Why ‘Fake News’ is Valid

In the minds of many on the right – and I think it fair to say this debate is one that would not exist without the right – there is a certain world out there. It is a world in which Sweden is falling apart because it is ‘socialist’. A world in which gays are repellent. A world in which the Bible is the final word in truth. A world in which immigrants on the street are a bad thing. A world in which blacks have found their rightful place in society and should not aspire to rise above it. A world in which so many things simply are. This is the very basis of reality.

The problem with the mainstream media is it doesn’t appear to reflect that world.

Insofar as their media of choice do reflect that world, adherence to the facts is secondary to the necessity of adherence to reality overall. It doesn’t much matter, really, whether Obama did or did not bug Trump Towers. The important fact is that Obama is a seriously bad guy, and the underlying truth of the article is ‘Obama is bad’ regardless of whether or not it is true he committed this particular act. That is an irrelevance.

When a Whitehouse aide spoke of ‘alternative facts’ over the Trump inauguration debate she may – consciously or otherwise – have been making this very point. It doesn’t much matter whether more or less people turned out for Trump’s inauguration than Obama’s. The fact, the underlying reality, is that Trump is the better man and so should have had more. In Orwell’s 1984, ‘Truth Is Lies’. Facts may lead you astray, and sometimes lies are required to point us in the right direction. If a fact makes you uncomfortable, then it is because it is not in accordance with the underlying reality. Better to have ‘alternative facts’ truly reflective of the world as it is.

Fox News once fought a case in the courts blatantly stating that nothing in American law put it under any obligation to tell the truth. Had CNN done that, the Washington Post, the New York Times, they would have lost much of their audience. Their audience is hung-up on facts. For the viewers of Fox News the statement was irrelevant. Fox News provides them with a view of the world they know. A world in which a major city in the UK is a no-go area for non-Muslims because even if it isn’t, it could be. That reflects the reality of Islam. A world in which no Muslim ever condemned an Islamist terrorist attack because hell, even though they did and in their droves, they were lying about their true feelings and secretly they rejoiced. A world in which incidents of rape have risen dramatically in Sweden since it played host to so many Syrian refugees because they’re foreigners and simply can’t integrate. If their figures were falsely presented, so what? These foreigners don’t understand the basics of consensual sex. Consequently something bad surely happened last night in Sweden and, if it didn’t, it surely will tomorrow night, the night after, next week, next month.

There are facts, there are always facts, but way more important than any individual fact, even a regiment of facts, is the underlying reality. It is that to which we must remain true. If mere facts get in the way of that, condemn them. If a creative fiction working within the bounds of realism produces an alternative fact more true to the world as it is, then it is to be embraced and should take precedence.

The news may be fake, then, but the reality it reflects is not. It is therefore truth. It is the MSM, in its slavish devotion to the facts, that fails to reflect reality.

Truth really can be lies.


The Trump Administration – a Classic Case of Bait-and-Switch

Trump, given his personality, has surrounded himself for decades with sycophants who have fawned on his statements, however outrageous, however much they may twirl their fingers at their temples behind his back. Decades of talking nonsense is a hard habit to break, but how important is it that he continues to do so with the world hanging on his every word?

It seems Trump has been given his ‘toys’ to play with – Mexicans and the media. Not good for Mexicans undeniably, (though perhaps good for the media which now must return to investigative reporting rather than relying on briefs), but there it is. He’s got to have something to take his sledgehammer to while his supporters cheer him on, and why not Mexicans? The Republican party doesn’t worry too much about Mexicans, they’re hardly their natural constituency. Mexico itself is a different question, but they can stop things going too far.

Trump’s own appointees differ from him before they even get behind their desks in order to get through a vetting process run too rationally for them to acknowledge the President’s own statements as the ‘party line’. Increasingly, those reliant upon the official word on policy are ignoring what Trump says and turning to his aides as they go around smoothing any feathers he’s ruffled, particularly in the international arena. (The EU and NATO pretty much ignored the mouthings of the Commander in Chief and waited for assurances from the recent visit by the administration’s supposed lackeys, now essentially its leaders, which they duly received).

Trump has been reduced to a sideshow in his own Presidency. He doesn’t even seem to mind it happening. It can’t be he’s not noticed.

