Thursday, December 8, 2016

Is democracy itself under threat?

Faux news sites are not only insidious; they are also weapons of mass destruction (metaphorically).

Before you turn off your computer, let me explain.

The idiot whose fake news website told the world by blatantly lying that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex scheme says he received 6 MILLION page reads on that story, and was shocked it took the “national” media so long to catch onto his perversity (my word not his). And when asked whom he voted for, he replied nonchalantly, “Hillary”. In Macedonia, just to make money, teenagers are reported to be putting up more lies, and of course they too are getting a considerable number of page reads, among people who may or may not be discerning of their deception.

Google, the primary source of online advertisements, ought to be censored, perhaps even taken to court to force them to end this opportunity. The profit motive cannot be permitted to extend to persons and activities deliberately designed to lie, mislead, deceive and to propagate hate speech. Of course, there really is no international legal system to monitor or to censor or to hold both individuals who choose to lie and mislead, and Google and any other companies who might be engaged in a similar business practice. Individual nations would have to take steps to stop such abuse of a resource for which we are all grateful and indebted to companies like Google.

Of course, monitoring the internet in deliberate search of child porn, terrorist recruitment, and individuals and gangs seeking to take advantage of innocent boys and girls ranks as a higher priority for those responsible for the legitimate use of this new technology.

However, companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others still ought to be cognizant of the propensity for abuse of their platforms, and if and when such abuse is noticed, these companies have a public obligation to suspend such sites, and report their agents to the proper authorities.

Call me an social, moral and political aardvark. Nevertheless, in the illicit garden of deception that has so contaminated the recent presidential election, one of the most abusive agents of the contamination is the president-elect himself. One is now prompted to ask whether democracy has been so threatened by both the mis-information campaign of Trump and his gang of ‘deplorables’ and the triumph of lies spread for profit, not to mention a potential, if hard to prove before a court, abrogation of the election.

From our perspective, in retrospect, the American presidential election was, indeed “rigged” not only by Russian incursions through hackings but also through the deliberate, planned and organized lies perpetrated on an unsuspecting public, many of whom are so far removed from the truth of any public situation, and so deeply immersed in their own contempt for Hillary, that they are and have been easily seduced. This is not to say that the abuse of the internet by perpetrators of lies pawned off as real news stories, (not unlike the tabloid press that greets shoppers in many supermarkets) was determinative of the election results. That would be uber-reductionistic, untrue and unsubstantiated. There is simply no empirical evidence of such a travesty.

However, the perversion, distortion and mis-representation of any core of credible information was so blatant, so deliberate and so consummate by so many, and so rapid in the delivery of lies (especially by the Trump forces) as to render the “fact-checkers” impotent to keep up, and to obtain the requisite air time, or newspaper space to refute the dissemblings. What really happened, from this perspective, is that the election campaign, and the electoral results so exposed and eroded the basic underpinnings of the valid, sustainable, credible and provable body of information that has sustained the American political process for at least my lifetime (seven decades plus), transforming the political process into just another entertainment drama, devoid of any attempt or responsibility for providing the electorate with information of which to base a voting decision.

In domestic disputes, too often it comes down to “he said-she said”….and who is to be believed. Corroboration of all witnesses is absolutely essential to derive any modicum of veracity. In the case of the presidential election, not only was the public reduced to a ‘he-said-she-said’ kind of narrative drama. Neither side could be believed because the credibility of the very process itself was so bastardized and contaminated as to render it a massive insult to the American people, and what’s more to the two hundreds years of American political history. It is not that there were no lies uttered by any previous politicians; nor is it true to say that history has been conducted on an agreed basis of information in which both political parties concurred.

In Syria, for the past several months, for example, America accuses Russia of attacking Syrian rebels, while Russia denies the accusation and accuses American of supporting ISIS. Lies, lies and more lies, are not the stuff of confidence building among a public so drowning in information outlets and their purported or secret agendas.
However, it seems that in the past, the lies were outnumbered by the agreed body of information on which lively and legitimate debate from differing political perspectives. 

In this campaign, the reverse seems to hold: the truth is vastly overpowered, outnumbered and debased by the tsunami of lies.

And underlying all this “angst” about the dependence of democracy on a body of agreed information is the profit motive, the power motive and the marriage of the two in what amounts to a two-headed monster, made legitimate by the Supreme Court.  Also underpinning the angst is the tide of racism, homophobia, climate denying and the future uber-triumph of the one percent all of this unleashed by the trump cataract of permission and role-modeling.

Trump manipulated the national and the international professional of journalists so blatantly and so deliberately and so successfully that, rather than offering or being required to offer specific policy positions, he merely rides the wave of media control.
And regardless of which diplomatic, economic, military, educational, housing or health care proposals he prefers and nominates, his command of the national, and some fear the international media is so pervasive as to verge on information tyranny. If he is and remains in complete domination of the national and international news (authentic professional news outlets) who or what can or will stop him.

