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The War on All Fact People

 

Best-selling author and scientist David Brin shares an excerpt from his new book, Polemical Judo, on the relentless war against democracy and how we can fight back. You can read the first, second and final chapters on David's blog, Contrary Brin, and an excerpt from chapter 10, We are Different, Different is Difficult, here.

 

The War on All Fact People 

Excerpted from David Brin's new book, the beginning of chapter 5, Polemical Judo: Memes for our Political Knife-fight (pp. 56-62). Kindle Edition.    

I may be ostracized for saying it, but the core targets of the Fox/Putin-led oligarchic putsch aren’t racism or sexism or nativism.[80]

Oh, the foremost victims – those most deeply hurt – are minorities, women, immigrants, non-binaries, the disempowered, millions of children and vulnerable others! To varying degrees, they are the ones suffering pain and gross injustice. And sure, bigotry’s dog-whistles have incited America’s worst elements into violent rage. In The New York Times, Charles Blow summarizes: they support Trump because he is mean to the people they like to be mean to.[81]

“Trump’s own punitive spirit aligns with and gives voice and muscle to American conservatives’ long simmering punitive lust. And this insatiable desire to inflict pain has particular targets: women (specifically feminists), racial minorities, people who are L.G.B.T.Q. and religious minorities in this country. In short, the punishments are directed at anyone who isn’t part of, or supportive of, the white supremacist patriarchy.”

Still, turn your gaze upward from pathetic Nazis and jibbering supremacists, to their masters and hypnotizing controllers. Ponder what those masters need. To them, bigotry is incidental – a leverage tool. Their bid for total power is not blocked by the powerless. But it might truly be thwarted by other, competing “elites.” Consider the bleak prospects for enlightened civilization across this current battlefield. With our elections cheat-stolen, our courts stuff-stacked with shills, millions incited into populist madness, and wealth disparities skyrocketing, just one force stands in feudalism’s way. The new lords must neutralize the counter-effectiveness of our fact-professions.[82]

  • Scientists.[83]                 
  • Civil servants.                 
  • Journalists.
  • Law professionals.         
  • Teachers.                     
  • Doctors.
  • FBI agents.                 
  • Intelligence agencies.               
  • Statisticians.
  • Skilled labor.           
  • Law professionals.               
  • Economists…

…and yes… the U.S. military officer corps, the third best-educated and most soberly responsible clade in modern American life. 

Oh, pity the poor plutocrats! Across 6000 years and almost all continents, lords had simply to snap their fingers, foreclose on poor families, and wave around swords (or wands or catechisms or writs). Nowadays, they keep getting hemmed in by nitpickers, law-followers, investigators and their ilk, armed with procedures, evidences and attention to ‘rights.’ No wonder a top Republican objective – voiced early in his administration by Donald Trump – is to eviscerate 140 year old civil service protections and put all public servants under the political thumb.[84]

You know that all of the professions listed above – and more – have been assailed for years, from daily assaults on “fake news” or “lame-stream” media to climate science denialism, all the way to accusations of “deep state” conspiracy by our defenders who best understand this dangerous world, including many of our most accomplished men and women in and out of uniform. A professor at the Naval War College, Tom Nichols, wrote a book about this: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge,[85] summarized in Foreign Affairs as: “How America Lost Faith in Expertise And Why That's a Giant Problem.”[86]

It’s an all-out assault – not just on this specialty, or that one, but against every variety of folks who know stuff. Why haven’t opposition politicians made this a core issue? One just as pressing as alt-right bigotry?

This isn’t zero sum! Nor does this point downplay the racist poison spewing across our sullied nation. You know that nothing is more useful in combatting intolerance than the flood of facts that disproved almost every prejudiced stereotype. Moreover, if things go badly, all the fact folks will go up against the wall, just as quickly as the antifa or trans activists, if not sooner.[87]

“The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” – Former world chess champion Gary Kasparov

OTHERS HAVE NOTICED: FACTS ARE THE ENEMY

A good start would be to emphasize that it is all fact professions who are targeted, and hence the very notion of fact itself. Earlier I quoted commentator Thom Hartmann, who said: “When liberals talk about “elites,” they mean rich people. When conservatives talk about “elites”, they mean smart people.”

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times denounced[88] the new Know Nothing Movement, finishing wisely: “Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.”

Alas, the advice was bereft of useful proposals, or anything like polemical judo.