It seems to be a classic ‘bait-and-switch’. Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric is not reflected in the appointments he’s made. Behind Trump’s clown’s mask – what happened last night in Sweden, whether it rained on his parade, the lying MSM and, of course, the crowd-pleasing Mexican Dance – the Republicans have been given carte blanche on an establishment ticket. Sure, that’s a lot less damaging than what would happen were Trump to really go with the agenda he promised in many areas but, in others that may have been more progressive, Trump has doubled-back on himself. He, along with the Republican establishment and their friends, are making hay while the sun shines behind the circus tent. Much as Trump may hate to be contradicted in his role as President, he clearly realises that the Republican establishment is working hard to benefit him in his role of Commander in Chief of Trump Enterprises.

Trump’s supporters have yet to notice the absence of bread for the thrill of the circus, but the distraction can’t last forever. Sooner or later the basic, undeniable facts of dodgy dealings with China, with Russia, of the tightening grip of the financial industries on the nation’s wealth, of no jam today becoming no jam tomorrow will register. Donald Trump, the friend of Big Pharma, oil magnates and Goldman Sachs will be seen for what he is, but not before he’s enriched himself considerably and a great deal of damage has been done.

Welcome to the biggest con job in history.

Only a year ago, so many of us had so much hope for a bloke called Bernie now lost in the furore. The Democrats are now busy reformulating themselves. Here’s hoping they’ve learned their lesson and they rediscover Sanders, not Clinton, to ask how best to move forward.


The Politics of Individualism

The right has a tendency to espouse individualism. However, while claiming the ground for themselves they discuss it largely in terms of making money and keeping as much of it as possible, something which of course is very limited in its reach and only of great importance to a privileged few.

When it comes to individuals in many another aspect of their lives, their arguments tend towards social engineering. The creation of a homogenous group of people who look the same, think the same, believe the same, act the same.

In other words, the right tends towards economic freedom and social controls, while the left tends towards economic control and social freedoms.

The legislature exists to maintain social standards insofar as people should not kill, steal, or in other ways transgress upon the rights and freedoms of other individuals in society. Beyond actions that do so transgress, I am not up for the idea of ‘community standards’ given these tend to mitigate against individualism and cultural diversity within a community.

I relish that diversity, both as an observer and as a contributor to it. But even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t feel that it would be right to enter into excessive forms of social engineering in order to try and bring about some idealised world suited to my own personal tastes for its comforting predictability.

A perfect example in my own life is my take on homosexuality. Two guys at it revolts me. End of. (Two women is another story, but let it pass). I’ve stated that fact openly to gay friends to their understandable chagrin, but they can miss the point along with those who would see their activities curtailed. Tolerance isn’t about “I like it.” That wouldn’t be tolerance, it would be choice. If I liked it, I’d be gay myself. Tolerance is about the fact that we live in a diverse world of diverse individuals with their own forms of self-expression, their own tastes, proclivities, cultural backgrounds, personal histories etc. If I want to live my life in accordance with the person I am, then providing I don’t hurt others in doing so I should be allowed to do it. I happen to detest beetroot. However, I do not want to live in a world in which others are banned from eating it. Neither do I want to live in a world in which eating it is made compulsory through legislation designed to inflict upon the entire population some sort of community standard.

I want minorities to have their rights because, in the end, we are all of us a minority of one. In expressing myself I don’t want to tread on anyone else’s toes, and I sure as hell don’t want anyone else treading on mine. If I am going to censure people on the grounds of my own personal tendencies, then I should accept the censure of others. Forget it. It ain’t gonna happen.

So, community standards be damned. My community standard is that of the individualist. I promise to stay the hell out of your face. In return, you can stay the hell out of mine.

British Party Politics Destined for Shake-Up?

I lay no claim to a crystal ball, but a number of scenarios are possible in the wake of the Brexit referendum which may lead to a shake-up of the political parties.

First, the Conservatives. The ‘eating one’s cake and having it’ option promised by the likes of Johnson in the campaign for Brexit is not an option. The Conservative party seems likely to divide over whether the European free-trade area is to be sacrificed for the sake of immigration control, or immigration is to be the price of remaining in the area. The clear divide here is between Brexit and Brin, but it seems likely that the Brexit camp within the Tory party will itself divide as some go for the less hardcore option and move away from “Stop Immigration Uber Alles.” With the leadership likely to be contended between May and Leadsom when the choice is given to the Tory party membership, May seems more likely to edge it. Leadsom, though more popular with Tory party grass roots members than with the Parliamentary Conservative Party, has already shot herself in the foot twice when it comes to honesty, first in supporting Brexit which appears to go against previous assertions, and now with a dodgy CV. Though May has come out as the most hardcore yet on immigration – no guarantees for EU immigrants already in the country, something even Johnson has said should be guaranteed – that may be no more than her keeping her cards close to her chest. She was, after all, a quiet Brin supporter. Whoever takes the leadership, however, a divide is certain.

