Truth on Trial

US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.

The nightmare that was Donald Trump’s presidency is far from over. The roots that led to the extraordinary phenomenon, the dark synergy of inter-generational poverty, liberal failure and wild conspiracism have not begun to be addressed never mind resolved and so he goes on (and on).

Now he stands indicted. For the first time in American history, legal charges have been brought against a president for attempting to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power that until 6 January 2021 had stood as a basic assumption of the ‘world’s greatest democracy’ (sic). The cases test the very idea of ‘loser’s consent’, the idea that elections are thought to be fair and there results should be accepted. Now anyone with a passing knowledge of US politics would know that not all is well in US politics. Corruption, dark money, pork-barrel politics and nefarious PACS are just a flavour of the land. This is Nixonland.

The former British Ambassador Craig Murray tweeted that: “Only the Democratic Party in the USA could be so stupid as to make Donald Trump appear to be in the right. Attempting to jail your main opponent ahead of an election is never a good look.”

The consequence of such analysis must be that prosecuting Donald Trump for any of the multiple charges against him would be wrong, somehow, because of the optics of such an act? From Murray’s vantage point Trump is above the law, and rightly so.

Bu as the Guardian writer Jonathan Freedland points out:

“… just because we can’t claim to be surprised does not mean we shouldn’t be shocked. Several crucial principles are at stake in this case. One is that every vote must count: the victims of Trump’s conspiracy were the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Biden, whose ballots would have been cast aside had the ex-president prevailed.”

“Another is that nobody is above the law. While Trump claims to be the victim of political persecution, the truth is that it would have been an intensely political decision not to pursue him, especially when more than 1,000 of his devotees have been charged for storming the Capitol on 6 January 2021. If they can be prosecuted for seeking to overturn the 2020 election, why can’t he?”

But there are deeper issues at stake. He continues:

“But perhaps the central principle at stake here is that there is such a thing as the truth. Trump has challenged that notion from the very start. Not just by lying – he’s not the first politician to do that – but by seeking to shake public faith in the very idea that truth is even possible.”

It’s often been said that ‘Post-Truth is Pre-Fascism’ and this is what is at stake. It is not about defending Hillary, or supporting Obama or being pro–Biden and all the egregious failings of the US Democrats and the wider failed political system they represent, it is about defending truth. You do not have to be blind to the deep social and cultural forces, born from a broken economy and a desolate social media culture that gave birth to Trumpism to be alive to the greater risks at play here.

Jack Smith’s indictment presents a devastating case laced with telling details that are impossible to refute.

‘Lies’ and ‘fraud’ are the key words that spool out of Jack Smith’s meticulously researched case. Truth matters.

The writer Ed Pilkington has noted: “Familiar though they are, some of the details remain just too delicious for Smith not to recount. He recalls that during the notorious call between Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which the president asked him to “find” 11,780 votes, the defendant also claimed that 5,000 dead people had voted.

“The actual number were two,” Raffensperger replied. “Two. Two people that were dead that voted.”


Like the ‘birther’ conspiracies that swirled around the Obama election the facts are out there.

The next US election will be a climate election and an election about truth. The consequences are dire not just for planetary survival but for the very concept of truth. As we face down these twin-realities we realise how they are intertwined.

Of course it is worth remembering that prosecuting Trump has no consequence for his base. In fact, legal action has the opposite effect. It’s an act of self-confirmation for his followers that the Deep State is in fact out to get him. From Nixon on the whiff of criminality – or sexual indiscretion – would have been career-ending crises. But for Trump, even backed by the Christian Right, there is no such impact. He has made the state and federal charges – now a combined 78 across three jurisdictions – against him a central plank of his campaign platform, casting himself as victim and martyr.

This has several dire consequences. The first is that a large section of the US general public still believe – despite overwhelming evidence and facts to the contrary – that Trump won the last election. Dominion sued Fox News for $1.6bn for defamation. Yet ‘Stop the Steal’ lives. These people are living in a delusion sustained and cultivated by mainstream politicians and media. In a further disgraceful abdication of any sense of public duty virtually no-one in the republican party is calling this out. Trump’s MAGA followers have effectively taken over occupied and infested an entire political party.

Does any of this matter?

In terms of the descent of standards in public office or the nature and tone of political debate, it does. If anything the only real challenge to Trump is from the right. Ron DeSantis’s campaign DeSantis’ campaign and Never Back Down had a combined $109m in the bank at the end of June, well above the combined $53m of Trump’s campaign and his allied Super Pac, known as Maga Inc, according to financial disclosures to the Federal Elections Commission. But the DeSantis rhetoric is even more extreme than Trump’s. At a campaign barbeque event in New Hampshire he said: “All of these deep state people, you know, we’re going to start slitting throats on day one.”

His wealthy backers have been getting cold feet as his rhetoric plays to the far far right. In an attempt to steady his campaign he has hinted that he would appoint the anti-vaxxer Democrat Robert F Kennedy Jr. He then came out with an extraordinary statement in support of Florida’s new academic standards for the teaching of Black history include the claim slaves “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit”,

Only the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie has actually called out Trump. As Sidney Blumenthal, the former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton has put it: “Unlike DeSantis, Christie does not want to edge out Trump in order to be Trump. He wants to prosecute him, as “a liar and a coward”.

Among Republicans, though, Christie is polling at 3%.

There is a sense that the monster that Murdoch, Koch and the Republican stooges created is now completely out of control and the damage to the constitution, the national security of the United States and the rule of law is visible to all (so too is the irreparable damage to women’s rights). But perhaps worst of all of Trump’s legacy is the damage to the quality of public discourse, the acceptance of violence as a language and the denial of simple truths about reality. We are off the map now and there is the terrible possibility that Trump’s indictments rather than make him unfit for office will propel him into it, unseat the Biden gerontocracy and issue in an era even darker than his previous reign.






Comments (42)

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  1. John Learmonth says:

    ‘Results should be accepted’.
    Have the Remainers ever accepted the free and fair vote for Brexit?

    1. Alistair Thomas says:

      I believe we have left the EU. QED.

    2. Alan C says:

      If you think the brexit vote was fair, I have a bridge I could sell you.

      1. John Learmonth says:

        You sound just like Donald Trump

        1. John says:

          I have read your ridiculous comments on this site and take it from me you sound far more like Donald Trump than anyone else’s comments I have read. That is saying something because there have been quite a few whacko comments on here.
          I recommend you take up a time consuming hobby or get some help.

    3. Welsh_Siôn says:

      Have Leavers ever accepted that in leaving the EU after Brexit that the EU can no longer be blamed for the ills emanating from the said Brexit?

      Have Leavers ever accepted the diminution in rights (including, in many cases, their own to retire to a second home on the Continent) we have suffered as a result of no longer being part of the EU are due to our now ‘third country status’ brought about by their own votes to Leave?

      How many Leavers ever accepted that they were sold snake oil or drank of the Kool-aid so as to cut off their noses to spite their faces?

      When even the Farrago himself states that Brexit was a failure, how much longer will it take for these idiots (polite term) to accept they have been ridiculed, betrayed and sold the proverbial pup, by others who never had (and never will have) any interest in them or their well-being?

    4. mark leslie edwards says:

      people shouldn’t be allowed to vote, if the human race did not have such an ignominious history we wouldn’t be in this fkn mess, would we

  2. Murray says:

    The media in the U.K. are filling the screens and pages with this American nonsense to take your eye of the Tories and their destruction of the country . Stop covering up their corruption and criminality, they are the Tory Terrorist party and the real enemy within . Sorry to see that they threaten members and ministers of the SNP ,with the “ look what we’ve done the Sturgeon,you and your family will be next” . We have Westminster’s government not only making threats but actively in gauged to destroying people lives to keep power ,privilege and profit from another’s countries natural resources. It’s illegal to try to destabilise any duly elected government or it’s members,that’s an act of terrorism and treachery. But the papers and media stay silent for the benefit of their Westminster masters and their big city billionaires.

  3. Derek Williams says:

    Well argued, albeit depressing piece. Never cave to a bully. The only thing appeasement tells them is that you’re afraid of them. Their handshake is as worthless as the paper it’s written on. Bullies always come back for more, as we are presently witnessing in Russia’s genocidal bloodbath upon Ukraine.

    I see Christie as far more an ‘old school’ Republican who delivers fact-based rationality, and so he needs to be propelled to the front to give the party some chance of prevailing against the wizards of mendacity who reign over the circus that is now the GOP. Christie has a reputable track-record and would make a good POTUS, if Democrats lose under Biden.

  4. Niemand says:

    Great piece Mike, sums things up very well. The biggest problem of all to me with post-truth politics is that there is in fact no such things as an incontrovertible truth – yes there only two votes from the dead in Georgia, fact, but if you don’t trust those who say this (as you rarely have direct access to the evidence) then it can be easily countered with ‘yeah, right’. This can be taken to the extreme with things actually on camera (e.g. Trump’s inauguration crowd numbers) and as far as conspiracies that say terrorist attacks were faked despite direct testimony from survivors (7/11 here, Sandy Hook).

    Being more self-reflective we need to be careful that out own cynicism does not poison the well further because for genuine truths and even facts to be accepted, trust is still needed in the teller and the more that in general we condemn politics and politicians (and wider institutions e.g. the oft cited ‘MSM”) as liars and charlatans, the more we fuel distrust in everything. Trust, at the end of the day, is something you give, not something someone earns. One should trust until one has reason not to (I mean yeah I know this is an ideal but still an important principle of living to me).

    What does ‘pork-barrel politics and nefarious PACS’ mean?

    1. Thanks Niemand. I agree there’s a tension between disbelief and cynism on the one hand (which can be healthy) and utter distrust and nihilism on the other (which rarely is).

      ‘Pork Barrel Politics’ is where politicians or parties hand out funding to key states or districts knowing that this will serve political return. It has greater or less crass versions.

      Some notes on PACS and Super PACS:

      In the United States, a political action committee (PAC) is a tax-exempt 527 organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation.[1][2] The legal term PAC was created in pursuit of campaign finance reform in the United States. Democracies of other countries use different terms for the units of campaign spending or spending on political competition (see political finance). At the U.S. federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, and registers with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), according to the Federal Election Campaign Act as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain–Feingold Act).[3] At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the state’s election laws.

      Contributions to PACs from corporate or labor union treasuries are illegal, though these entities may sponsor a PAC and provide financial support for its administration and fundraising. Union-affiliated PACs may solicit contributions only from union members. Independent PACs may solicit contributions from the general public and must pay their own costs from those funds.[4]

      Federal multi-candidate PACs may contribute to candidates as follows:

      $5,000 to a candidate or candidate committee for each election (primary and general elections count as separate elections);
      $15,000 to a political party per year; and
      $5,000 to another PAC per year.
      PACs may make unlimited expenditures independently of a candidate or political party
      In its 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned sections of the Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain–Feingold Act) that had prohibited corporate and union political independent expenditures in political campaigns.[5] Citizens United declared it was unconstitutional to prohibit corporations and unions from spending from their general treasuries to promote candidates or from contributing to PACs. It left intact these laws’ prohibitions on corporations or unions contributing directly to a candidate or candidate committee.[6][7][8][9]

      Super PACs, officially known as “independent expenditure-only political action committees,” are unlike traditional PACs in that they may engage in unlimited political spending (on, for example, ads) independently of the campaigns, and may raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. However, they are not allowed to either coordinate with or contribute directly to candidate campaigns or party coffers.[28] Super PACs are subject to the same organizational, reporting, and public disclosure requirements of traditional PACs.

      Super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions in 2010: the aforementioned Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and, two months later, v. FEC. In, the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that PACs that did not make contributions to candidates, parties, or other PACs could accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations (both for profit and not-for-profit) for the purpose of making independent expenditures.

      The result of the Citizens United and decisions was the rise of a new type of political action committee in 2010, popularly dubbed the “super PAC”.[29] In an open meeting on July 22, 2010, the FEC approved two Advisory Opinions to modify FEC policy in accordance with the legal decisions.[30] These Advisory Opinions were issued in response to requests from two existing PACs, the conservative Club for Growth, and the liberal Commonsense Ten (later renamed Senate Majority PAC). Their advisory opinions gave a sample wording letter which all Super PACs must submit to qualify for the deregulated status, and such letters continue to be used by Super PACs up to the present date. FEC Chairman Steven T. Walther dissented on both opinions and issued a statement giving his thoughts. In the statement, Walther stated “There are provisions of the Act and Commission regulations not addressed by the court in SpeechNow that continue to prohibit Commonsense Ten from soliciting or accepting contributions from political committees in excess of $5,000 annually or any contributions from corporations or labor organizations” (emphasis in original).[31]

      The term “Super PAC” was coined by reporter Eliza Newlin Carney.[32] According to Politico, Carney, a staff writer covering lobbying and influence for CQ Roll Call, “made the first identifiable, published reference to ‘super PAC’ as it’s known today while working at National Journal, writing on June 26, 2010, of a group called Workers’ Voices, that it was a kind of “‘super PAC’ that could become increasingly popular in the post-Citizens United world.”[33]

      According to FEC advisories, Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties. This restriction is intended to prevent them from operating campaigns that complement or parallel those of the candidates they support or engaging in negotiations that could result in quid pro quo bargaining between donors to the PAC and the candidate or officeholder. However, it is legal for candidates and Super PAC managers to discuss campaign strategy and tactics through the media.[34][35]

    2. John says:

      I agree that cynicism is poisonous. I am afraid I do find large sections of media (Murdoch press, Mail etc) quite cynical and find it better for mental health to ignore.
      I think having a healthy degree of scepticism is no bad thing (as long as you know where it’s appropriate) and probably protects you from being taken in by others and disappointment.
      I agree with you about trusting others but would say that those in a position of power – in work, politics and institutions not only need to earn the trust from employees and public but this should be one of the most important priorities for them.

      1. 230807 says:

        Cynicism isn’t poisonous. That’s a myth that was perpetrated by 19th century classicists who were alarmed by the cynical practice of shamelessness and impudence, by which cynics seek to undermine the ‘nomos’ (the laws, customs, and conventions of a society that people take for granted). This libel was and is calculated to conserve the political establishment.

        For cynics, happiness means living in accordance with one’s own nature, which they believe is discoverable by reason through self-examination. For the cynic, such discovery requires freeing oneself from false belief, mindlessness, folly, conceit, and the arrogance these cause, through the exercise of independence (self-sufficiency), equanimity, love for humanity, speaking freely, indifference to the vicissitudes of life, and asceticism. Cynics eschew wealth, fame, and power, whose influence they see as corrupting the rational process of self-discovery by which one achieves authenticity. They also eschew sectarian loyalties and nationalism: it was a cynic who coined the phrase ‘citizen of the world’; when he was asked to which state he owed loyalty and allegience, Diogenes replied that he was ‘a citizen of the world’ (‘kosmopolitês’).

        Scepticism is likewise much maligned by those for whom the status quo is precious. For sceptics, happiness also means living in accordance with one’s own nature, which requires assuming a questioning attitude of doubt towards the truth of the claims that others make on one’s belief. A thoroughgoing sceptic is indiscriminate in her/his doubt; s/he questions every claim that’s made on her/his belief and accepts nothing on trust or authority, which is why both established and authorities don’t like it. As such, scepticism is the attitudinal foundation or paradigm of modern scientific enquiry.

        Both cynicism and scepticism are poisonous only to the status quo; both are eminently wholesome to those who would disrupt that status quo towards realising the happiness it obstructs.

        However, cynics are awful buggers for evangelising; sceptics are less so. Cynics are the self-styled ‘watchdogs’ of humanity; they see their duty to hound people about the error of their ways and to dig up and expose the pretensions that lie at the root of their everyday conventions and beliefs. Sceptics are more exclusively concerned with keeping their own pockets clean and therefore much less annoying.

        1. Niemand says:

          If cynicism is poisonous to the status quo then it is poisonous on that level and sometimes the status quo really matters. If we are so cynical that we no longer trust, for example, any ‘mainstream’ media or any politician or scientific evidence etc then we have a major problem and yes, the cynic who thinks this is potentially poisonous to society, the evidence for which is all around us (‘fake news!, crisis actors!, plandemic!’ blah blah). One can argue about the true definition of ‘cynic’, but that is the attitude I describe that is being referred to here.

          1. 230808 says:

            I’m not sure that cynical distrust does give rise to any problem. It just requires us to assess the evidence for and against the the claims that others make on our belief and accept of reject those claims accordingly.

            For example, when I read the papers every morning, I’m conscious of the possibility that what I’m reading might well be true, but I’m also conscious of the possibility that it might just as well be false, and I can then use that perplexity (if I can be arsed) to investigate the claims of their reporters and commentators further.

            This, I would suggest, is a healthy distrust.

          2. John says:

            The cynicism I see is from politicians and right wing media and is used to preserve wealth, power and the status quo.
            I think 230807 has misconstrued what cynicism in 20th & 21st century. I am more sympathetic to Oscar Wildes take on cynics knowing the price of everything and value of nothing.

        2. John says:

          I am talking about the cynicism of politicians and right wing media which I would argue is being used to protect the status quo.
          On cynicism I think Oscar Wilde got it about right – a cynic knows the price of everything and value of nothing.
          Your post also reminds me of the quote that reasonable people will amend how they behave to accommodate needs of others whereas unreasonable people expects everyone else to amend their behaviour to accommodate their individual needs.

          1. 230808 says:

            Yes, I know; you were using ‘cynical’ in the empty pejorative sense it acquired among establishment figures in the 19th century to signal your disapproval of politicians and influencers with whom you disagree. I’m just trying to reclaim it for its forensic value (‘forensic’ = ‘pertaining to the art or study of argumentative discourse’). Neither of us has claim to the ‘true’ sense of the term.

          2. Niemand says:

            There are numerous status quos would be my response. One certainly preserves wealth and power for a minority elite though those who wish to do that are more selfish and venal than cynical to me. But there is also the status quo that we trust what scientists, doctors, even journalists tell us. Whilst scepticism has its place (especially with journalism), cynically assuming a doctor or scientist is lying because they are all compromised in some way is cynicism taken to the point of being poisonous (and of course that is because the conclusion of that cynicism is false).

          3. 230809 says:

            But cynically assuming a doctor or scientist is lying isn’t cynicism. Cynicism only requires us to assess the evidence for and against the claims that various doctors and scientists make on our belief and accept of reject those claims accordingly. Accepting what they say uncritically, simply on trust, without cynicism, is to elevate the doctor and scientist to the authoritarian status that priests once enjoyed, which is inimical to our happiness as human beings.

          4. John says:

            Reply to Niemand below.
            I was talking about cynicism in politics and journalism as discussion relating to the above article.
            With regard to science and status quo I would make two comments. Firstly I would say the term status quo in relation to science is inaccurate and the more appropriate term to use is concensus based upon scientific research. I would argue that a degree of scepticism in science is not only healthy but essential. Cynicism, using the term in its commonly accepted definition (in 20th/21st century to satisfy date person) is unhealthy in science as can be seen from the input of climate change deniers (most of whom are not scientists) and counterproductive.
            Date persons comments show all the signs of someone trying to show off that they have knowledge (easily googled these days) but not actually contributing anything significant to the debate.

