Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Knowledge, Truth and Human Action: America Hits the Wall

"Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true." [paraphrased Buddhist saying]

Americans have a problem with the truth. They seem to be unable to accept it, which is difficult to understand at a time in history when knowledge plays a larger and larger role in determining human action.
Paul Craig Roberts writes, "Today Americans are ruled by propaganda. Americans have little regard for truth, little access to it, and little ability to recognize it. Truth is an unwelcome entity. It is disturbing. It is off limits. Those who speak it run the risk of being branded 'anti-American,' 'anti-semite' or 'conspiracy theorist.' Truth is an inconvenience for government and for the interest groups whose campaign contributions control government. Truth is an inconvenience for prosecutors who want convictions, not the discovery of innocence or guilt. Truth is inconvenient for ideologues."
This debasement of truth stems from two misguided beliefs that many Americans hold. They affect much of American society and define the American psyche. One belief is that the truth emerges from a debate between adversaries. The other is the belief that everyone has a right to his/her own opinion.

Many American activities are based on the these beliefs. In law, the system is called adversarial. The prosecutor and defense attorneys are adversaries. Each side presents its evidence and the truth is somehow supposed to emerge. In journalism it is called balance. Two adversaries are asked to give their sides of an issue, and the truth is somehow supposed to emerge. In politics, it is called the two party system, where the majority party and the minority party, often called the opposition, are adversaries who present their sides of the issue. Again, somehow it is believed the truth will emerge and effective legislation will then be enacted. But it doesn't work, never has, never will.

In a corrupt world ruled by big money and corporate media it is more important than ever NOT to take mainstream points of view for granted. I am reminded of the quote, "If they can get you asking the wrong questions then they don't have to worry about the answers."

In today's society it is vitally important to challenge mainstream sensibilities (propaganda) and consult the online alternative press. It is fine to consider differing opinions when the matter at hand is truly debatable, but it should be remembered that some opinions can be blatantly false ones.

Having a blatantly wrong opinion, which flies in the face of established fact, is something that needs to become a new talking point in society. Too few media articles deal with facts. Often the media simply pushes PR, especially those stories that have a corporate agenda or those supporting the US War on Terror.

The idea that people (or journalists) are entitled to have any opinion that they like, without considering the consequences as to whether their view is false, cannot stand.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, May 18th, 2010.]

No comments: