awareness of reality.  Postman favored this likelihood.  Both scenarios assume the power at the top were immune from the truth. Postman was writing about the insidious role of television, but his observations are even more relevant today.  Read my take on his book:

One of Trump's heroes, Vladimir Putin is a master of lying. or maybe it is just a manifestation  of power.  Putin lies, denies and then brags about it.  Ukraine was a good example of how a powerful man can lie  One of Trump's methods from Robert A Heinlein, "  You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic."
One way to distort truth is the use of false equivalences.  If a fact points to a foul deed it is quickly pointed out that both sides are guilty so it is no big deal.  Science is belittled at every opportunity because all too often it suggests a change in policy is required.

Thomas Jefferson opined that men need to be governed by truth and reason.  A necessary requirement was a free press.  Tyrants seek to stifle a free press.

There are a few hopeful blimps the author notes.   The Parkland students  campaigning for greater gun control have forced a small retreat by established advocates for more gun freedoms.  They supposedly are too naive, but thank goodness they have persisted.

Last two sentences from the author:  "Without truth, democracy is hobbled.  The founders recognized this and those seeking democracy survival must recognize it to-day."

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