    3. mark says:

      hmm, you really believe there was ever an era where politics & truth went thegither

  5. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    The Republican Party, since demise of Nixon has been subject to an entryist takeover by people subscribing to a particular ‘neoliberal’ philosophy. Gradually, they took control of local Republican parties, got elected to school boards, local councils and gradually ascended to the state wide bodies. And states have a lot of powers and there has been a continual struggle between states’ rights and federal government, under the concept of checks and balances. And this separation of powers and devolution is a good thing, but, can be distorted and that is what the entryists have done within the so called ‘blue states. They get to appoint local officials and judges and change laws to handicap democratic participation by sections of the population such as black people.

    The presidency is not decided by the popular vote but by the electoral college. Each state sets its own electoral college rules and these rules can skew electoral college votes towards Republican candidates. Trum lost the popular vote to Hilary Clinton by a significant margin, but Trump won the electoral college votes. George Bush Junior lost the popular vote to Al Gore, but won the electoral college due to the shenanigans in Florida, which is a large state with a large electoral college and so proved decisive.

    Trump having lost by many millions of popular votes to Biden was seeking to put pressure on Republican officials in key states to shift a relatively small percentage of votes in his favour, so that all the state’s electoral college votes would go to him, and he would continue as president.

  6. mark says:

    It was obvious to me the person onscreen must have been compromised, otherwise why would they condemn themselves so utterly, humiliate themselves for the edification of unseen others, unless it was in denying their own humanity they found some solace in denying the humanity of everyone watching, & believe me, all were watching, it was fascinating to see the universe embodied in one bold physical form be degraded in the name of all that humanity had thus far offered a world to which one would be wise to acknowledge one was merely a guest awaiting dismissal.

  7. David Robins says:

    Not only Trump has been “seeking to shake public faith in the very idea that truth is even possible”. That sums up the New Left project in all its forms over the past 80 years. The Frankfurt School always knew Nietzsche would come in handy some day.

    1. 230808 says:

      The critical theorists of the Frankfurt School sought to undermine authoritarian accounts of truth (truth as something that is ‘given’) in various, often incommesurable ways, none of which appealed to Nietzsche’s radical subjectivity of truth as the will to power. In its place, they offered various accounts of truth as something that is never fixed or final or once-and-for all but is perpetually a provisional work-in-progress.

      Habermas’s theory of truth as a product of communicative action is a case in point. Very basically, truth (according to Habermas) is decided by communities of enquiry and is nothing but the consensuses they reach in their deliberations. This truth is ‘just’ to the extent that it produced by communities that operate in an ideal speech situation, whereby every member of the community is allowed to take part in its discourse, everyone is allowed to question any assertion whatever, everyone is allowed to introduce any assertion whatever into the discourse, everyone is allowed to express their attitudes, desires and needs without any reserve, and no one is prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising any of the foregoing rights; that is, speech that takes place under free democratic conditions.

      Marcuse, the so-called ‘Guru of the New Left’, on the other hand, ‘dissolved’ truth into praxis. Truth is just whatever is useful in the way of belief in the pursuit of one’s practical goals. Marcuse ultimate goal was total revolution against capitalism by means of ‘the Great Refusal’, a kind of loose alliance of protest movements and third world liberation movements. Contrary to Habermas, for whom free speech was an essential condition of truth, Marcuse’s theory justified the constraint of free speech; any speech that presented a clear and present danger to the attainment of one’s practical goals should not be tolerated or even suppressed or ‘cancelled’.

      The famous intolerance of the New Left, which Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas, and Fromm all condemned from within the Frankfurt School as ‘left fascism’ and a ‘manifestation of the authoritarian personality’ that capitalism cultivates, is rooted almost entirely in Marcuse’s theory of truth.

      1. Derek Williams says:

        Interesting comment, whose contents sent me to Google more than once. My search for Marcuse revealed he was a former collaborator with the Nazi Heidegger from whom he later distanced himself, and further took me to an interesting article on ‘Repressive desublimation’, which lead to a discourse on sexual non-conformity, ‘functioning as a conservative force under the guise of liberation’. Quite a word salad to digest for a newbie.

        The so-called “Left” is indeed intolerant of all kinds of things – slavery, racism, misogyny, poverty, homophobia and transphobia, unemployment, homelessness. Does that mean to so-called “Right” endorses them? Those who stigmatise liberals with patronising ad hominem epithets like ‘libtard’, ‘woke’, ‘cancel culture’ and the like on ‘free speech’ grounds seem to want to make racist, misogynist and homophobic statements themselves. What is it you used to be able to do before The Left stopped you?

