Complexities of a ‘Post-Truth’ Era

The mainstream U.S. media claims a monopoly on determining truth, despite a very spotty record of getting it right and a blindness to the reality that there are usually two sides to a story, as Gilbert Doctorow explains.

By Gilbert Doctorow

We’re told that we’re living in a post-truth (or post-factual) era, a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, a culture that eschews a foundation of solid facts. Indeed, it is said that in this post-truth time, facts have become “secondary” if not entirely irrelevant. But who gets stuck with this “post-truth” label – and it is typically used as an insult – is not so simple.

President Trump delivers his brief speech to the nation explaining his decision to launch a missile strike against Syria on April 6, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

In 2016, “post-truth” was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year, due to its prevalence in the context of the Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential election, but it’s clearly true that “post-truth” is not entirely a new phenomenon. Political lies and fabrications are as old as time and in recent years have come from Democrats as well as Republicans.

However, this Word of the Year has developed a distinctly partisan and derogatory usage in the United States. It relates not just to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but specifically to the Republican nominee in that election who now sits in the Oval Office. That is to say, the word has been instrumentalized, another fashionable concept of our day, to attack Donald J. Trump, whom the word’s framers consider to be the embodiment of post-truth.

This is not to suggest that Trump’s character weakness for self-serving tall stories does not justify severe criticism. It was not for nothing that Rex Tillerson, in his prepared statement at the opening of his Senate confirmation hearings to become Secretary of State, chose to stress that truth was something he would always make a guiding principle in his State Department operations. From his training as an engineer, he promised that he would follow the facts wherever they led him.

(It is very sad to note that once in office, Tillerson’s loyalty to his boss outweighed his personal convictions and professional methodology so that he has become a willing mouthpiece for dubious claims against Syria over an alleged but unproven chemical attack by the Assad forces in Idlib province. It was also curious that the mainstream U.S. media, which doesn’t trust a word coming out of Trump’s mouth or his Twitter finger, suddenly believed his every word justifying his retaliatory missile strike on Syria – and anyone who doubted Trump was banished to the post-truth woodshed.)

Also, for anyone observing the ongoing Democratic-led witch hunt in Washington over suspected collusion between Trump advisers and the Russians to throw the election his way, or otherwise to undermine U.S. democracy, it is patently clear that the concept of “post-truth” is fully descriptive of what is being practiced by Trump’s opponents, too.

We have smears, slurs, allegations unsupported by facts, and “fishing expeditions” to find something – anything – that fits previously prepared indictments and prepares the way for Trump’s possible impeachment, aided and abetted by the mainstream media which regards itself as the definer and defender of Truth. No factual counter-argument by the few experts and politicians daring to stand up to the mob on Capitol Hill counts for anything.

Complexities of Truth

But it would be a mistake to allow our understanding of “post–truth” to be limited strictly by the vagaries of partisan politics, or to blame it on the character defects of this or that public personality. In truth, truth can have many forms.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the United Nations on April 28, 2017.

There is, for instance, scientific, scholarly or empirical truth based on properly established and observable facts, i.e., things that can be objectively measured. There is also religious truth, which is faith-based and which is still a major influence on American society. Artistic truth, to take another example, is highly personal and subjective; facts as building blocks play little or no role.

In the political/journalistic world, facts are important, but there can be varying interpretations of those facts, i.e., divergent narratives explaining how certain facts add up or don’t add up. While there can’t be “alternative facts” – a widely derided phrase offered up by one Trump defender – there can be “alternative narratives” or, in that sense, “alternative truths.” People can see the same facts and interpret them very differently based on their life experiences, or as editors used to tell young reporters, “there are always two sides to a story.”

Often, the concept of “post-truth” – as applied in the political/journalistic world these days – depends on which side of the divide you’re on regarding populist politics. The elites like to believe that they have a monopoly on “truth” because of their superior education or status. They resent the idea that non-elites believe they can understand reality as well as or even better than the elites.

Much of the battle over “post-truth” boils down to the elites’ anger over their monopoly on defining political/journalist truth being challenged. But the “truth” of these elites often contradicts the realities experienced by the non-elites, many of whom have developed a strong anti-intellectual current and are ready to reject what the elites are presenting to the public via the media every day.

Business ‘Truth’

But there is another dimension to the current ascendancy of “post-truth” – as it relates to Trump – that I have experienced in working more than 25 years in international business. “Post-truth” behavior has, for decades, been enshrined in Anglo-Saxon business culture. It has only now spilled over into politics because a maverick business mogul has unexpectedly risen to the apex of American politics. He also has brought with him an entourage of fellow moguls, as described in an April 22 article in The New York Times entitled “Trump Reaches Beyond West Wing for Counsel.”

One of the elegant rooms at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. (Photo from maralagoclub.com)

And, I’m not just talking about the pitchman’s tendency to present his product as always “beautiful” and “great.” There is a tension inside the business world between mid-level executives who justify their judgments based on facts and figures and senior executives who often rely on “gut instincts” but then want some expert to verify what they want to do.

I spent about two-thirds of my business career in that middle-management territory where the strategic business planning cycle of marketing departments typically draws its basic narrative from outside fact-based reference materials like the Economist Intelligence Unit. Moreover, big corporate investment projects presented to senior management by middle managers in Power Point are preferably defended on the basis of hard historic numbers, not back-of-the-envelope guesses.

But the one-third of my business career spent as an outside consultant to the Boards of Directors of 20 or more major corporations – ranging from fast-moving consumer goods to food and beverages to parcel delivery and even to hi-tech – showed that something very different was going on. The top managers operate in a different value system, where highest appreciation is given not to facts but to a less rigid set of judgments based on intuition and experience. That is particularly true when the subject is not routine business but high-profile projects entailing new investment or business activity.