Labour is in still greater disarray. Some of the Parliamentary Labour Party are already talking about jumping ship and joining the Conservative party if Corbyn remains as leader. The Labour party office is so concerned it is currently looking at who has effective copyright on the ‘Labour’ brand, only to find no one appears to do so. The very fact they are looking suggests they anticipate a schism the party may not survive intact, though I believe it will… the only question being what it will look like. And if Corbyn goes? That takes us to a much-neglected sector of the British political system in all the punditry.

Voters.

The electorate is clearly dissatisfied in large numbers. The British people have more to be concerned about than many nations, across Europe and all the way out to the USA, which have had new parties springing up on the tide of populism with people seeking systemic overhaul. Dissatisfaction with establishment politics in the UK has been underlined by the Brexit vote and the number of people who went for ‘out’ as a purely anti-establishment vote. 2015 likewise played host to a general election that may be characterised as the election of the protest vote. With Corbyn as leader of the Labour party, those who feel disenfranchised have a home. The trouble is that has in turn alienated a generation of individuals who quite like a Tory Light party, in particular those members of the PLP selected in the first place precisely on the basis. In other words, there is an increasingly large percentage of the electorate feeling increasingly alienated from any Tory brand, lite or otherwise, who may have been the basis for a new populist movement mirroring those elsewhere, but who got sucked back into Labour as a viable alternative to establishment politics only now to be told by the PLP that they’re not welcome.

I say that the electorate is ignored with good reason. Take one issue alone. Trident. Corbyn has been portrayed as downright eccentric for being the only major party leader to come out against it (if we take ‘major parties’ to mean the Tories, Labour, the LibDems, and perhaps UKIP). An Indie-commissioned poll had 49% of people wanting rid of Trident one way or another, well within the margin of error for an even split across the country. The Independent blew what was a bombshell article on the back of that in analysing its political potential, instead electing for a sub-headline which proclaimed Corbyn’s abandonment of Trident was rejected by a majority of the electorate. No surprise that it is no longer only radicals who reject the mainstream media as a tool of the establishment.

I believe – but am open to correction – that no one vying for the Tory leadership has the stomach to call a general election for a mandate for their leadership, probably wise given the turmoil the nation is already in. Though not a supporter of the Tory party, and though I believe that an election before the year ends could see them out of office, I think the wisdom in not going for an election goes beyond party- and self-interest. With the state of the nation as it is right now no one would know what on earth they’re voting for anyway and we could do without the upheaval. It’s best to let things simmer down. The question is, what’s to come out of the simmering?

My guess is the Tory party will remain intact, but fractured. In the wake of Brexit it will have to move somewhat harder right in some regards, while in others things may soften by way of compensation. (May, for example, is for remaining in the European Convention of Human Rights Cameron was so determined to rid us of). However, the Tory party in a post-European Britain must inevitably play host to irreconcilable factions. It’s one thing to be in Europe and grumble about it but on any number of issues, outside Europe the reformulation necessary is going to lead to confrontation. (China is a good example. Osborne has already announced he wants to bring us ever closer to Xi Jinping, but how many would have the stomach for that? Out of Europe, less close with the USA, and we want China as our new bestest fwend? Really??? But perhaps Osborne would argue out of Europe, less close with the USA, where else? That may be resolved by China making it fairly clear that outside Europe we’ve lost much of the interest they had in us anyway, though close ties with a democratic nation happily sanctioning their behaviour could prove useful in terms of soft power and for propaganda purposes).

More likely to split is Labour. They are the most exposed to the political vacuum at the left of British politics. They will either fill the void under Corbyn and there will be defections from the PLP, or Corbyn will be ousted, the vacuum will still need filling, and it will be many of the membership and those Labour believe to be their natural voters who bail out and head for the first populist movement that arises in Corbyn’s wake. If that happens, it all comes down to whether that movement has a viable and pragmatic leader. If not, though it will have an impact, I don’t think the nation is quite ready for politics by Facebook. If a worthy leader emerges, however, then it becomes debatable whether the continued presence of Labour would do more damage in splitting the vote of the left, or in splitting the vote of the right. It seems likely their core supporters will come from a dying breed of “I’ve voted Labour all me life” and dissatisfied Tories who are increasingly alarmed by some of the less pleasant rhetoric likely to come out of the Conservative party in Brexit’s wake.