        Free speech is an internationally recognised human right, however there has never been unfettered ‘freedom of speech’. For example, it is not a legitimate exercise of free speech to:
        1. Groom children on the internet, or anywhere else, for sexual exploitation or other nefarious intentions
        2. Inculcate suicide ideation via social media
        3. Commit perjury in a court of law
        4. Incite acts of discrimination and violence against disliked minorities, such as people of colour, Jews and LGBT+ minorities
        5. Defame someone by publishing libel about them
        6. Commit fraud, such as by swearing a false document or affidavit
        7. Spread false information so as to influence the outcome of an election
        8. Commit acts of treason against a legitimately elected government in a free and fair election
        9. Betray state secrets to an enemy that places your country’s security at risk
        10. Engage in ‘revenge porn’ by publishing explicit images of someone without their consent

        If you want to see egregious curtailments on free speech in action, take a look at Russia, where you can be imprisoned up to 15 years merely for saying “Russia invaded Ukraine”, and people are being arrested for merely holding up a blank sheet of paper in the public square. Russia’s so-called “Gay Propaganda” laws likewise make it illegal to come out as gay if anyone under 18 might hear you saying so – now, there’s a curtailment on free speech right up the Right’s alley.

        1. 230809 says:

          I suspect that people of the Left use ‘the Right’ rhetorically, as an epithet to distance themselves from behaviours and policies of which they disapprove (e.g. slavery, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia); as a form of virtue-signalling, in other words. People on the Right use ‘the Left’ in exactly the same way.

          Terms like ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ have long-since ceased to have any substantive, scientific truth-value; they’ve become purely sectarian in their social function; they’re mostly used to denote which tribe you belong to and to ‘other’ others.

          Like all Marxists of the Frankfurt School, Marcuse was looking for a new agent of revolution following the dissolution of the industrial proletariat in post-War Europe. He found it in the growing civil rights movement (the so-called ‘New Left’) in the US and West Germany. His illiberal ‘left fascist’ theory of truth-as-praxis emerged in the service of that movement and was at odds with the more liberal theories of other Frankfurt Scholars like Habermas. Like I said before, Habermas saw truth (as he conceived it) as a product of free speech; Marcuse, in contrast, saw free speech as a threat to truth (as he differently conceived it).

          Heidegger was an early proponent of the ‘deep ecology’ movement, of which he (mistakenly?) saw Nazism as the political embodiment. He too had a theory of truth, which conceived it as something deep ecology mystically reveals to those who attend to it properly (as the presocratic ancient Greeks did) rather than some kind of correspondence between facts and their description. He seemed to believe that Germans were naturally more ‘in tune’ with deep ecology than other races, wherein lay his attraction to Nazism.

          Enthused by a reading of Heidegger’s magnum opus, Being and Time, Marcuse studied under Heidegger at Freiburg and later became one of his research assistants. He joined the Frankfurt School, during its temporary relocation to New York during the Nazi era, though he didn’t follow it back to Frankfurt after the overthrow of the Nazi regime. His Marxism was always informed by his earlier infatuation with Heidegger.

        2. Niemand says:

          ‘Those who stigmatise liberals with patronising ad hominem epithets like ‘libtard’, ‘woke’, ‘cancel culture’ and the like on ‘free speech’ grounds seem to want to make racist, misogynist and homophobic statements themselves. What is it you used to be able to do before The Left stopped you?’

          The issue you don’t look at though Derek is exactly what those terms like misogyny, racism, transphobia mean, how you define them, what counts, and also who decides.

          So it isn’t so much about the freedom for people to say / act in those prejudicial ways but whether they are them in the first place. Whilst there is an argument about how tolerant we should be of actual bigotry (and the particularly the from it takes and whether a lack of tolerance for it results in defining it as criminal), I think the majority of the problem is about the idea of unaccountable gatekeepers deciding, for example, someone has said something transphobic which the sayer and others dispute and certainly never intended for it to be so. But still they are labelled so and possibly condemned, cancelled and their ‘crimes’ generally sensationalised; the list of transphobic things is now apparently enormous; ‘misogyny’ is routinely used when what is really referred to is sexism, which does not imply any hate; micro-aggressions called racist are very difficult to differentiate from everyday human behaviour.

          So the answer to, ‘What is it you used to be able to do before The Left stopped you?’ was a) assume that your intention behind your words /action would count and not be deemed irrelevant; b) have some agency in what is considered bigoted, and c) even where a bad thing was said, contrition could lead to forgiveness.

          1. 230809 says:

            You’ve hit the nail on the head, Niemand.

            If someone claims someone else’s behaviour is ‘misogynistic’ (or ‘cynical’ or ‘mentally deficient’ or whatever), the onus is on them to explain why it’s misogynistic; that is to lay bare what they mean by ‘misogynistic’ and then justify its application in that sense to the behaviour in question. This is to make the accuser accountable to the public (that is, directly democratically accountable) for her/his accusation.

