Monday, June 01, 2020

Truth Is What We Hide, Cover Stories Are What We Sell

The fact that self-serving cover stories are now the norm is making it difficult to love our servitude with the slavish devotion demanded of us.
The need to suppress the truth and competing narratives arose with the emergence of urban elites whose power and wealth were threatened by any exposure of the self-serving nature of their rule.
Though suppression of the truth has a long history, it accelerated in the 20th century as totalitarian regimes embraced the technologies of mass communication and the marketing techniques of propaganda.
With the decay of the social contract and the emergence of monopolistic search and social media platforms, the suppression of competing narratives has accelerated as ruling elites tighten their grip in response to the unraveling of the social order.
Thus we get Federal Reserve Comedian Jay Powell claiming the Fed doesn't create wealth inequality, when it's pathetically obvious the Fed is the primary engine of wealth inequality. (Give me $10 billion at near-zero interest rates and I'll get rich, too.)
We can summarize the current era in one sentence: truth is what we hide, cover stories are what we sell. Jean-Claude Juncker's famous quote captures the essence of the era: "When it becomes serious, you have to lie."
And when does it become serious? When the hidden facts of the matter might be revealed to the general public. Given the regularity of vast troves of well-hidden data being made public by whistleblowers and white-hat hackers, it's basically serious all the time now, and hence the official default everywhere is: truth is what we hide, self-serving cover stories are what we sell.
The self-serving cover stories always tout the nobility of the elite issuing the PR: we in the Federal Reserve saved civilization by saving the Too Big To Fail Banks (barf); we in the corporate media do investigative reporting without bias (barf); we in central government only lie to protect you from unpleasant realities--it's for your own good (barf); we in the NSA, CIA and FBI only lie because it's our job to lie, and so on.
Three essays published long before the pandemic speak to the degradation of data and factual records in favor of self-serving cover stories and totalitarian political correctness.
"It's not just that isolated individuals are unmasked as corrupt or self-interested (something that is as old as politics), but that the establishment itself starts to appear deceitful and dubious. The distinctive scandals of the 21st century are a combination of some very basic and timeless moral failings (greed and dishonesty) with technologies of exposure that expose malpractice on an unprecedented scale, and with far more dramatic results.
Perhaps the most important feature of all these revelations was that they were definitely scandals, and not merely failures: they involved deliberate efforts to defraud or mislead. Several involved sustained cover-ups, delaying the moment of truth for as long as possible.
(The selective coverage) "generated a sense of a media class who were adept at exposing others, but equally expert at concealing the truth of their own behaviours.
Several of the defining scandals of the past decade have been on a scale so vast that they exceed any individual's responsibility. The Edward Snowden revelations of 2013, the Panama Papers leak of 2015 and the HSBC files (revealing organised tax evasion) all involved the release of tens of thousands or even millions of documents. Paper-based bureaucracies never faced threats to their legitimacy on this scale."
From the Late Founder and Editor Robert Parry of the Consortium for Independent Journalism (via John S.P.)
When I was a young reporter, I was taught that there were almost always two sides to a story and often more. I was expected to seek out those alternative views, not dismiss them or pretend they didn't exist. I also realized that finding the truth often required digging beneath the surface and not just picking up the convenient explanation sitting out in the open.
But the major Western news outlets began to see journalism differently. It became their strange duty to shut down questioning of the Official Story, even when the Official Story had major holes and made little sense, even when the evidence went in a different direction and serious analysts were disputing the groupthink.
Looking back over the past two decades, I wish I could say that the media trend that we detected in the mid-1990s had been reversed. But, if anything, it's grown worse. The major Western news outlets now conflate the discrete difficulties from made-up 'fake news' and baseless 'conspiracy theories' with responsible dissenting analyses. All get thrown into the same pot and subjected to disdain and ridicule.
In truth, facts today are deemed controversial if they deviate from accepted narratives, and professors must self-censor out of fear of being condemned and losing their jobs.
Based on conversations I've had with colleagues still working in academia and from what I can tell about recent cases of censorship, the antagonism is primarily from left-leaning colleagues attacking other liberals.
These instances are indicative of a larger, worrisome trend -- instead of debating contentious ideas, those in opposition to them throw words ending in '-phobic' around, shutting the conversation down and pretending they don't exist.
For those who say ideas that denigrate members of society shouldn't be entertained, silencing the debate doesn't make hateful beliefs go away. In many cases, it isn't controversial findings that pose a threat; the threat comes from the possibility that others will use these facts to justify discrimination. But it's important that we distinguish between an idea and the researcher putting forth that idea, and the potential for bad behaviour.
With academics avoiding entire areas of research as a result, knowledge currently being produced is constrained, replaced by beliefs that are pleasant-sounding but biased, or downright nonsensical. The recent 'grievance studies' investigation, led by academics Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, laid bare how bad the problem has become. The trio managed to get seven fake papers (but oh-so politically correct and hence "good to go"--CHS) accepted in high-ranking humanities journals.
In a consumerist-based culture accustomed to 24/7 selling of one self-serving story or another, the fact that self-serving cover stories are now the norm is making it difficult to love our servitude with the slavish devotion demanded of us. I've noticed a new twist on self-serving propaganda: an alternative opinion isn't debated, it's debunked, as if questioning the authorized narrative is by definition a "conspiracy theory" that can be "debunked" by repeating the authorized cover story enough times.
Of related interest:
Orwell and Kafka Do America (March 24, 2015)
The Ghosts of 1968 (February 14, 2018)
Recent Podcasts:
Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).


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