In my experience as outside consultant time and again it emerged that the main purpose of such assignments was to serve as a support to top management for ideas they arrived at by gut instinct rather than fact. The challenge was to overcome resistance to their initiatives from petty-fogging, fact-wielding middle management by reference to the supposedly greater expertise of the consultant, who might be allowed to argue with smoke and mirrors that would never pass if put up by employees.

If I had any doubts about my suspicions regarding the rating of intuition as opposed to facts in top management circles, they were dispelled by a psychological report I received back during my own vetting for a country manager position at the world’s biggest distiller back in 1998. The report’s preparer was a Ph.D. in psychology and surely had a clear-eyed understanding of corporate culture.

His lengthy analysis of my strengths and areas for development, as weaknesses are termed, boiled down to one sentence: “Gilbert tends to be rational rather than intuitive.” The positives – intellect, strategic grasp, tenacious worker, flexibility in ambiguous environments, experience and knowledge of local conditions – were fine, but the nagging drawback was intuition, otherwise called gut feeling.

I got the job, but my understanding of which levers worked in the company and which didn’t for decisions surrounding major new projects was changed forever. With intuition one cannot argue. As the old Russian folk saying has it: I am the boss and you are an idiot; you are the boss and I am an idiot.

In big business, as I saw from the inside, very often blunders which occur due to intuition-based rather than fact-based decision making can be very expensive but are rarely ruinous. Very large companies are usually able to recoup these losses from their routine, profitable operations, meaning from the paying public, using market strength. The companies then tweak the new activities over time and bring them into profit.

The open question now, in the chaotic first months of the Trump administration, is how this approach to “post-truth” management will work out for the U.S. federal government – for Trump and his team on one side and for those who are trying to bring him down on the other.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015

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51 comments for “Complexities of a ‘Post-Truth’ Era

  1. Sam F
    May 11, 2017 at 10:19 am

    The article is very good indeed, but the term “elite” is very inappropriate in this context as it incorrectly implies superiority of those with economic or political power, when in fact they are in general the most anti-intellectual and amoral persons, the tyrants who parasitize democracy. This is worsened by stating that “the non-elites… have developed a strong anti-intellectual current and are ready to reject what the elites are presenting to the public via the media.” One must be more intellectual than oligarchy to reject its propaganda.

    When “No factual counter-argument by the few experts and politicians daring to stand up to the mob on Capitol Hill counts for anything” that mob should not be described as “elite.” The term “elite” is better known than “oligarchy” but should be avoided because it misleads the reader.

    • mike k
      May 11, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      Good point Sam. I prefer to call those at the top ‘scum.”

      • Broompilot
        May 12, 2017 at 6:33 pm

        Exactly

    • Evangelista
      May 11, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      I have to defend “elite”, since elites tend to be self-styled, and usually cadrés of self-assuming complacent imbeciles; and tend to do blindly dumb and stupid things, as, for example, the elite cavalry of Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade”, who are there celebrated for carrying on in suicidal stupidity where the error was obvious. The correlation between that elite cavalry and the commercial elite of today could be called ‘uncanny’ if it weren’t, instead, the common run for garden-variety among cadre elites…

      • Sam F
        May 11, 2017 at 9:05 pm

        Yes, your description of oligarchy is apt, and they do fancy themselves as elite, but that denotes the “chosen” and usually refers to the best or most skilled, so the notion exists only in their arrogant pride. Tennyson describes the Light Brigade of the suicide charge as noble and bold (rather than elite, skilled, or chosen) and misled by someone who “blundered” who is not described as elite. I suppose that the bully who rises in business and politics by lack of ethics and concern for truth will always pay to be flattered as one of the elite. Such a public description assists them in deceiving others.

    • john wilson
      May 12, 2017 at 4:19 am

      Sam, the elites refers to the people at the top so perhaps a better description of these people would be scum, as scum invariably sits on the top of the pond covering and smothering everything below it.

  2. Marko
    May 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

    These multinational bigwigs might seem to be operating on intuition , but the reality may be that they’re rational and fact-based after all , only the facts can’t be widely shared. Things like which committee chairmen they have in their back pocket , regulatory officials they’ve bribed or blackmailed , the insiders-only list of coming regime-change wars , off-the-books illegal ratline-type businesses that they know will be the real profit centers – this information will be necessarily very closely-held , so instead they have to tell everyone they’ve got a “gut feeling” about this or that new idea.

    I understand and can accept the idea of alternative truths – that two people looking at the same set of accepted facts can come up with different beliefs or interpretations. I think a country can be governed well even when alternative truths are common. Our problem is that we have no body of accepted facts to begin with.

    I’d like to see every debate in Congress start out with everyone – including the public – getting the same notebook of relevant facts about the issue that have been pre-digested and accepted by both parties. Hard numbers are labelled as such as are the ones that are only estimates. At least then the debate would be limited to alternative truths , instead of the current way , where any chance of progress typically stalls in debates that are both post-truth AND post-fact.

    • CorBu
      May 11, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Yep.

    • Erik G
      May 11, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      To improve the quality of public debate and that in Congress, we need an independent federal college of policy analysis constituted to protect all points of view, and textually debate among university experts of all disciplines the status and policy options of each world region. It would produce debate summaries commented by all sides and available to the public for comment. The ability to see all sides challenged and responding in an orderly manner is essential to public understanding.

      The availability of such debates could have much reduced the groupthink and hysteria that have led to our endless mad wars since WWII. The debates would show the superficiality and deceptiveness of most thinking in foreign and domestic policy, and would require a much higher standard of evidence and argument. The ignorance and prejudice of political candidates unaware of existing debates would be easier to expose, and media commentators would have a standard for investigation and analysis.