If we thought the 2015 election was interesting for the divisions it exposed, 2020 in the wake of the Brexit referendum will prove still more fascinating whatever happens. The irony being that, IM(H)O, we aren’t going to leave the EU in any case.

A Second Referendum on ‘Brexit’ is Inevitable

I think it highly unlikely the UK will leave the EU. I believe there will be a second referendum, won by those who vote to remain. Indeed, I think it inevitable and necessary.

Consider the timetable. Article 50 is invoked, I would guess between early September when a new Conservative leader is likely to be established and year’s end. However, that is only the beginning of the end.

At that point, the UK remains in the EU for the duration of negotiations for a withdrawal agreement. Theoretically this should be accomplished within two years, but the reality of EU law is that the two-year mark is only there for the EU to dump the UK if it feels negotiations are becoming too protracted. The UK can agree to withdraw before that two years is up if satisfied with what it has negotiated. Alternatively, the two-year limit can be extended if both parties agree further negotiation is needed.

Bearing in mind that we voted blind for Brexit – no one can have a clue what it will look like at this stage – then if there was ever an argument for a referendum on things such as the Lisbon Treaty there’s still more of an argument for the British people to approve – or disapprove – of an agreement which removes us from the EU altogether when we know what it looks like. Whatever it looks like, it’s going to take the nation in as radically a different direction as joining the EU in the first place.

I would suggest a three-way referendum. i), take the agreement as it stands. ii), renegotiate the agreement. iii), forget it, stay in the EU. A two-way vote would be confusing. If the choice were between merely accepting or declining the agreement and declining won, how would that be interpreted? A vote for agreement change, or a vote for ‘in’? We would enter into an endless cycle. Agreement not accepted, renegotiation, agreement not accepted given that at least 48% of the electorate would go for non-acceptance whatever the agreement reads.

To be fair, option three would have to outweigh the votes of options one and two combined. Both those options are, after all, a vote for Brexit. However, it seems likely that a re-run of the referendum even a few days after it was held would have led to a reversal as the “Oh my God, what have we done?” factor kicked in and people started to realise the bunny-rabbits-and-rainbows vision of Brexit wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and the Brexit camp were reneging on promises as soon as rewarded for making them.

Strictly speaking, if the UK wants to stay in it should invoke Article 49 and begin the application procedure all over again, but that would cause a bit of a mess. Britain can’t actually leave until it has negotiated and accepted a withdrawal agreement, and if it doesn’t want to withdraw then how is it supposed to negotiate that? A little legal dancing, however, and I guess Article 50 would suddenly become reversible to the benefit of both parties.

More and more people are talking about dodgy ways to just ignore the result of the referendum we’ve just had. I disagree with them. It’s a democratic mandate, and to ignore it – however reasonably in this instance – would set a very dangerous precedent. However, I cannot see how the Brexit camp can reasonably deny the British people a vote on the withdrawal agreement. Indeed, it would be to undermine many of their ‘democratic’ arguments were such a referendum to be denied.

All this being the case, and it seems to me the most likely scenario moving forwards, the next two years will prove to be damaging certainly with our reaffirmation of membership coming with the nation bruised by the battering of years of uncertainty but, nonetheless, Britain will remain in the EU.

Politics and Polarisation: The Case of the Stolen Trousers

Much of the reason for dissatisfaction in the world right now has been identified. People are sick and tired of this, that, and the other across Europe and across the USA. The question becomes… whose fault is it?

The technique used by members of the establishment invested in the status quo has been to blame those without a voice and turn losers against losers to fight among themselves. This is best summarised by a joke I heard. A banker, a worker, and an immigrant sit down at a table on which there are nine biscuits. The banker takes nine, then whispers to the worker “That immigrant’s gonna nick your biscuit.”

As a ‘divide and conquer’ technique it works wonders… but only for so long.

When things go too far, when the establishment takes too much and it is no longer tolerable, the community divides. There are those who wise up to the fact they’ve been conned, and then there are those who continue to be conned but become more radical in their search for solutions. It is the latter group that is of interest. They become susceptible to anyone who steals the establishment’s trousers for their own use.