Meanwhile, I challenge you to find a day when Donald Trump or his surrogates weren’t attacking journalism – kettles attacking pots as “fake news.” Just in August 2019 it was revealed that an operation run by conservative operatives reportedly scoured more than a decade of social media history from reporters who are seen as hostile towards Trump, in order to find potentially damaging posts that can be used against them.[89] And yes, I meant “I challenge you,” because that phrase is key to a weapon too little used against the madness. I talk about wagers, especially, in this volume.

More recently, an editorial in the Washington Post spoke out about: “For Trump and his cronies, draining the swamp means ousting experts.” [90] And all through the federal government, especially the State Department, large numbers of highly skilled pros have been leaking, then hemorrhaging away. But all of that is old news… and an ongoing – ultimately lethal – treason against the nation that (alas) we are getting used to.

My own contribution is to dig. Down to where the sickness has its deepest polemical roots. And as usual, it starts with something healthy… the most fundamental American reflex, taught to us in every film and story: Suspicion of Authority, or SoA.

Again – every citizen is convinced that some elite group is conspiring to be Big Brother! Liberals perceive plots by aristocrats, Mafiosi and faceless corporations.[91] Conservatives denounce schemes by snooty academics and faceless government bureaucrats. What few of us admit is that any power center could be a gathering place for connivers – including elites you happen to like. 

By itself, healthy skepticism toward officious castes is irksomely healthy. But if manipulated just right, SoA can be used as a tool by conspiring elites, as we saw when Hitler diverted German populism with baseless charges of a vast Jewish conspiracy. What our more recent New Lords needed was to rouse red-populist ire toward all smartypants elites, diverting onto those natural foes all the attention that might otherwise notice their oligarchic putsch. It called for spreading a series of clever memes that are never stated explicitly. Because if stated overtly, they are obviously insane.

‘The rest of the world is warily watching the continuing assault on what the president calls the “dishonest media,” a smear chillingly close to the Nazi-era term “Lügenpresse”, or “lying press.”’ – Gary Kasparov 

Brin, David. Polemical Judo: Memes for our Political Knife-fight (pp. 56-62). Kindle Edition. 

****

Footnotes:

[80] I expect some to torch me as a bigot and Nazi-enabler for saying that. Others will hang around, knowing that I yearn (from the bottom of my heart) to destroy racism and intolerance! If I could reverse the male-female ratio in positions of power around the globe I’d race to press the button! Still, it’s my job to notice traps and debilitating clichés. And so, I must reiterate, their paramount goal is power. Hence, it is not the powerless who the Kochs, Mercers and Putin fear most. It is those with some power to keep enlightenment values and accountability alive.

[81] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/opinion/trump-immigrants-punishment.html

[82] The war on expertise. http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/waronexpertise.html

[83] Revealed early in Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science.

[84] October 12, 2019, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller ranted on Fox News that there's a "Fourth Branch of Government," consisting of the civil servants. A point where I agree, only I hold that civil servants have saved and protected us for 3 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Z2-r0oh5tI&fbclid=IwAR2_LdYbRy8PEXIhgHDq39fSh10J1pk_ZBpJSL0lhNRgrt2f9CAMQIGm6Vg

[85] The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge, by Tom Nichols. http://amzn.to/2pr4k0s

[86] How America Lost Faith in Expertise Foreign Affairs, March/April 2017 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-02-13/how-america-lost-faith-expertise

[87] Of course these groups overlap, bigtime!

[88] “Why Trump Lies.” LA Times, April 3, 2017. https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-why-trump-lies/?fbclid=IwAR2w7sK8fjjd4wkpogdvUk7bcLqFkhtSGzDFc1iqYz4jU1HIAcB93e3GE0w

[89] “Operation Targeting Journalists Seen Unfavorable to Trump Is Allied With the White House: NYT.” https://www.thedailybeast.com/operation-targeting-journalists-seen-unfavorable-to-trump-is-allied-with-the-white-house-nyt

[90] Ousting experts. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-draining-the-swamp–of-needed-experts/2019/08/08/7ec457e4-ba12-11e9-a091-6a96e67d9cce_story.html

[91] And yes, I suppose that makes me a “liberal,” for now. Because that paranoia happens to be the one that’s true. As of now.

Brin, David. Polemical Judo: Memes for our Political Knife-fight (p. 298). Kindle Edition. 

Picture: By Copyright 2007, S.M.S.I., Inc. – Owen Williams, The Kasparov Agency. – http://www.kasparovagent.com/photo_gallery.php, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

 

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