      The rationale for a separate college of debate is that
      1. textual debate can work far better than in-person debate, in moderation, technical level, and precision required;
      2. the representatives in Congress or the UN are more readily influenced than monitored debate staff, and must seek re-election or appointment from persons similarly influenced;
      3. the debate summaries are commented and properly organized, and available to the public for comment.

    • backwardsevolution
      May 11, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Marko – “…but the reality may be that they’re rational and fact-based after all, only the facts can’t be widely shared. Things like which committee chairmen they have in their back pocket, regulatory officials they’ve bribed or blackmailed, the insiders-only list of coming regime-change wars, off-the-books illegal ratline-type businesses that they know will be the real profit centers.”

      This is the truth! Obama calls the bankers in from the biggest banks after the 2008 crisis. He doesn’t read the riot act to them. He tells them that he’s the only thing between them and a pitchfork. Eric Holder doesn’t go after the bankers. We don’t know this at first, but the scum at the top do; they’re to be fined, no jail time. The Federal Reserve comes out with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but the upshot is that they start buying bonds, lowering interest rates. The bankers are able to get access to cheap money (we’re not), and they force up asset prices. They had to, as every single bank was insolvent. FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) steps in and allows the banks to hold assets on their books at full price, not what they were actually worth (which would have been 40 cents on the dollar).

      This was a well-oiled machine, and everybody at the top knew what was going to happen. They were all in collusion. This is the truth that we don’t get to see until someone writes about it ten years later.

    • May 15, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      And to think, we, the voters let all this happen right under our very noses. It’s shocking.

  3. Abe
    May 11, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare. By subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution.

    Characteristic of US and NATO hybrid warfare is the use of post-truth propaganda, also known as Propaganda 3.0.

    Post-truth propaganda is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of political and military policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.

    In characteristically post-truth fashion, Propaganda 3.0 websites pose as fact-checking and rumor-busting sites.

    UK-based deception operative Eliot Higgins’ Bellingcat site is a conspicuous example of post-truth propaganda.

    Bellingcat portrays itself as an independent collection of “citizen investigative journalists” concerned with “open source information and verification”.

    In reality, Google-funded Bellingcat functions as a hybrid war propaganda agency of NATO.

    Listed as a nonresident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, Higgins has co-produced several “investigation reports” for the Atlantic Council in support of Washington’s “regime change” agenda.

    PropOrNot and its “Related Projects” sites like the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, Stopfake, Interpreter Mag, Snopes and Politifact are further examples of Propaganda 3.0.

    In reality, PropOrNot was produced to cast doubt on independent investigative journalism sources like Consortium News, and to create the illusion of “professional” legitimacy for Bellingcat and other hybrid war propaganda sites.

    Media and Politics scholar Jayson Harsin in 2015 coined the term “regime of post-truth” that encompasses many aspects of post-truth politics and Propaganda 3.0.

    Harsin describes a convergent set of developments:

    – the development of professional political communication informed by cognitive science, which aims at managing perception and belief of segmented populations through techniques like microtargeting (which includes the strategic use of rumors and falsehoods) the fragmentation of modern more centralized mass news media gatekeepers that largely repeated one another’s scoops and their reports;

    – the fierce attention economy marked by information overload and acceleration, prolific user-generated content and fewer society-wide common trusted authorities to distinguish between truth and lies, accurate and inaccurate;

    – the algorithms that govern what appears in social media and search engine rankings, sometimes based on what the algorithm thinks users want and not on what is necessarily factual;

    – and news media that has itself been marred by scandals of plagiarism, hoaxes, propaganda, and changing news values, all of which some scholars say issue from economic crises resulting in downsizing and favoring trends toward more traditionally tabloid stories and styles of reporting, known as tabloidization and infotainment.

    In the post-truth regime, truth and facts are the object of deliberate distortion.

    The ultimate post-truth hybrid war propaganda organization is the First Draft Coalition.

    Formed by Google in June 2015 with Bellingcat as a founding member, the First Draft “partner network” includes all the usual mainstream media war propagandists.

    First Draft “partners” include the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, the UK Guardian and Telegraph, and BBC News are stalwart mainstream media organs for Western “regime change” propaganda.

    The First Draft coalition of Propaganda 3.0 organizations also includes the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab and Stopfake. Kiev-based Stopfake site functions as a direct media outlet for Higgins’ Bellingcat “investigation reports” and uses the same fake fact-check post-truth strategy that Higgins employs.

    In a remarkable post-truth declaration, Google’s new First Draft hybrid war propaganda coalition insists that members will “work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process”.

    In the post-truth regime of US and NATO hybrid warfare, the deliberate distortion of truth and facts is called “verification”.

    The Washington Post / PropOrNot imbroglio, and First Draft Coalition member organizations’ zeal to “verify” US intelligence-backed fake news claims about Russian hacking of the US presidential election, reveal the post-truth mission of this new Google-backed hybrid war propaganda alliance.

    In December 2016, investigative journalist Robert Fisk addressed the “post-truth” politics and socia media manipulations driving NATO’s dirty war in Syria. Four months before the “chemical attack” at Khan Shaykhun, Fisk accurately predicted another “trick” in Idlib:

    “I suspect that ‘post-truth’ has more to do with social media than mendacious elections. The use of social media in reporting the battle of eastern Aleppo has been extraordinary, weird, dangerous, even murderous, when not a single Western journalist could report the eastern Aleppo war at first hand. Much damage has been done to the very credibility of journalism – and to politicians – by the acceptance of one side of the story only when not a single reporter can confirm with his or her own eyes what they are reporting.

    “We handed journalism to social media – and the armed men who control the areas from which these reports came know that they can pull the same trick again next time. They will, in Idlib. But this problem in the region is much, much bigger than a Syrian province. It’s now about the malleability of facts across the whole Middle East.