            The trouble is that we don’t make people democratically accountable for such claims and therefore leave the ‘authority’ with which they speak unchallenged.

            I’ve been banging on for decades for the teaching of critical thinking skills in schools, which will enable children to grow into adults who can challenge the authorities who dominate our public discourse (its ‘gatekeepers’) by calling them directly to account for the claims they make.

          2. John says:

            Niemand – if I can speak from personal experience- I, like many others, considered myself to be free from prejudice but having over the years discussed my attitudes with friends and colleagues who were people of colour or gay I have realised that I have been unconsciously racist, homophonic & misogynistic in their eyes.
            This really made me think that as a straight, white, heterosexual, male I had little idea how being a member of a minority group felt. While I still may not always agree with how a member of a minority group may perceive a claimed offensive attitude to them experience has at least made me stop and think that I personally may not be able to understand how that person feels as I do not have the same life experience. Or to paraphrase Atticus Finch it is very difficult to understand how someone else feels until you have put on their shoes and walked about in them for a while.
            As for date person’s theorising about someone basically having to justify their hurt I would say this is primarily in my experience right wing (yes I mean right wing) justification of unacceptable behaviour. If you or I say something that offends someone (especially a minority or vulnerable group) the least any reasonable person can be expected to do is reflect upon what they have said and why it may have offended rather than adding insult to injury by asking the offended person to justify why they were offended.

          3. 230810 says:

            No one is asking anyone to justify their hurt. Hurt, like anyfeeling, can never be doubted. Only claims can be doubted.

            And claims should always be doubted because they might not be just. In a liberal society, if someone claims that your behaviour is racist or cynical or whatever, the onus is on them to show that their claim is a just one; that is, to justify their claim. For their claim to have any credence, the accuser needs to be able to tell those on whose belief the claim is being made a) what they mean when they use the word ‘racist’ or ‘cynical’ or whatever and b) how the accused’s behaviour fits that definition.

            This is why our legal system, for example, operates on the justice principle that anyone who is accused of wrongdoing is to be judged ‘innocent until proven guilty of that wrongdoing beyond all reasonable doubt’. It’s a safeguard against false accusation.

      2. David Robins says:

        Marcuse is Nietzsche with a collectivist gloss?

        1. John says:

          Reply to last post from 231008.
          I am more than aware about the legal system in this country and the presumption of innocence.
          Laws relating to anti-racism etc do also take into account emotional hurt for the very good reason that emotional hurt can cause psychological harm.
          There is an obvious tension between accuser and accused and I am certainly not saying that all accusations should be accepted without proof.
          The role of social media has amplified these issues though I know that racism, homophobia, misogyny was pretty endemic in many parts of UK society even among so called respectable middle class society. Society norms move as previously marginalised or powerless people in society become seen as equal and valuable members of society and the laws quite rightly adapt to reflect this fact.
          My last comment is that the longer I live the more I realise the value of listening to others rather ‘banging on’ to people with your own opinions to quote your above post.
          Listening to experience of others is valuable to help you reevaluate your own values and opinions. If you listen to someone then this person will also be more receptive to your opinion.
          To quote Bertrand Russell when asked whether he would be willing to die for his opinions he replied in the negative adding I might be wrong after all.

          1. 230810 says:

            Hatred and prejudice is certainly still a blight on our communities, and racist, misogynistic, homophobic, etc. claims should be tested with the same cynicism and scepticism that claims of racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc. should be tested. No claim on our belief should be left unexamined.

            And listening to one another in communities of discourse that are governed by the sort of democratic conditions that, for example, Habermas proposed from a social democratic point of view in his theory of communicative action or Rawls proposed from a liberal democratic view in his theory of justice would perhaps enable us to more fairly produce shared truths in conversation with one another.

          2. David Robins says:

            I’m appending this to the latest, even if a little out of sequence.

            “What is it you used to be able to do before The Left stopped you?”

            1. Never mind me. What about others? My free expression is safe, but perhaps only for now. Voltaire, Niemoller, etc. apply.

            2. Great chutzpah by the Left to think itself entitled to censor its opponents but what is its defence when the roles are reversed? Imagine critics of inherited wealth being jailed for ‘stirring up envy and class hatred’.

            3. Emotional/psychological ‘harm’ is potentially just narcissism, dangerously capable of endless expansion to new, self-defined categories of grifter. To be offended and not explain why denies offenders accurate information from which to learn and it prevents grifters from being found out.

            4. Sanctimonious egalitarians, with no sense of irony, will insist they are better than you. Demanding a highly nuanced debate suits the highly educated, while excluding the rest. It empowers them to act as social and judicial gatekeepers of the ever-shifting definitions of what is and isn’t ‘being kind’.