And that is one of the most basic and legitimate fears about the next four years.
Control of the media, both the previously legitimate, and previously empowered fourth estate, and the new digital media could enable the president elect to pull off almost whatever he wishes, knowing full well that, if he has got this far with his shenanigans, lies, deceptions, mis-information and bullying, not to mention free-wheeling character assassination (“crooked Hillary”) and enciting chants of “lock her up,” only yesterday chanted at a Canadian provincial premier who is attempting to bring both a sound economy (through fossil fuels) and environmental protection in a province akin to Texas (Alberta), he can almost literally claim that his previous statement, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters!” could well be feasible.

And so, where is the anti-trump? Where is the alternative voice of the 52% of the American people who did not vote for this man?

Is their silence and the apparent silence of the news media in the face of this information coup, blatant and before our very eyes, now the new norm?

And is the Trump path to whatever the Trump wishes also the new norm?

That, my friends, is dangerous to the millions of people who could potentially lose their health care, the thousands of jobs that will continue to flow offshore because he cannot stop them all with side deals, and the millions of people who rely  on government hand-up’s all of which will stop flowing. These could all be in danger, just like all those negotiated trade deals, and the defence treaties, and the non-proliferation treaties….and the list is really interminable….depending on the whim of one man…
Is that not just as dangerous as those mythical, hypothetical “weapons of mass destruction” (recall Condolesa Rice’s prophetic mushroom cloud that was invoked as part of the build-up and mass manipulation under George W. Bush) that was the false justification of the Iraq war in 2003.

Is the Republican party now owner of the new and unstoppable truth debunking machine, and have they enlisted an army of eager and willing “fake news editors” in their cause to undermine truth and reality?

This lying pathology did not start with Trump, although he may have refined it and deployed it on different social media. For eight years, they lied about their own blatant racism in deliberately blocking the first black president on every proposal, even including one of their member telling him directly, “We do not think you should be here!” (Translation: a black man is not supposed to be president). Characterizing Obama as “arrogant” is another not so subtle ruse to absolve the Republican caucus of any hint of racism, and it also pandered to their constituency in the south, especially, where Obama’s election was considered an insult to many whites and a triumph to the black population. And then there was the lying about the contents of a bill to restrict assault weapons accessibility after the deplorable tragedy at Sandy Hook where first grade children were slaughtered, and joining the NRA in their deceptive “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” as if there were no other steps prior to the moment of the archetypal shoot-out that is at the heart of the frontier/military/combative/take-out mentality.

Grace in the face of such oppressive sabotage, as Obama has consistently demonstrated, is merit enough for his Nobel Peace Prize, although there are so many other legitimate reasons for the award.

However, giving a public face to, public acceptability of, public endorsement and eventually public embedding into the culture of the habit of lying, of creating a totally new reality, in order to obstruct legitimate responsibilities for governing, or for any other personal, narcissistic ambition Trump provides personal responsibility of this tragic dynamic.

Papering, or “mascara-ing” over their deep and seemingly intransigent compulsion to lie, to deceive, to mis-represent and to dissemble is so tragically epic as to stain the reputation not only of their party but also their whole nation.

And how can the rest of the world, especially the leaders in the major capitals with whom the United States still has to collaborate, and with whom Obama has re-established a national reputation of integrity, authenticity and reliability following the macho-deceptive regime of Bush 43, trust the word of the United States government now under the complete control of Republicans at all levels, including momentarily the Supreme Court?

In a word, they can’t! And they should not.

And the rest of the world will be watching as the erosion not only of the ecosystems on which all life depends, the model of democracy that prided itself as a beacon on a hill and the political culture of the United States erodes, cracks, bursts into flame like those spontaneous forest fires that accompany global warming and climate change.
But that is only a “Chinese hoax” to this gang of lying and deceiving  con artists whose leader is the most devious of their number.

Bigotry against Muslims, the homophobia, and the “whitelash” is now showing up on Canadian university campuses, (McMaster and McGill so far) and the warning from Secretary of State John Kerry today that, in putting at risk individual freedoms, and unleashing the bigotry we are witnessing, we could be on the verge of a kind of tyranny in the west. And that would spell a serious blow to moderate, open-minded, tolerant and inclusive societies. Just earlier today Trump announced the appointment of the Attorney General of Oklahoma, a man named Pruitt, a climate change denier who is currently in several court cases against the Environmental Protection Agency, to become, you guessed it, HEAD of the very same EPA.

We are all in treacherous waters. (A moment of pathetic fallacy: the ferry I am on at this very moment, is bouncing and shooting a deluge of Lake Ontario water over the cars synchronous with my angst.)

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