Speak Truth

I try my best to scour the internet to bring you some of the better, more interesting articles out there. This is easier said than done because we live in a digital age where everything happens so quickly. It is like watching a TV show on fast-forward. Nowhere is this speed more apparent than in the 24 hour news cycle. With multiple breaking news alerts a day the narrative is constantly changing. Opinions are reversed such that what was once received wisdom yesterday will become outdated nonsense tomorrow. Theories and opinions are developed by ‘experts’ at the start of the day only to have them thoroughly debunked before lights out. This makes it really difficult to try and stay on top of things. Here’s comedian Michelle Wolf expanding this theme further:

I mean, yes, we’re all addicted. The news makes money off the ratings, and I think we’re all partly responsible, too, because we keep watching it, and so it’s this vicious cycle. Of course they’re going to keep talking about everything outrageous that is happening, because we keep tuning in. But they’re not doing it to present the news; they’re doing it to present a show of some sort. – Michelle Wolf

Aside from the increasing speed of everything, there is also the fact that with Trump in charge we have this weird normalisation of abnormality. A recent example from a few days ago involves Trump giving an interview with The Sun newspaper. He made some rather politically provocative comments and the backlash to what he said was quite strong from many quarters, to put it mildly. So how did Trump react to all this? He just called the whole thing fakes news. He simply denied saying the actual words he actually said during the actual interview, words that are actually recorded for all to actually hear. The Sun responded to Trump calling them fake news by stating that “To say the president called us ‘fake news’ with any serious intent is, well…fake news.” And round and round we continue to go down the digital rabbit hole.

Trump has a communications strategy which is a classic exercise in Orwellian doublethink: repeating false accusations while also shifting his position from a stance that he held just moments before. He did what he does best in situations like these, he adopted a tactic of sheer dogged efficacy to repeat a lie until it was no longer questioned.

There is a bumper sticker that says “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” Trump lies to the extent that whilst he remains calm, soothed by his lies, the rest of us sit there shaking our heads in disbelief. Therefore speaking truth to power is nigh on impossible when the powerful lie so often and so effectively. I have no idea how to explain this phenomena of normalisation, so I will let someone else take a shot at trying to illuminate us all:

Current Moment

And to hopefully add further clarification to what is going on right now, please find below a selection of articles that I hope you find interesting and informative. As always only selected quotes are presented in most of these, and the articles are worth reading in full. Topics include Love Island, truth, ignorance, and euphemisms. Enjoy!

The Death Of Truth: How We Gave Up On Facts And Ended Up With Trump

Michiko Kakutani, 14 Jul 2018,

Two of the most monstrous regimes in human history came to power in the 20th century, and both were predicated on the violation and despoiling of truth, on the knowledge that cynicism and weariness and fear can make people susceptible to the lies and false promises of leaders bent on unconditional power. As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 book The Origins Of Totalitarianism, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

Donald Trump, the 45th president of the US, lies so prolifically and with such velocity that the Washington Post calculated he’d made 2,140 false or misleading claims during his first year in office – an average of 5.9 a day. His lies – about everything from the investigations into Russian interference in the election, to his popularity and achievements, to how much TV he watches – are only the brightest blinking red light among many warnings of his assault on democratic institutions and norms. He routinely assails the press, the justice system, the intelligence agencies, the electoral system and the civil servants who make the US government tick.

Language is to humans, the writer James Carroll once observed, what water is to fish: “We swim in language. We think in language. We live in language.” This is why Orwell wrote that “political chaos is connected with the decay of language”, divorcing words from meaning and opening up a chasm between a leader’s real and declared aims. This is why the US and the world feel so disoriented by the stream of lies issued by the Trump White House and the president’s use of language to disseminate distrust and discord. And this is why authoritarian regimes throughout history have co‑opted everyday language in an effort to control how people communicate – exactly the way the Ministry of Truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four aims to deny the existence of external reality and safeguard Big Brother’s infallibility.

The Meaning Of Love Island: It Shows The Pain Behind The Instagram Illusion Of A Perfect Life

Mala Mawkin, 04 Jul 2018,

If even these pretty and outwardly confident people can experience such anxiety, doubt and heartache, perhaps it’s OK for the rest of us to feel the same

The adverts are causing body image issues, TV talk shows claim it is “bad for teens” and headlines have dubbed it “toxic and hollow”. Love Island has been accused of epitomising everything that is wrong with the Instagram age – by placing a dozen preened, polished and beautiful contestants on TV in front of a susceptible young audience who end up feeling inferior.

But it’s unfair to say Love Island always has a toxic effect. Instagram has been accused of fuelling a “mental health epidemic” among young people, with the Royal Society for Public Health report naming it the worst social media platform for fuelling depression, anxiety, loneliness, bullying and poor body image. But Love Island might be the antidote.

