Tag Archives: lies

Don’t say postmodernism to Trumpian post-truth neosophism…

BCprofHi readers,

I haven’t been very active here in 2016, especially not in the second part of the year. (I did publish 10 episodes of the scifi post-dystionian fiction story “Ghostified City’ though this fall on my fiction blog Oranderra). It might be different in 2017 in that I am going to break the hegemony of FB in my own online presence more, and am going to move discussions from FB more to this blog, and probably thus post more shorter posts here to conserve my thoughts outside of the facebook bubble.

Today’s thought from your resident couch philosopher: Trumpian post-truth epistemology in an age of ‘false news’ isn’t just post-modernism or post-postmodernism. It’s more a popularist form of neo-sophism. (original FB-status here)

I’ve seen people regularly use the straw man of ‘postmodernism’ for there being no truth at all, but can we please stop it now? Denying truth and facts is much older than postmodernism, which is much more sophisticated than ‘absolute relativism’ (a self-defeating parody of a philosophy that not much people hold) or post-truth non-epistemologies. To get something more in line with current situation look for example at the ‘pre-socratic’ sophists with whom Socrates clashed because they sold truth on demand for money. Our current post-truth pragmatism about facts is much closer to Protagoras and the likes, than to the actual European postmodernists.

The sophists, at least in the way represented by Socrates through Plato, were ‘teachers of wisdom’ who were able to use rhetorica to defend everything, including the absurd, especially when paid. (They would be great advocates of the devil…) So the straw man some like to fulminate against isn’t really postmodernism nor something new, but more a not so subtle form of neo-sophism.

Which is -just as it happened in the time of the original sophists- a logical step after real scepticism when foundations of truth erode, but not the supposed modern ‘scepticism’ that leads to a very strong enlightenment foundationalism (for example Dawkinsian ‘New atheism’) that’s in the end only fossilising into its own rigid tradition with its own conservative old farts.

I seems like the neo-sophism is only growing stronger in our era of unprecented (unpresidented?) mass media. So while I have seen American conservatives rage against relativism and postmodernism in the past, American conservatism might have become one of its own strongholds in these Trumpian days. See this interesting Morgan Guyton post too, called How did defenders of absolute truth become post-truth ideologues?

I think it’s a question of how we define absolute truth. Being committed to absolute truth can mean two very different things. On the one hand, absolute truth can signify that the universe has a single reality despite the fact that we perceive it from billions of vantage points. In this sense, absolute truth means the universe around me is not a dream that’s all in my head. The objective facts that surround me in the world matter. I don’t get to make up my own facts. There are universal laws and principles that exist independent of my subjective, culturally conditioned position.

When I was indoctrinated with absolute truth as a young evangelical, this first definition was how I was taught to understand the concept. However, I came to learn that, for evangelicals, absolute truth was not as much about the existence of universal truth as it was about obedience to an infallible authority. For conservative evangelicals, the authority to obey is of course the Bible, or more truthfully, their particular doctrinal superstructure within which they encase their interpretation of the biblical text. When you’ve made the decision to define truth as obedience to doctrine, then you’re not actually committed to the notion of a single, universal reality, because reality is whatever makes your doctrine work.

This is the Christian side of the story, which gives me a lot of cognitive dissonance btw. Nothing of the things described has any overlap with Christianity, the bible, Christ or Truth…

Note also that the sophists were strong rhetorics, who made very complicated thought constructions to persuade people of even the absurd when needed. Todays neo-sophists are not that, eh sophisticated at all, but they still sway whole groups of people over to dangerous nonsense. The power of media doesn’t seem to lessen the need for complicated intelectualism, and we might indeed be headed for an idiocracy… So much for the chronological snobbery of those who think we know everything now and who will not even care for the ideas of people from older ages…  Plain BS is already enough to convince people. No need for reason or logic or whatever… (Oh don’t you love this brave new world?)

I’m probably a very sloppy postmodernist after all, but I’m -unlike original American fundies for example- an even  worse modernist and more a Socratic-Platonist-Aritotelean here.
My postmodern side lies more in my humble epistemology, which falls in line with a lot of older and venerable traditions anyway, from Paul’s ‘we know in part’ (1 Cor 13) to Lao-Tzus ‘The Tao/Way that can be walked isn’t the real way, ‘he name that can be named is not the real name’ (Tao The Ching 1).