    “The 250,000 ‘trapped’ Muslims of eastern Aleppo – now that 31,000 have chosen to go to Idlib, many more to western Aleppo – appear to have been somewhat fewer than 90,000. It’s now possible that at least 160,000 of the civilians ‘trapped’ in eastern Aleppo did not actually exist, but no one says so. That vital statistic of 250,000, the very punctuation mark of every report on the besieged enclave, is now forgotten or ignored (wisely, perhaps) by those who quoted it.

    “Nor does anyone tell us about the civilians of Palmyra now that Isis has returned. And what about Mosul? Weren’t we about to liberate one million civilians trapped there by the jihadis – no less deserving, surely, than the 250,000 or 100,000 or 90,000 or fewer civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo?

    “Now the Americans say that Iraqi forces are ‘regrouping’ and ‘repositioning’ around Iraq’s second city; but ‘regrouping’ and ‘repositioning’ is what the British Expeditionary Forces did on their retreat to Dunkirk.”

    We are not living in a ‘post-truth’ world, we are living the lies of others
    By Robert Fisk
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-post-truth-world-living-the-lies-of-others-a7500136.html

    • CorBu
      May 11, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Keep the posts coming.

  4. Tom Welsh
    May 11, 2017 at 11:43 am

    The word “elite” has several shades of meaning, and the original sense of “a group selected for merit” is no longer predominant. My Concise Oxford English Dicitionary says

    elite (also élite)
    n noun
    1 a group of people considered to be superior in a society or organization.
    2 a size of letter in typewriting, with 12 characters to the inch (about 4.7 to the centimetre).

    ORIGIN
    C18: from French élite ‘selection, choice’.

    In that definition, the phrase “considered to be” is important. Nowadays, the terms “oligarchy” and “elite” are almost interchangeable.

    • Sam F
      May 11, 2017 at 9:27 pm

      It is that primary meaning of “considered to be superior in a society or organization” that misleads so badly. Every time it is used to describe the bullies and schemers who rise in business and politics to create a tyranny over democracy, the reader is asked to believe that tyrants are the best of society.

      That would inadvertently create propaganda for tyranny, when there are other terms simpler than “oligarchy,” like “tyrants,” “insiders,” “the rich,” “the one percent,” “master class,” “the powerful,” “swamp creatures,” or even “scum” as Mike suggested.

      • Evangelista
        May 14, 2017 at 6:27 pm

        “Aristocracy”, I think carries the connotations you are looking for. So “Commercial Aristocracy” would be an appropriate substitute for “Elite”. Aristocracies usually style themselves ‘elite’, surround themselves with sycophants to echo for them, and are, with few exceptions, the most incompetent, most deluded, most delusional and most dependent, and so most unaware of fundamental realities (ones they cannot pay to have ‘arranged’ and managed for them), of all classes of human beings.

  5. CorBu
    May 11, 2017 at 11:57 am

    If we want to move beyond “post truth,” how about we start by calling a spade a spade?

    “Trump’s character weakness for self-serving tall stories”

    In other words, lies.

    “Rex Tillerson, in his prepared statement … chose to stress that truth was something he would always make a guiding principle in his State Department operations. From his training as an engineer, he promised that he would follow the facts wherever they led him.”

    Yep, just as his commitment to “truth,” compelled him to bury climate science data during his tenure at Exxon.

    “Tillerson’s loyalty to his boss outweighed his personal convictions and professional methodology”

    What personal convictions? From where I stand the only personal convictions and “professional methodology” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean) the guy has, is allegiance to is unfettered capitalism.

    “the concept of ‘post-truth’ is fully descriptive of what is being practiced by Trump’s opponents, too.”

    Yeah. It’s not about bringing clarity to a situation or following ethics, or consideration for the common good. It’s not about the well-being of the country or general citizenry or the health of the planet which sustains us; the real goal is to enrich and strengthen those who hold economic and political power. What’s that song that was played at the start of “The Apprentice?” Money, money, money. Mo~ney.

    “The top managers operate in a different value system, where highest appreciation is given not to facts but to a less rigid set of judgments based on intuition and experience. That is particularly true when the subject is not routine business but high-profile projects entailing new investment or business activity.”

    They do operate in a different value system but not the one the author names. It has nothing to do with intuition, but on the “experience” of putting profit motive above all so as to enrich themselves. Let’s go beyond post-truth and call it what it is: greed. Furthermore, most middle managers do NOT try to convince their superiors through hard data. (Although you are correct about their love affair with power point.) Anyone who hangs out long enough in the purgatory called middle management learns to play the game (if they want to keep their job) and are either to begin with, or end up as, wannabe boys, striving for that top management position; they are simply Yes men. And I reference males because women who play this game are no different from their alpha-male counterparts.

    “As the old Russian folk saying has it: I am the boss and you are an idiot; you are the boss and I am an idiot.”

    Precisely. Which is why there are so many Yes men. They have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads about how they, too, will one day be top dog. To quote a great line, “You gotta serve somebody.” Who wants to be an idiot? Or a loser? Or without a job?

    “In big business, as I saw from the inside, very often blunders which occur due to intuition-based rather than fact-based decision making can be very expensive but are rarely ruinous.”

    Very narrow definition of “ruinous.” This short-sighted definition of ruinous lacks foresight as to long-term damage to everyone involved. Expand that definition of ruinous a bit and you’ll note that those “blunders” ARE oftentimes ruinous 1) for those who reside lower on the pecking order, or 2) for communities impacted by businesses that ship jobs overseas to countries with weak regulations and slave labor wages, or 3) for the long term health of the planet. Also, crashing the economy apparently wasn’t ruinous enough. The delusion of evermore growth is a sham. The true cost of business is never taken into consideration. Profits are privatized and the costs to sweep up said company’s messes are borne by citizens. No accountability for those pesky blunders.