            5. The Left, as a product of puritanism, struggles to make any distinction between morality and law, between persuasion and enforcement. Whatever ought not to happen, in its opinion, must not be allowed to happen. This inability to navigate conflicting assertions of rights in a way that’s rational, objective, and as far as possible mutually respectful is why most of the Left is inescapably totalitarian.

            6. The tankie Left can’t grasp the idea of loser’s consent in a liberal democracy so resorts to frequent abuse of Popper’s Paradox. Ideologically, Trump is the imitator, not the inventor: from alternative facts to alternative rules for deciding elections.

          3. John says:

            Reply to David Robins – I see the right wing libertarians have now joined the conversation throwing around accusations like confetti.
            In my experience right wing libertarians are just as thin skinned as their extreme left brethren.

        2. 230810 says:

          Yep, there are few 20th century radicals who weren’t influenced by Nietzsche’s critique of modernity.

          Nietzsche predicted that modernity would lead to nihilism (the destruction of our higher values like truth, beauty, and virtue). Marcuse (drawing on Heidegger) argued that modernity had led to the ‘one-dimensional universe’ of post-modernity; a universe in which capitalism has replaced our higher values with false needs, which absorb us into its existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, management, and purely ‘instrumental’ (means/end) modes of thinking.

          Nietzsche urged that nihilism could only be overcome by a revaluation of all values through our own creative endeavour. Marcuse argued that the ‘one dimensional universe’ of post-modernity could only be overcome by a ‘great refusal’ on they part of minorities, outsiders, and the radical intelligentsia who, through their activism, nourish oppositional thought and behaviour that disrupts the consumerism, bureaucracy, and technological rationality by which ever smaller numbers of individuals exercise social control and dictate our very perceptions.

          Marcuse’s is thus one variation on a more general Nietzschean theme. Mainstream sociology speaks of ‘anomie’, a social condition defined by an uprooting or breakdown of any ‘given’ values, standards, or guidance for individuals to follow, Both French and American post-modernists have characterised postmodernity as an epoch of nihilism. A whole raft of ‘death of God’ theologians and religious figures on both the so-called ‘right’ and ‘left’ have likewise represented postmodernity as a kind of nihilism.

          So, yes; Nietzsche’s diagnosis of nihilism is an important branch of the genealogy of Marcuse and the New Left. But it would have been unusual for it not to have been, given the tremendous formative influence his diagnosis had on critical theory in the 20th century.

          1. John says:

            Date person- you come over as a classic pseud.

  8. 230811 says:

    A final word on Truth on Trial, cynicism, and scepticism.

    In 2005, the critical thinker, Harry Frankfurt, who died last month, published an essay On Bullshit. In 2016, he wrote an article in Time magazine, in which he identified Donald Trump as a classic bullshitter. For Frankfurt, the ubiquity of bullshit is a defining characteristic of our time.

    At the height of the bullshit pandemic in 2020, the biologist, Carl Bergstrom, whose work concerns the flow of information through biological and social networks, expanded on Frankfurt’s thesis in Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World.

    According to Bergstrom and Frankfurt, bullshit isn’t the same thing as a lie. Unlike the liar, the bullshitter is unaware of the facts. They’re just ‘bullshitting’, as we say, in order to persuade others to go along with them, vote for them, give them their money or their attention or their devotion or whatever.

    The good news is that we don’t have to resign ourselves to observing the spread of bullshit in a data-driven world. In June of this year, an international team of researchers published a paper on Understanding and combating misinformation across 16 countries on six continents, in which it examined the efficacy of a set of interventions that could help people across a variety of cultures to avoid believing and sharing bullshit.

    The researchers found consistent cross-cultural evidence that the capacity to discern bullshit is associated with a propensity towards scepticism as one’s default mode, a preference for accuracy over the confirmation of one’s prejudices, and the democracy and openness of media platforms, including digital platforms or ‘social media’.

    The study concludes that, to combat bullshit and improve our ‘information hygiene’, we need to develop and maintain our digital literacy, hone our critical thinking skills, and crowd-source ‘vigilante’ accuracy ratings. The researchers found striking regularities in both the underlying psychology of misinformation and the effectiveness of such interventions to combat it.

    The advent of AI (‘Artificial Ignorance’) as a data-driver only makes the need to improve our information hygiene more urgent. We have to learn how to combat the bullshit that chatbots hallucinate. With the advent of tools like GPT-3, we are entering the next level of bullshit, where bullshit it’s no longer a hallmark of just human speech, where we have to defend ourselves against not only the bullshit of people who are indifferent to the truth but also the bullshit that’s generated by machines that are fundamentally incapable of caring about the truth.

    1. John says:

      I have never read a comment with so much bullshit!

      1. Wul says:

        Don’t feed this troll please. He managed to sidetrack and extend almost every comments thread a while back until he was barred. He just talks endless, nitpicking shite about everything. “Are you here for the ten-minute argument or the full hour?”

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