Power Defines Truth and Dissent is a Lie
Power Defines Truth and Dissent Is Therefore a Lie
From World War II through the start of the Digital Age early this century, a privileged narrative prevailed as “reported” by the three broadcast networks, a few national magazines like Time and the two nationally distributed newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. You could not encounter any advocacy of communism, fascism, atheism, anarchism or any other variety of institutional dissent without the context clearly identifying such ideas as evil, foolish or both. You had to go to a library or a dusty old book store to look for information about disapproved ideas, and it did not even occur to anybody that there was anything odd about this regime. It was Normal.
During those decades, the distinction between “fact” and “opinion” was irrelevant. Communism was the big problem, and our privileged narrative held that its main tool was lying – later rhetorically inflated to “disinformation.” To counter communist lies, we established Radio Free Europe, beaming the Truth to the victims of Soviet aggression. I will never forget a conversation I had with my girlfriend's Army Colonel father in 1969. He said, "What bothers me is these Reds, going around telling people they aren't happy. People are happy."
Those were the days.
The Internet subverted the power of that group of a dozen or so national news organizations to define the truth. Marshall McLuhan foresaw this – he must have been a space alien. Before the internet, it took a major capital investment to communicate with the mass of the population – paper mills, printing presses, delivery trucks, a national network of broadcast antennas, a roster of reporters deployed around the globe. The “entry cost” to communicate with millions of people was always in the millions of dollars – back when a million bucks was a lot of money. Thus the Privileged Narrative was provided by people or organizations with Big Money.
Today, a few hundred dollars will hook you up with several billion people. It takes some pizzazz and a lot of luck for your humble contribution to go viral – but as lots of cat video fans will tell you, it happens. Nobody has control over what goes viral, with both memes and “facts” now spreading instantly around the world, obliterating the once unchallengeable power of the TV networks and the nationally circulated print organs.
Without anyone in power to filter out disapproved information, we are now in a state of Information Anarchy. Exacerbating this chaotic situation is the apparent war of dueling realities between the Democrats and Republicans here in the USA. While having no trouble authorizing money to keep our wars against the whole world going by almost unanimous votes in Congress, they angrily insist that the other party’s leaders belong in jail.
This bizarre stalemate of dueling accusations of fundamental illegitimacy by the highest public officials in the nation has completely obliterated any hope for the quaint notion of “objectivity.” Facts are supposedly stubborn things, so if you want to win your argument, make sure that you never have to face one. Nope, just call it Fake News.
Which brings us to the Life and Death Fake News Battles going on today. I am a newcomer to this board, and the most striking thing I have seen so far is that this crisis of legitimacy and epistemology is playing out here, too. One thread links to an article that condemns “pro-Trump” doctors for lending their medical licenses to the effort to slaughter Americans because Trump’s election somehow depends upon it.
The implication is undeniable. If a doctor is “pro-Trump” he or she is by definition a liar and an accomplice to mass murder. The “truth” is that there is only one correct way to fight the virus, and there can be no disagreement with that. Dissent is by definition a lie.
This is in line with the various internet articles and viral memes that chortle with glee at the imminent deaths of Trump Supporting Lockdown Protesters. It also ignores the “novel” nature of this virus which, by definition, has unknown and unpredictable effects, pre-emptively disqualifying any medical opinion that varies from the conclusions coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus has become Russiagate Part Trois – a rallying cry for hatred of Trump without any practical point to it other than Trump sucks.
Well, he does suck. And his ridiculous Presidency is a travesty. Nevertheless, just because some medical doctor voted for him, it does not follow that the doctor really wants to kill human beings just to help Donnie Shrimpfingers stay in the White House. Nor does it render the Pro-Trump doc a quack.
Certitude about how The Lockdown Is Good is insane. I am going along with it, and I accept the notion that it is better to be too cautious than not cautious enough. But to condemn anybody who disagrees or even just questions it as indifferent to human death is totalitarianism in action.
And it makes me wonder where that little internet meme came from . . . .