    Here’s what MY life experience has taught me: rare is the individual who holds a top position in any entity, that doesn’t generally choose to live in a bubble. Generally they surround themselves with like-minded individuals, and are deluded about the effect their analysis or decision-making will have on those who have to contend with the effects of said analysis or decision. And, maybe, they don’t really care. ‘Cause they’re perfectly comfortable, thank you.

    In closing, a couple of quotes, which you may look up for yourself:
    “This entire world is disturbed with insanity due to the exertions of those who are confused about themselves.”

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    • mike k
      May 11, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Your analysis sounds about right to me. People at the top buy into their own BS -it’s typical of the hubris afflicted.

    • backwardsevolution
      May 11, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      CorBu – good post! “Generally they surround themselves with like-minded individuals, and are deluded about the effect their analysis or decision-making will have on those who have to contend with the effects of said analysis or decision. And, maybe, they don’t really care. ‘Cause they’re perfectly comfortable, thank you.”

      From Wall Street Never Sleeps, an employee asks his boss:

      “What’s your number? The amount of money you would need to just walk away from it and live. See, I find that everybody has a number and it’s usually an exact number, so what is yours?”

      The boss’ answer: “More.”

      If the CEO were of this mind, then he’s certainly not going to surround himself with cautious, conservative individuals. He wants “more”, and he’s not going to get that with them. These guys often operate with bribes, insider information, campaign contributions to get laws changed, monopolies that no one is ever going to dismantle. And you are right, CorBu, the public ends up bearing the costs while they ride off into the sunset with their “more”.

  6. Abe
    May 11, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth”
    http://www.cc.com/video-clips/63ite2/the-colbert-report-the-word—truthiness

  7. Bill Bodden
    May 11, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    There is a tension inside the business world between mid-level executives who justify their judgments based on facts and figures and senior executives who often rely on “gut instincts” but then want some expert to verify what they want to do.

    George W. Bush of Iraq war infamy relied on his unreliable “gut instincts.”

  8. turk151
    May 11, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    The closest we got to the truth is George Bush. An out of touch, insular, man-child, aristocracy with disastrous ideas, propped up by evil sycophants like Dick Cheney, dark covert intelligence agencies who are willing to torture anyone and destroy countries all insulated by a broken justice system, crony government and religious fanatics.

    That was the raw, naked truth which Bush was terrible at hiding, and was why Obama was brought in, to cover up the truth, which he was a master at.

    • Gregory Herr
      May 12, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Your observation reminds me of when Bush said the Constitution was just a piece of paper, when he said he wasn’t concerned to find bin Laden, and when, while waiting for a press conference to begin, he broke into a bit of a tap dance. http://youtu.be/UxCm6VMP76w
      I might be giving the Smirk too much credit here, but I thought at the time it was a literal expression of a figurative meaning.

  9. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    May 11, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    “Post-Truth Era”??!! Where do people come up with that stuff?! It implies that there was a “Truth Era”!! When exactly was that?! The West came out of its “Dark Ages” into something they called “Enlightenment” and with that “Enlightenment” they went around “Enslaving People” and “Colonizing them”…….If you cal that “Enlightenment”, then I do not know what “Barbarism” is………

    Gandhi said it best when he was asked what he thought of the “Western Civilization”. He smiles and said “THAT” would be a good idea………..The WEST needs to become “civilized” before we can even talk about anything else……Just look at the system today. The BANKERS are still riding Westerners like a herd of donkeys and using them to invade, oppress, and destroy entire countries like they have been doing since they became “enlightened”…………….

    • Evangelista
      May 11, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      I think “Post-Truth” is a misprint, meant to be “Pose-Truth”.

      It is certainly more accurate to recognize our era as a Pose-Truth Era. In fact, I see a real possibility for it to become defined as that in history, when the forces of objectivity have had a chance to poke through the rubble and review its causes and effects.

  10. Abe
    May 11, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    “We must warn you: these images are shocking.”

    “Post-truth” propagandist Clarissa Ward of CNN provides emotionally laden narrative for Al Qaeda video of the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident
    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/09/middleeast/syria-chemical-attack-ward/index.html

    The Al Qaeda / CNN narrative strongly implies that the Syrian government was responsible for the 4 April 2017 Khan Shaykhun incident, ignoring the evidence that Al Qaeda forces in Idlib perpetrated a false flag chemical attack.

    Ward, formerly with CBS News and based in London, has been propaganda laundering for Al Qaeda since 2012. Ward’s signature “reporting” style heavily relies on emotional appeals, sidestepping fact and logical analysis.

    MIT professor Theodore A. Postol reviewed the Al Qaeda / CNN footage. Postol commented at Washington’s Blog:

    “I agree that the footage is harrowing. However none of it is new and none of it proves that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of a nerve agent attack.

    “As such, this article merely falls into the category of propaganda.

    “The kindest alternative description of the article is that it might instead be yet another example of bad reporting that mixes ill-considered assumptions with facts that may or may not be relevant to its conclusions.

    “This kind of reporting could actually be encouraging such attacks.

    “If there was a false flag nerve agent attack, this tells the perpetrators that when they engage in the murder of children they can build a stronger false case against the Syrian government and thereby increase their chances of creating political pressure on the US Government to intervene militarily on their behalf.

    “If people are sickened by the inhumanity of these events, they might want to consider alternative explanations of who might be responsible for the immoralities we are seeing.”

  11. May 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Ugh, that made-up word, “truthiness”–who did it, Colbert? It’s kind of a way of saying that truth isn’t real now. The problem of lying certainly precedes Trump in the political realm, but now much of what passes for “news” feels like tabloid gossip. I find it baffling to try to figure out what really happened to bring things to such a low point. It must have been many factors in the ongoing trajectory of history, but I can’t imagine the most brilliant sociologist could parse this.