I think 2017 might be a good year to read some more about the Sophists though (and about any tradition that puts rhetorica before truth) , the few things I’ve read from them seemed very relevant to describe certain streams of though from this age, and yet no-one seems to speak of neo-sophism in our deceited era of being drowned in information but starved for a grain of sense…

What do you people think?




Propaganda, lies, and atrocities against humanity…


I have never been to Iraq, or most places that I read about on the news. So all I can do is, while staying critical and sceptical while comparing sources, believe that news stories are based on something and are not just exaggerated propaganda. I do know that even as a kid I knew that the few times that a news item happened close to someone I, those people  had to nuance and sometimes correct what had been said on the news. So I am quite sceptical most of the time, and still…

Yesterday I posted an article from the independent that describes some horrible  problems in Fallujah, Iraq:

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

I’ve read more dramatic articles about cancer and birth defects in Fallujah through the years, so I would not think about it being not true or be that sceptical at all.

But then I got a very interesting reaction from one of my FB-friends, someone who actually knows something about Iraq (he was there in 2002 with a Christian Peacemaker team from the US in full war-time), that reminded me to always remain sceptical:

The things that happened in Iraq are disgusting and i am definitely interested in radiation toxicity via u-238, but marines had extensive bases in and throughout Fallujah for 7+ years…..an extreme increase of cancer would be discovered among their population as well. Has it?—i personally don’t know. Also, in my time in Iraq in 2002 the big theme was the 300% increase in leukemia cases and birth defects in Iraq, including the areas northwest of Baghdad, like Fallujah. At the time it was blamed on DU ordinance from the gulf war of 1991. So when did these increases occur? In 2002 or 2012? The article comes across as a rehash of leftist propaganda—which i hate even more than the right-wing empire-driven propaganda. I hate it more because the suffering of the oppressed is plenty horrible enough. We don’t need to inflate it with unsubstantiated, half-ass studies claiming calamities never before seen in history. Let’s stick to the evils we know are true….and in the meantime i would love to see further investigation into radiation in Iraq. The dramatic claims thrown out every once in awhile, usually by democracy now or the Guardian or Independent, come across as dishonest and biased….which makes the skeptic not only doubt these articles…but also the already proven atrocities. What happened in Iraq is awful enough for any sane, compassionate person. If someone isn’t already convinced with available information….no amount of super-“Hiroshimas” will change that.

So the same problems did exist before 2004 already, which is not spoken about at all here, and it indeed looks like the same story with other details, which is indeed a bit fishy. Which makes me want to know what’s true here, and what’s exaggerated, and makes me doubt the news even more…

2 remarks:

I’m tired of all those scare tactics on any side (left or right doesn’t matter). I’m tired of the illuminati, chemtrails, chips that are going to be implanted in my forehead, and weird stories about big evil, etc… that are so exaggerated that most people with some common sense dismiss them immediately. A further problem is that those extreme fringe versions of things that are real problems work as a vaccine: The false version makes it impossible for most readers to take the real version even serious through guilt-by-association fallacies. Speaking about vaccines, some anti-vaccine advocates are so crazy and spout so much nonsense that all critique on any vaccine will be dismissed by some people. But still it’s true that our youngest daughter did have problems from the heavy combined vaccine she received as a baby. which does not mean that all vaccines are evil…

So please, everyone, on every side, cease the #@é& propaganda, and stick to the facts, stick to honesty and journalistic integrity. Sensational scare tactics will in the end only do worse on every front.

(There’s a similar principle at work with how the extremists of the Westboro baptist church make christianity evil in the eyes of some, or with how femen ridiculises feminism…)

The second remark is about my friends last sentence, which reminds me of a parable of Jesus, in which the rich man, who’s suffering in the afterlife because de didn’t help the poor Lazarus, asks to be able to go back and warn his brothers, but the answer is no, since ‘if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, why would they listen to someone who came back from the dead’? I think the same principle is at work here: Any informed person knows that a lot of terrible things happened with the people of Iraq during the war, so if one does not care about that, why would they care about an exaggerated version?

Lies in propaganda serve no goal but more division, more distrust, and more disinformation.

Let’s always remain sceptical, work for peace among people, and reject the lies and propaganda from any site that just fuels hate and division. We’re all brothers and sisters, and the real enemy are not other human of flesh and blood, but Powers and Principalities, Systems and the lies with which they make enemies out of those who should be brothers!

Let’s fight injustice, work for justice, and erase the hate!