Monday, 23 January 2017

Trump, Brexit, May and Lies

Some time ago, I wrote about the importance of lying for capitalism.  But, as in all things, there is a question of degree and specificity that has to be taken into account.  As Lenin put it, "the truth is always concrete", and that applies to the truth about lying too.  In recent weeks, we have seen a substantive change in the nature of lying by politicians.

During the EU Referendum we saw the proponents of Brexit issue one extravagant lie after another, the most obvious and best known of which is the idea that Brexit would lead to £350 million a week being given to the NHS.  All of this bullshit was churned out within a framework of "post-truth" analysis, whereby facts are assigned no validity, where experts have to not just be critically assessed, but actively disbelieved, and where any basis of argument on facts is replaced by arguments based simply on telling people in your own comfort zone what they want to hear, often conveyed in no more than 250 characters.

In the US, Trump's electoral campaign raised that to its highest level yet.  No matter how hyperbolic his statements, no matter how inane the arguments he put forward, that quite clearly bore no resemblance to any facts however defined, no matter how how decisively the various "fact-checking" bodies exposed the lying nature of the comments he and his supporters were issuing, it made no difference.  This is typical of the kind of situations seen in the past in mass societies, particularly where the normal institutions of society, that regulate the structures within which social discourse occurs, have broken down, which leads to the rise of populists, demagogues, and bonapartists.

Trump's crowd on the left, compared to Obama's crowd on the right.
In Britain, we saw Michael Gove and others start the campaign against "experts" as part of this drive to make any "fact" as valid as any other, or to state it as it really is, any statement by any populist politician that corresponds to the bigotry and misconceptions of their mass base can be considered valid without it has any basis in fact or not.  So, for example this weekend, we saw clearly that the number of people turning out to Trump's inauguration, was considerably less than had turned out for Obama's inauguration.

Rather than accepting that easily validated fact, from the TV images, and so on, Trump insisted the opposite was the case, and his Press Secretary used the Presidential pulpit to insist that was the case.  Meanwhile, Trump's political adviser, Kellyanne Conway, appeared on TV to insist that they had provided "alternative facts"!

What is worrying, and is substantially different to the past, is the fact that people like Gove, and Trump and their representatives have taken it a step further to actually attack the media, and attempt to silence them.  The media in the US, UK and other countries is far from perfect.  It is after all a bourgeois media, that presents its own "facts" through the lens of bourgeois society, and bourgeois interests.  But, it is a free media, unlike that in say Putin's Russia.  It is a free media in which, at least, something approaching the facts can be assessed, and it is a free media in which, in however, restricted and limited a manner, other voices, including the voices of socialists and the labour movement can also be heard.

What we have seen in recent weeks and months is a challenge to even that situation.  Trump has made it clear that he will use the power of the Presidency to attack the media, and to by-pass it in a way that Bonapartist and totalitarian regimes have done in the past.  And, we have now seen that May lied by omission in covering up the misfiring of the Trident missile in June last year, ahead of the Trident debate in Parliament.  And, when challenged on that, May's response was to refuse to answer the question, whilst other Tories have gone on the attack against the media for asking the question.

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