Truth Decay: Why and how the idea of truth has come under attack to drive right wing and populist agendas. Falsehoods create more impact - until the mob turns.

Here's a truth. There aren't always two sides to every story. Sometimes, one person tells, respects or recognises the truth (recalling, recounting accurately what happened or is happening) and sometimes the other person is telling a pack of lies - or is badly mistaken - or simply wants to believe what they know isn't true. Sometimes, what people believe to be true is simply false because they're ignorant - or increasingly, because they don't care about truth at all. And just because everyone is equally entitled to an opinion does not mean that all opinions are equally valid. In this regard relativism and post-modernism have been disastrous enablers for the explosion of fake news - and the justifications that persist in upholding their validity. It was never meant to be this way and the despairing part of this is that the validation or "truth" of a particular point of view is, more and more, simply coming down to the number of people who claim to believe it. In other words, democratic process - elections - have become a way to validate (i.e.: "prove") falsehoods. Just look at Brexit or Trump and the role of fake news.

In this struggle for truth in today's media, the right, far-right and populism has been immeasurably empowered at the expense of the liberal-left who keep trying to bring things back to the facts, sound and measured theory, argument (discussion) and the realpolitik of functional compromise. As States of Mind says in the "About" page above: we believe our values and approach is right but what we lack today is influence. That fact is, facts are boring for and inconvenient for many and hysteria, not truth, is being used to engage and interest people, to influence them and whip up fear, indignation and outrage.

Relativism began to take off in the 1960s as something the Left could use to expose the bourgeois western customs and values as nothing more than prejudices and superstitions - and most importantly, lacking in any objective validity. These prevailing values were exposed as no more than habits, routines and subtle forms of indoctrination. It's the same with post-modernism: subjectivity rules and objectivity is false. Since then the populists have hi-jacked these cultural processes to attack the basis of science itself and destroy the idea that there is any such thing as an objective truth about anything. Faith counts for more than intellectual endeavour. It's not for nothing that the philosopher-poet Friedrich Nietzsche argued that "Faith is what you get when you don't want to know the truth." 

Essentially it boils down to this: the populist Trump supporter says: "I don't care what you say, this is how I feel and nothing can change my mind; AND... If you want proof,  I feel this way because of "X""  (let's say "X" stands for "immigrants are responsible for a rise in crime"). But, you reply, "X" isn't true, it's a myth. It's been proven false. In fact "Not X" is actually true (i.e.: crime rates for immigrants are well below the national average). They reply: "Not in my world, it isn't. That's not what I hear." End of discussion.

A fascinating article written by Michiko Kakutani has appeared in the Guardian dealing with the demise of Truth and how it has led the West to Trump - and the manifestations of the ghastly populism that is surging across Europe. He argues that for decades the West - and especially the idiocy of the US and its political partisans - has not been interested in truth as one of the defining characteristics of democratic societies. The outrageousness of Trump's lies and his utter fakeness as a human being mean nothing to many - perhaps the majority - of US voters now. It used to be that States of Mind believed Americans in general were not very good at spotting a fake (how else could they have elected Bush and Co.? How could some of these TV evangelists have almost 100 million followers?) but it has dawned on us that not only can they not spot a fake, they simply don't care if it's fake or not, so long as it makes them feel better or agrees with them. And now it's infecting Europe big-time. We are all on the front line.

There's only one thing States of Mind can say to this: Freud's reality principle makes clear that the crushing truths of reality lie in wait and don't go away. We may try to bury our heads in the sand, repress, suppress, project and follow the "pleasure principle" of our fantasies... but there is a price to pay. It requires more and more mental/psychic energy to keep it going and sooner or later it burns out. If we assume that the reason we (mankind) prefer truth to falsehood is because it's "more real" (i.e.: enables predictions, is reliable and long-term useful) then the life of falsehood is simply on a collision course with something much stronger than even the mass psychology of the people that populists and the conservative right are toying with. It's only a matter of time before it comes crashing down... and with disastrous consequences. Look at Brexit and the asses that are driving that agenda in the UK. Sooner or later they will be strung up like Mussolini and his mistress (forgive my fantasy moment).

As the article states..."For decades now, objectivity – or even the idea that people can aspire toward ascertaining the best available truth – has been falling out of favour. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s well-known observation that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” is more timely than ever: polarisation has grown so extreme that voters have a hard time even agreeing on the same facts. This has been exponentially accelerated by social media, which connects users with like-minded members and supplies them with customised news feeds that reinforce their preconceptions, allowing them to live in ever narrower silos."

We are in serious trouble today - and States of Mind believes it's worse than it looks.

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Mussolini and his mistress hanging by their feet having been killed by the mob. Populists should recognise that the mob is fickle.. and unforgiving of falsehoods that bring disaster....