    To me, though, there does seem to be lack of a moral center in society, self-interest appears to be the prime motivation. “Post-truth” sounds very strange. The advertising market is based on manipulating people, Marshall McLuhan’s 1960s thesis “the medium is the message”. Too many reality shows, Kardashian effect.

  12. May 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Maybe the Obama effect, definitely the inverse of “hope and change”, he was lying…

    • backwardsevolution
      May 11, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Jessica K – I think the worst of it started during Reagan’s time, he and Thatcher and the other little puppets who went along with the neoliberal ideology, and it’s been downhill since that time. They had something to sell, something to push, and it was going to take some serious lying to get everybody on board.

      Bill Clinton’s 1996 passage of the Telecommunications Act resulted in 90% of all media being owned by 6 corporations. They quickly gobbled up the smaller operations, and the propaganda arm was now in place. The big have eaten the small in banking, in the medical industry, everywhere.

      There is no dissenting voice anymore. What we hear on MSM is what they WANT us to hear. We’re told, for instance, from leaders that we have to allow illegals because that’s the “humanitarian” thing to do. What we don’t hear is that same leader having lunch the next day with a bunch of business executives, and he tells them: “There, I just got you more cheap labor.” Laughter all round.

      People are not being prosecuted when there’s ample evidence that they should be. The little guy is prosecuted and crushed, but not the big guys. They’re protected. Comey stands up and says Clinton did this and that, all grounds for charging her, and then at the end he says he’s not going to prosecute. What? Why not? And it wasn’t his call to make, anyway. That’s for the Justice Department.

      Now that Comey is gone, the Assistant Attorney-General, Andrew McCabe, is in charge.

      “Grassley expressed concerns that the FBI’s then-deputy director was under review for “political conflicts in the Clinton email matter” and referenced media reports that his wife received nearly $700,000 in campaign contributions from longtime Clinton associates when she was running for Virginia state senate.”

      McCabe did not recuse himself from the Clinton investigation, but he should have. How much sway did he have? That guy has got to go next!

      It’s non-stop lying, all day, every day. The people are slowly learning this, realizing there’s no foundation beneath them, just lies.

  13. mike k
    May 11, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    When a civilization collapses, the leading edge is moral collapse. In our case, the whole of human civilization is collapsing, so the moral collapse is correspondingly great. At the peak of our power we are entering the depths of our spiritual and moral degradation.

    • MA
      May 11, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      “At the time of decadence bases prosper; at the time of progress nobles prosper”.

  14. mike k
    May 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    The insanity of the human species is not an occasional or accidental phenomenon, it is the lawful result of what has distinguished our species from all others on Earth. The access to great power that we have developed has resulted in an unprecedented and out of control violence and destruction of life that is truly horrible. There is no noble or sane accomplishment of our species that can in any way atone for the evil that we have wreaked and continue to wreak. Our elimination from this planet would be an unmixed and huge blessing for all other beings living here.

    I am not a proponent of “my species right or wrong.” If our wrong is so enormous and continuing, then my feeling is that we should leave this planet to such peace as it can find in our absence. Actually there is little I can or need to do to influence this outcome – we seem to be engineering our extinction quite well without any extra help. Do I feel good about our planetary demise? Of course not. But some things are beyond our control, and acceptance of our limitations is an aspect of the wisdom that might have saved us, if we had been willing to develop that. We were not willing to do so. So be it.

    PS – Does this mean I will just sit on my hands doing nothing as this great extinction proceeds? No, I will continue to try to do small acts of love and caring as I am able – but without any false expectation that I am saving us from our well deserved extinction. I spent most of my life trying to stop the flow of history, and now I am old and tired of trying to hold back the flood. I will find some rest on the bank, and maybe now and then manage to save some creature from being swept away…….

    • Keith
      May 12, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      So leave it to the merciful, considerate piranhas, cobras, weasels, lizards, scorpions, bedbugs, mosquitoes, viruses …. ?? An animate world continuously swallowing and digesting one another ? Yep humans are “bad ?” Humans who are amalgamations of zillions of microscopic one celled creatures and bacteria ? Who are animated corpses ? With no control over 99.9999999999 …. % of their activities ?

      Humans as with every other biological entity cannot be either good or bad. Lions are not ‘bad’ for eating deer. Plutocrats, similarly, are inevitable results of ancient hoarding instincts conditioned over eons of famine, epidemic, massacre, rapine and pillage. Criminals likewise are selected for over ages of dominance and slavery. These human forms can no more help what they do than reverse the flow of their blood.

  15. Abe
    May 11, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Terrorist groups have been set loose on Syria since the US, Israel, and their NATO and Gulf State allies launched a covert war in early 2011, dressed up by Western media as a “revolution”.

    The “protest movement” in Daraa on March 17-18, 2011 in Syria had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to terrorists. The strategy in Daraa (repeated in Kiev in February 2014) involved roof top snipers targeting both police and demonstrators.

    The war in Syria has never been a “civil war”. The forces battling the Syrian government are mostly Western-backed Al Qaeda terrorist mercenaries supplied via NATO member state Turkey, not “rebel” Syrian nationals.

    CNN’s Clarissa Ward has been a leading propagandist for NATO’s dirty war in Syria.

    Back in 2015, Ward was hustling “barrel bombs” and every other available Al Qaeda propaganda canard
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/clarissa-ward-reflects-on-4-years-of-civil-war-in-syria/

    Ward was a propaganda banshee during the battle to liberate Aleppo from Al Qaeda occupation.

    Now Ward is busy hustling “shocking” Al Qaeda / CNN video of the Khan Shaykhun incident.

    CNN belongs to the “First Draft” coalition network of media “partners” that includes the Washington Post, New York Times, the UK Guardian and Telegraph, and BBC News.