Because it is filmed 24/7 for every blissful moment, we see the behind-the-scenes tears; for every romantic dalliance, there’s a bitter split. Sure, contestants parade around in swimwear and dress up every night, but we also see them take that makeup off and get into their pyjamas. When Dani Dyer’s boyfriend Jack went into a different villa, with his ex-girlfriend there as a surprise new contestant, Dani said she was scared he would meet a girl with “lipstick, tits, who doesn’t eat toasties every night”. These moments shatter the fakery of social-media images; if even these seemingly perfect people can experience self-doubt and heartbreak, perhaps it’s OK for the rest of us to feel the same.

Maybe this is part of its appeal. On Monday, the show pulled in the highest 16-to-34-year-old audience of any digital channel programme ever, with 1.7 million young viewers out of a total of 3.4 million.

Love Island has given us a salutary window into the psyche of the contestants, behind the confident veneers, and it has revealed a shocking fact: they are just like us. As A&E doctor Alex said when he had struggled, repeatedly, to find a romantic match: “I feel like I’m a leper or something…what is wrong with me?” Name a person who has not felt that way at some point in their lives.

The Ignorant Do Not Have A Right To An Audience

Bryan W Van Norden, 25 Jun 2018,

We are seeing the worsening of a trend that the 20th century German-American philosopher Herbert Marcuse warned of back in 1965: “In endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood.” This form of “free speech,” ironically, supports the tyranny of the majority.

The media are motivated primarily by getting the largest audience possible. This leads to a skewed conception about which controversial perspectives deserve airtime, and what “both sides” of an issue are. How often do you see controversial but well-informed intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Martha Nussbaum on television? Meanwhile, the former child-star Kirk Cameron appears on television to explain that we should not believe in evolutionary theory unless biologists can produce a “crocoduck” as evidence. No wonder we are experiencing what Marcuse described as “the systematic moronization of children and adults alike by publicity and propaganda.”

The invincibly ignorant and the intellectual huckster have every right to express their opinions, but their right to free speech is not the right to an audience.

From Alternative Facts To Tender Age Shelters – How Euphemisms Become Political Weapons Of Mass Distraction

Marina Lambrou, 28 Jun 2018,

The recent images of children in cages provided yet another reason to throw your head into your hands over America’s inhumane treatment of immigrants. So – for most of us – it was a great relief to hear that Donald Trump eventually gave into pressure and signed an executive order to stop enforcing the laws mandating the separation of children from their parents. But there are still many hundreds of young people detained in the euphemistically termed “tender age shelters” – in reality, prisons for children and toddlers.

Who comes up with these terms? They are not fooling anyone – especially as “tender” and “shelters” have completely different meanings to what is, in fact, the enforced separation of children who are then held in cages. That’s the trouble with euphemisms – they can enrich language, but in the hands of politicians they can be strategically used to mislead and disguise brutal practices, concepts and ideas. Euphemisms – or what are known in some quarters as “weasel words” – are used to conceal the truth of unpalatable situations or practises so that they are easier for the public to accept.

Who can forget “collateral damage” – or rather the incidental deaths and injuries of unintended and non-combatant victims? The euphemism – from the Latin word collateralis, which means “together with” – was adopted by the US military in the mid-20th century to describe the unintentional deaths that occurred “together with” the targeting of legitimate targets. The term was first used in the 1961 article “Dispersal, Deterrence, and Damage” by Nobel Prize-winning economist D.C. Schelling. He argued that weapons could be designed and deployed in such a way as to avoid collateral damage and thus control the war.

It didn’t take long for the Trump administration to wheel out one of the more ridiculous euphemisms of recent times. The day after Trump’s inauguration, the counsellor to the US president, Kellyanne Conway, came up with the much-derided “alternative facts” to counter accusations that the then White House press secretary Sean Spicer had lied about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration.

Politicians of all stripes quickly come to realise how useful it can be to soften the impact of unpopular actions with some carefully chosen weasel words. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair was a great user of euphemisms in his political discourse. Many examples can be found in his interviews and speeches in 2003 to justify the Second Gulf War on Iraq, for example. He spoke of the “liberation of Iraq” (meaning occupation), “peace-keeping” (meaning war) and these could only be achieved by “removing Saddam” (meaning his death rather than forcing him from a position of power).

A decade earlier, the slaughter, torture and imprisonment of Bosnian Muslims in Serbia was described as “ethnic cleansing” when there is nothing purifying about these war crimes.

The US government’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” is another example of strategic word choices to disguise systematic torture. When he was US president, Barack Obama tended to avoid using the word “war”, preferring to use words such as “effort”, “process”, “fight” and “campaign” to describe the military action against ISIS, Iraq and Syria as it lessens the violence that war connotes.

Euphemisms have become part of political discourse that intentionally obscures, misleads or distracts audiences from unpleasant truths. Unfortunately, this is what politicians do with language and this is how they win support for otherwise unpalatable policies.

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