Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Vital Necessity of Truth

I'm sick to death of hearing things from
Uptight short sided narrow minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth.
– John Lennon

A quote arguably attributed to George Orwell states that “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” As history demonstrates, it is certainly considered a criminal act by the ruling elites of many countries and increasingly, our own.

Since my last article there have been growing threats by the Trump administration not only against the press in general but against truth-tellers, whistle-blowers and especially against Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The Trump administration reports preparing an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange on unverifiable charges of being, as CIA chief Mike Pompeo stated, “a nonstate, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Assange himself denies this accusation, stating “We have said clearly that our source is not a member of the Russian state and even the U.S. government is not suggesting that our source is a member of the Russian state.” When it comes to accusations of election tampering by Russia or anyone else via Wikilieaks, what was revealed was nothing more than the filthy tactics employed the DNC and the Clinton campaign to undermine Bernie Sanders. This didn't surprise anybody but, thanks to the DNC behavior, we have a broken and discredited Democratic party and Trump in the White House. Assange went further in his recent interview on DemocracyNow! pointing out that, “The United States government, since 1950, has intervened in 81 elections. That is not including coups, which have overthrown governments. So there’s a long history of the United States doing this to places around the world, in infamous ways and, most recently, alleged interference in the election in Israel. So, I think we should understand that the United States is in a glass house when it comes to allegations of attempting to interfere with or influence election results.”

Whatever your opinion of Wikileaks, the issue is much larger. As journalist Glenn Greenwald makes clear regarding the threat directed at Wikileaks, “The Justice Department under President Obama experimented with this idea for a long time. They impaneled a grand jury to criminally investigate WikiLeaks and Assange. They wanted to prosecute them for publishing the trove of documents back in 2011 relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. What the Obama Justice Department found was that it is impossible to prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing secret documents without also prosecuting media organizations that regularly do the same thing.  Many other news organizations also published huge troves of the documents provided by Manning. It was too much of a threat to press freedom, even for the Obama administration, to try and create a theory under which WikiLeaks could be prosecuted.”

This gets to the heart of the matter. It isn't that we even have an authentic free press. Our major newspapers and media are corporate entities with very few, too often overlapping owners connected to political parties and embedded in the state with ties to the CIA. This has been increasingly true for decades. You will not find accurate, unbiased reporting about electoral or domestic politics, our foreign adventures, our secret wars, or the 400 nuclear-armed military bases ringing China and Russia, from American mainstream corporate media.

None of us would be aware of the intrusive activities of our government or the tapping of all our communications if it weren’t for Edward Snowden. We would not know the extent of our human rights abuses or the direct targeting and killing of journalists in Iraq if it weren't for Chelsea Manning. Both of them went through, or were helped by Wikileaks, and both are imprisoned as a result – Manning at a military prison in Ft. Leavenworth Kansas and Assange in the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Snowden remains exiled and hunted in Russia. We would not know about CIA abuses if not for Jeffrey Sterling or how activists are spied on for corporate interests by secret agencies like Stratfor if not for Barret Brown. We would not know about the torture and abuses by our government or about Abu Ghraib if not for John Kiriakou. All jailed for telling us. Without Robert Parry's efforts and those of ex-CIA people we might not know of NATO's actives in support of Ukrainian fascists and the efforts to push war with Russia. We would be far less knowledgeable about Obama's drone terror program, the brutal behavior of our Joint Special Operations Command or our “kill teams” without investigative journalists like Jeremy Scahill. We would not know the truth behind the assassination of Bin Laden without the in-depth coverage by Seymour Hersh, published by necessity outside the U.S.

Without truth-tellers who risk and often sacrifice their lives and freedoms to inform us, we would have no way of knowing these things. You won't find this kind of reporting in the New York Times, which in spite of its efforts to look like a valid and unbiased news outlet, has just hired Bret Stephens, a rabid Zionist and self professed climate change denier, as its opinion editor. The Times can be counted on to promote CIA narratives and official lies – the kind that lead us into wars like Iraq and now Syria and maybe China before long.

Truth-tellers come in different forms. Some, as mentioned, are journalists or whistle-blowers. Others are musicians or poets. Some are comedians like Stephen Colbert or, in brutally repressive places like Egypt, Bassem Youssef, a popular commentator in the style of John Stewart or Colbert who has been persecuted for his public statements.

The media will often play catch up in reporting what, thanks to truth-tellers, is already out. Even then, the embedded corporate media does its best to discredit such information, to spin it to its reverse, to create competing “facts” and to tribalize it into partisan opinion. The result is a lack of trust in anything the media tells us – for that matter – in anything anyone tells us. History is turned on its head and even verifiable, peer-reviewed science is not accepted by many. We are naturally sentient animals who strive to make sense of the world around us. In the absence of dependable media and trusted facts, we tend toward mysticism, conspiracy thinking or we just tune out all of it, becoming further alienated, powerless and crippled by cynicism. Maybe, keeping us ignorant and divided aside, that is exactly what the powerful want.

As Hannah Arendt wisely observed, “The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

And here we are in a “post truth” increasingly authoritarian America where what you believe depends on your tribal identity: Democrat, Republican, Evangelical, liberal, libertarian, socialist, anarchist. We choose our bubbles, seek self-confirmation and tune out conflicting information. I do my best to challenge my own assumptions by looking at news and opinion presented with very different perspectives. I also try to verify information using different sources.

If we are to defeat authoritarian dictatorship and reclaim anything that resembles democracy, we must have inquiring minds willing to do a little digging to find truth. It is out there but we have to look beyond the partisan and cultural lenses we find most comfortable. We have access to more news sources than ever before but we need to put some effort into finding what is true. Think of this as comparative shopping. I prefer The Intercept, DemocracyNow! , The Real News, Revealnews, and Commondreams, but I also read The American Conservative and foreign press like Speigel as well as our own corporate media and its fact checkers like FAIR and The Columbia Journalism Review.

I find it also important to expand one's social group rather than surrounding ourselves only with people who share our opinions and world view. I'm glad to have friends I don't often agree with politically. Our discussions can be heated but they are a search for truth beyond our preconceived views. By social group, I don't mean online social media. I mean getting to know and listening to actual people, whether co-workers, neighbors, or people you meet in public places.

It is also imperative that we communicate regularly with the editors and staff of our corporate media, letting them know that we are aware of what is not being covered and challenging them with facts when they are feeding us biased nonsense. We must demand responsible journalism from big corporate media even while we support the authentic investigative journalism of independent media. It is up to all of us to demand real news, to search out truth and to share it with each other if we are to overcome our national divisions, the utter corruption of authoritarian oligarchy and to achieve authentic representative democracy.

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