    Formed by Google in June 2015 with the Atlantic Council’s Bellingcat as a founding member, the “First Draft” coalition includes all the usual mainstream media “regime change” war propagandists.

    The new “First Draft” coalition of Propaganda 3.0 organizations also includes the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab and Kiev-based Stopfake.

    In a remarkable post-truth declaration, the “First Draft” coalition insists that members will “work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process”.

    In the “post-truth” regime of US and NATO hybrid warfare, the deliberate distortion of truth and facts is called “verification”.

    The Washington Post / PropOrNot imbroglio, and “First Draft” coalition “partner” organizations’ zeal to “verify” US intelligence-backed fake news claims about Russian hacking of the US presidential election, reveal the “post-truth” mission of this new Google-backed hybrid war propaganda alliance.

    • F. G. Sanford
      May 11, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Then, there’s propaganda 4.0, which hasn’t been identified yet. But it definitely exists. Its elegance lies in its construction, and it is exquisitely effective. The formula is elusive, and it has never been quantified. The most effective practitioners appear to rely on intuition. Perhaps as in the case of a child raised in a dysfunctional environment, such skills are developed as a defense mechanism. Or, after navigating a professional subculture in which – for example the “intelligence” community – everything must be assumed to be a deception, the practitioner unconsciously develops such skills. So, what is propaganda 4.0? To put it succinctly, it is making the truth go away…by simply telling it. A crude example would be the notorious spy Jonathan Pollard, who went to work as a defense contractor while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “KGB”. A recent political example might be James Comey’s characterization of the Clinton server investigation. After providing a laundry list of activities clearly defined as felonies by statute, these infractions were characterized as deeds lacking criminal “intent”. The trick is to make the facts become mundane or wearisome until the “news cycle” renders them obsolete. Remember George Bush looking under the furniture for those weapons of mass destruction? He even got laughs with propaganda 4.0. “Breaking News” interruptions to announce things such as, “Justin Bieber may have contracted a transmissible disease from his pet monkey” may be injected to enhance the forgetting process. Another excellent Comey example would include the “reopening” of the Clinton investigation. To explain it away, Mr. Comey stated that he was, “…confronted by two doors: speak or conceal. If I spoke, it could affect the election. But if I were to conceal, that would be catastrophic!” True enough. He had two choices: obstruction of justice or prosecution. He chose obstruction of justice, which is grounds for criminal prosecution, never mind termination. (Look up the statutes and policies if you don’t believe me.) Nobody remembers the real crime – now, all they see is a “coverup” in some alternative reality. Misprision of Felony is probably the most frequent motive for invoking “state secrets” despite the fact that such usage is expressly forbidden. But if you can simply tell the story framed in soothing terms and say, “Move along, folks, nothing else to see here”, why even bother? Comey is practically inept at propaganda 4.0, so it didn’t work so well. The guy who’s the real Jedi Master has a “journal”, and he looks a lot like Yoda. Hint: it’s not Sean Spicer.

  16. LJ
    May 11, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    My mother said to me more than once, “Your father can lie faster than most men can tell the truth”. Humanity has always lived in a post truth era. Loki The Trickster. The Coyote etc. We all know the Goebells quote about “repeat a lie over and over and it becomes the truth”. Why this is necessary he said in the same speech is because, ” Truth is the enemy of the stae. It will always be so. Knowledge is power and the government wants to obfuscate whenever possible. I’m tired again. The truth not only hurts it can be dehabilitating.

  17. LJ
    May 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    My mother said to me more than once, “Your father can lie faster than most men can tell the truth”. Humanity has always lived in a post truth era. Loki The Trickster. The Coyote etc. We all know the Goebells quote about “repeat a lie over and over and it becomes the truth”. Why this is necessary he said in the same speech is because, ” Truth is the enemy of the State”. It will always be so. Knowledge is power and the government wants to obfuscate whenever possible. I’m tired again. The truth not only hurts it can be dehabilitating.

  18. mike k
    May 11, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I still value two things that are really one: truth and love. Real love is always true, and real truth is always loving. I will stick around because of those realities, otherwise what’s the point of being here. Remove those verities and life loses all meaning and purpose.

  19. May 11, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Backswardevolution, good point about Reagan, and he was the beginning of politics as entertainment, the Hollywood cowboy. That era also corresponds to the downward trajectory of the middle class, who had to start scrambling more and more to survive because of lower wages and breaking of unions. Over time, people just got tired after a long day’s work and started watching more TV, the great conditioner.

    • backwardsevolution
      May 11, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Jessica – “…downward trajectory of the middle class, who had to start scrambling more and more to survive because of lower wages and breaking of unions.”

      Yep, you don’t have much power when your job can easily be sent offshore if you complain too much; you don’t have much of a voice when you’re worried about whether you’ll have a job at all in a month’s time. You keep your mouth shut. The great silencer. The Democrats, traditionally the party of the unions, deserted them, left them twisting, and went over to the dark side.

      So I think all of us ordinary citizens realize we’re being screwed, but in order to keep us from strongly joining together, the people running things ramp up “divide and conquer” tactics, make sure we’re all split up into separate factions (blacks, whites, browns, yellow, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, gay, straight, hyphenated titles [African-American, Jewish-American, Irish-American].) Can you imagine if we all stopped, got off, and decided to just concentrate on these so-called elite? The swamp could be drained within a few days.

  20. Miranda Keefe
    May 11, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    The author wrote, “While there can’t be ‘alternative facts…'”

    Yes there can.

    Some report facts A, B, and C but ignore facts D and E. Their narrative is based on limited number of facts and they ignore others, which disprove their narrative. Facts D and E are alternative facts.

    Now, while Ms. Conway may have been wrong that there were such alternative facts in the narrative in dispute, this is what she was asserting and it is part of the propaganda narrative of the mainstream to demonize everything Trump to act like she was instead say that Trump can just make up things that aren’t true and pretend they have as much power as facts.