Consider Brexit first. This is the story Cameron has been feeding the nation for years, along with many of his colleagues. “Yes, things suck. But don’t blame us, it’s all the fault of them Europeans and their regulations and their immigrants, but what can we do? We’re in the EU.” Then along comes Nigel Farage. He steals them trousers and says “Fine. We’ll leave the EU.”

Now Trump. “It’s all those damned Mexicans, those damned Muslims” is the story coming out of Fox News et al in support of the establishment. “But what can we do? We can’t build a wall.” Along comes Trump and says “Yes we can.” Once again, the establishment’s trousers are stolen to be worn by Donald Trump.

This puts the establishment in a quandary. They’re left with no trousers. They’re exposed. They can’t deny their own rhetoric. At the same time, any further confirmation of it merely plays into the hands of those who have stolen their lines and offered solutions. Thus any opposition they may present to the trouser thieves is weak and ineffectual. The only way to oppose them well would be to state the truth, but they can only do that by exposing themselves as liars.

What it means for the establishment is it’s screwed. It is opposed on the one side by the anti-establishment who sees the lies for what they are, and on the other by the anti-establishment that has hijacked the lies and packaged them with their solutions for those who continue to believe.

What it means for the rest of us is extreme polarisation. The two anti-establishment camps are, by their very nature, diametrically opposed in their philosophies and, indeed, in their very conception of reality.

Bremain or Brexit?

Clinton or Trump?

Chalk or cheese?

Review: Gayle Lynds – The Book of Spies

The Book of SpiesThe Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Book of Spies is an intelligent work. However, intelligence and wisdom do not necessarily go hand in hand.

Intended as a thriller, the work fails to thrill. The underlying premise is that a secret library of ancient texts is under the control of a bunch of billionaires who relish the fact they have access to the works of the ancient Greeks and others thought lost to history. As premises go, it’s weak. Sure the billionaires are prone to paranoia and bumping one another off along with their aides, but who are the stakeholders in an internal squabble? Who cares? As for the secret itself, academe would be fascinated to have access to the library perhaps and be thrilled by the underlying premise of this work, but how many of them actually read thrillers?

One of our billionaires has a sideline in a diamond mine in Afghanistan. An Afghani warlord with an anti-American plot makes for a side-story, but as an add-on there’s not much too it. Unfortunate. It may have made for a better novel and justified the body-count in the work which mounts dramatically in its pursuit of the lost works of Greek playwrights.

Back in that library, and American agencies get involved to the apparent puzzlement of some departmental heads, a puzzlement we share. Okay, Lynds fills in that gap with reasonable enough explanations, but only insofar as plaster reasonably fills the cracks in a wall. Without a good paint job, the cracks still show.

Lynds has done a great deal of research. Or travel. Or both. She has facts at her fingertips and doesn’t want to waste any of them. An abundance of useless information is thrown into the work to little effect beyond slowing down the pace. The potential for mystery here is great, but we’re shown events unfolding from both sides of the battle, so that’s gone. The only mystery is the location of the library, and I don’t feel as if I’m introducing a spoiler here in revealing it is on an uncharted Greek island. Seriously, so what? If it had been lurking beneath some major city – as the mythical library that inspired this work is supposed to lurk beneath Moscow – it would have made for a better work.

Plot devices stretch credulity to breaking-point, such as the library member who has the secret of the location tattooed on the top of his head hidden by his hair in the form of a clue which takes some working out for our heroes, but honestly? Would you? Who would? Yes, it mirrors nicely some minor incident in some work of an ancient Greek, but let’s be serious here.

That classical Greek literature doesn’t sit well in a down-to-earth thriller is all-but caricatured by some of the dialogue.

“My ass,” Eva retorted. “You’re alive. Don’t try for more. As Horace said, ‘Semper avarus eget.’ That means a greedy man’s always in need, you greedy bastard.”

Oh please

Ironically, the notes at the end make for a better story in telling the tale of the mythical library upon which the novel was based than does the novel itself. Lynds may have been better sticking with that, though the assertion that some claim the existence of a piece by Homer lettered in gold on a twelve-foot-long snakeskin is impossible on so many levels that Lynds may require better sources for something more scholarly.

I have only given out one two-star review besides this one, and that for an obligation read. Two stars means “I didn’t finish the book so I can’t review it.” I’m not sure why I finished this one except, perhaps, that it holds out the hope throughout that it could get better, but it never does.

All I can say to ameliorate all this criticism is Lynds could probably write a half-decent work with better research in a different vernacular, but she needs to steer clear of thrillers.