    It is sad that someone, who is presenting the disgusting way the political and media world have distorted truth, would give credence to a distortion like this used by anti-Trump people to just demean him and his supporters. It is a straw man argument replacing what is really going on with something else easier to attack. The result, and I see it all the time with my culturally liberal friends, is that they go around heaping scorn on Trump for things that aren’t actually accurate, meanwhile they seem oblivious to the real issues.

    Yet it has no affect on Trump supporters. They realize quickly that these straw man attacks are just that and they just become more angry, more dismissive of ‘libtards,’ and more committed to supporting Trump. Then my culturally liberal friends just heap more scorn on them as stupid, red neck, deplorable, dupes, or fascists. In the end there is no discussion about what really is going on.

    The irony here is so thick it’s like an iron wall surrounding us.

    I’m so tried of the idea that one, to be taken seriously, must first make it clear that one sees Trump as a buffoon and horrid, and so tired of the practice of thinking that anything is appropriate ammunition to bring down Trump. Yet to be taken seriously I probably need to clarify I’m not defending Trump but critiquing the method of opposing him.

    ::sigh::

  21. tina
    May 11, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    First rule of journalism, if your mother loves you, check it out, check it again , and check a third time, your mom not like you.

  22. Brian
    May 12, 2017 at 10:38 am

    March 27, 2017 Fake News: The Unravelling of US Empire From Within

    Setting the Stage of the Press-President War US ruling ideology and Washington power have become unstuck as never before. A war of opposing certitudes and denunciations is waged day to day between the long-ruling US corporate media and the White House. Both continuously proclaim ringing recriminations of the other’s ‘fake news’. Over months they both portray each other as malevolent liars.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/fake-news-the-unravelling-of-us-empire-from-within/5581878

  23. Abe
    May 12, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    “With the war in Syria raging in its fifth year, and the Islamic State wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s clear that the entire region has been made into one large theater of conflict. But the battlefield must not be understood solely as a physical place located on a map; it is equally a social and cultural space where the forces of the US-UK-NATO Empire employ a variety of tactics to influence the course of events and create an outcome amenable to their agenda. And none to greater effect than propaganda.

    “Indeed, if the ongoing war in Syria, and the conflicts of the post-Arab Spring period generally, have taught us anything, it is the power of propaganda and public relations to shape narratives which in turn impact political events. Given the awesome power of information in the postmodern political landscape, it should come as no surprise that both the US and UK have become world leaders in government-sponsored propaganda masquerading as legitimate, grassroots political and social expression […]

    “[The US] Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) is, in effect, an intelligence hub acting to coordinate propaganda for CIA, DIA, DHS, and NSA, among others. This mission, of course, is shrouded in terminology like ‘integrated analysis’ and ‘plans and operations’ – terms used to designate the various components of the overall CSCC mission. […] the CSCC is focused on shaping narratives online under the pretext of counter-radicalization.

    “It should be noted too that CSCC becomes a propaganda clearinghouse of sorts not just for the US Government, but also for its key foreign allies (think Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain), as well as perhaps favored NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF). As the New York Times noted:

    “‘[The CSCC will] harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies. The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State.’

    “But taking this information one step further, it calls into question yet again the veracity of much of the dominant narrative about Syria, Libya, ISIS, and related topics. With social media and ‘citizen journalism’ having become so influential in how ordinary people think about these issues, one is yet again forced to consider the degree of manipulation of these phenomena.

    “Manufacturing Social Media Narratives

    “It is by now well documented the myriad ways in which Western governments have been investing heavily in tools for manipulating social media in order to shape narratives. In fact, the US CIA alone has invested millions in literally dozens of social media-related startups via its investment arm known as In-Q-Tel. The CIA is spending the tens of millions of dollars providing seed money to these companies in order to have the ability to do everything from data mining to real-time surveillance.

    “The truth is that we’ve known about the government’s desire to manipulate social media for years […]

    “the one-sided narrative of brutal and criminal repression of peace-loving activists in Syria stuck. While the source was discredited, the narrative remained entrenched.

    “And this last point is perhaps the key: online manipulation is designed to control narratives. While the war may be fought on the battlefield, it is equally fought for the hearts and minds of activists, news consumers, and ordinary citizens in the West. The UK and US both have extensive information war capabilities, and they’re not afraid to use them. And so, we should not be afraid to expose them.”

    Syria, ISIS, and the US-UK Propaganda War
    By Eric Draitser
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/10/syria-isis-and-the-us-uk-propaganda-war/

  24. Operation Dinner Outlaw
    May 13, 2017 at 4:25 am

    “If I’d written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people — including me — would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.”
    Hunter Stockton Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005)

    The truth is up to the reader. The entire newspaper is a puzzle. Russia has national hostage situation going on. Looks like somebody in Panama has encrypted the bank computers. Use papers!

  25. Homer Jay
    May 15, 2017 at 4:38 am

    Excellent article…and the first time I have read an adequate discussion of how business deceptions are now magnified in the White House via Trump (and I mean they have always been there just more discrete). It got me thinking of how business has always twisted reality in the form of marketing. It is how our planet is in turmoil due to climate change and there still exists a “debate” as to whether or not it exists or is human caused. Know one better to talk on the evils of marketing than Bill Hicks:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=bill+hicks+on+marketing&rlz=1C1SNNT_enUS436US436&oq=bill+hicks+on+marketing&aqs=chrome..69i57.12644j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Trump is a brand, just as Obama is a brand. Obama was just as deceiptful. However he is a highly skilled attorney, and enjoyed a more friendly press (c’mon he’s got charm that Trump could never conceive of having) through which he could sell his brand more broadly. Trump is all ego, impulse, and a pathological liar, therefore clumsy in his deceipt.

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