The Post-Truth Era

THE POST-TRUTH ERA

Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life

9781429976220

I did not get a chance to read the full book as I could not find it in the library or online, but the excerpts that I have read have really illuminated the topic further for me.

One interesting part I found is:

”We no longer tell lies. Instead we “misspeak.” We “exaggerate.” We “exercise poor judgment.” “Mistakes were made,” we say. The term “deceive” gives way to the more playful “spin.” At worst, saying “I wasn’t truthful” sounds better than “I lied.” Nor would we want to accuse others of lying; we say they’re “in denial.” That was sometimes said even of Richard Nixon, the premier liar of modern times, who went to his grave without ever confessing to anything more than errors of judgment. Presidential aspirant Gary Hart admitted only to “thoughtlessness and misjudgment” after reporters revealed Hart’s dishonesty (not only about his sex life but about his age). When, during a primary debate, John Kerry referred to a nonexistent poll that put his popularity well above Hillary Clinton’s, an aide later said Kerry “misspoke.” And it isn’t just male politicians who parse words this way. In the course of writing The Dance of Deception, Harriet Lerner asked women friends what lies they’d recently told. This request was invariably greeted with silence. When Lerner asked the same friends for examples of “pretending,” they had no problem complying. “I pretended to be out when my friends called,” said one without hesitation.”

I don’t know if its the large plethora of data Keyes pulls at or the way he words it, but I highly recommend this book.

 

due to unexpected events, our group has decreased in size and so has our research question. Instead of asking ‘what defines the failure of a revolution’, we will be looking at ‘does the success or failure of a revolution relate to the success or failure of a cultural revolution’.

Introduction:

  • What defines the failure of a revolution (2mins)
  • What defines the failure of a cultural revolution (2mins)

Case Studies:

  • French Revolution –
    • Failure as a revolution (due to not bringing immediate change) 2.5mins
    • Success as a cultural revolution 2.5mins
  • Italian Unification –
    • How the revolutions succeeded in the Unification of Italy 2.5mins
    • How it failed culturally “We have made Italy. Now we must make Italians”(Massimo d’Azeglio) 2.5 mins
  • Conclusion – 5mins
    • Revolution as a framework rather than a historical event
      • set out the methodology for assessing a revolution’s failure/success
    • How an interdisciplinary approach is essential in understanding the whole scope of a revolution

 

Alternative Facts

Part of the reason we decided on our topic was because of its contemporary relevance.

With hardly a day passing without a new controversial claim surfacing on Twitter etc. by either Trump or one of his aides in the US administration, there are plenty of illustrative examples that demonstrate how ‘truth’ may be utilized in a flexible way in order to fit a certain political agenda. Below are a few examples that we discussed in one of our previous meetings:

http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/kellyanne-conway-blames-refugees-for-bowling-green-massacre-that-never-happened/ar-AAmzNZB?li=AAmiR2Z&ocid=spartanntp

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/world/europe/last-night-in-sweden-trumps-remark-baffles-a-nation.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/03/05/trumps-evidence-for-obama-wiretap-claims-relies-on-sketchy-anonymously-sourced-reports/?utm_term=.e3f3f9b5b2f6

 

Art as a window to the soul?

Friedrich Nietzsche once noted down the following:

Die Wahrheit ist häßlich.

Wir haben die Kunst, damit wir nicht an der Wahrheit zu Grunde gehen

This translates to something like ‘the truth is abject. We have art so we don’t decay in virtue of truth’.

This line of thought presents art as a form of shelter that allows the subject to take refuge in its vast oeuvre every time ‘truth’ becomes too unbearable, unpleasant or complex to process.

While this might be labelled as escapism it simultaneously yields a very different effect.

It could indeed be argued that art is the medium that comes closest to producing truth. Without ever claiming to portray truth in its pure, objective form it nevertheless seems to stir up strong feelings and emotions that yield into direct action. Unlike any other medium, art has the power to mobilise, unite and stir up public sentiments.


 

The Protestant theologian F.D.E. Schleiermacher who is closely associated with German Romanticism, is often labelled as the father of modern hermeneutics.In opposition to what he perceived as the overly rationalist approach to religious knowledge promoted by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Schleiermacher averred that feeling (or emotion) and imagination were important sources of such knowledge. He thus argued that the appropriate method to employ when reading a text such as the Bible would accord a central place to these affective faculties. Specifically, he argued that feeling should be used to stimulate the imagination – the latter being the key to understanding the text. According to Schleiermacher, reading the Bible in the way he prescribed, and by its means acquiring religious knowledge, was to participate in revelation. It was, therefore, a religiously significant undertaking, in his view. (Harrison 2010)

By emphasizing the psychological dimensions of reading and understanding a text, and of revelation, Schleiermacher  presented an alternative to the logical positivism that was prevalent at the time. Building up on his thoughts, Hans-Georg Gadamer also stressed the creative nature involved in understanding a text and pointed to the need for an ‘imaginative reading’ that pays attention not only to the words as they appear on the page but also take feelings and emotions into account in order to arrive at true meaning.

Art is a very successful medium in this regard . Instead of limiting itself to ‘hard facts’ it often appeals to the reader on a much deeper level. In this capacity it offers an alternative way to arrive at truth that has as its biggest asset its self-understanding as being subjective and contextual (i.e. being situated in a certain context).

Throughout our research we have come to understand that truth has lost its capacity to be compelling in present times. Art might be an effective tool in invigorating the search for ‘truth.’

 

 

 

Virginia Woolf Legacy Remains

A specific part of our presentation deals with Virginia Woolf’s time at King’s College. So in an effort to explore that, I went around the building aptly named after her and these are some of the things that I found. I even found a life-size installation of her!image1

image3

image5

Research

After deciding that i will be focusing on ‘what defines the failure of revolution’ through a literary lens, i’ve chosen two main examples to portray how in order to really understand the whole scope of the revolution as a framework rather than as an historical event that is isolated, then we have to discover what effects it had in other aspects of social life that are not political nor historical. The connection between literature and revolution can be found by analysing the ways in which plays and literary pieces across from different cultures influenced radical responses to established traditions by contesting, and provoking a re-conceptualization of prevailing values, existing traditions, world views and popular orthodoxy.

I’ve decided to look at:

  • Sophocles’ Antigone and how the modern conception of this tragic hero has changed throughout the years. The origins of this change belongs against the background of Enlightenment thought regarding the position of the individual in society and of the political circumstances in the years before and after the French Revolution.
  • ‘Ode to Naples’ by Shelly. His construction of ‘revolution’ as a volcanic process demonstrates the ruin while also demonstrating the reconstruction, thus showing revolution as a process that has failures as well as successes. (Could tie in well with Boyang’s failure to bring immediate change, as it demonstrates the chaos and destruction that a revolution brings, yet it also demonstrates it as a natural process that is bound to reconstruct naturally with time).

Initial brainstorm

We started off our group project by brainstorming potential topics, perspectives, case studies and strategies. Attached are a few screenshots of this process which might help to illustrate how our initial raw and abstract ideas slowly developed into more of a pronounced research agenda.

The central theme that resulted from this initial brainstorming was the failure of (academic) truth to be compelling. After having established this we went on to think of relevant examples that we could consequently incorporate into case studies.

See following posts for more on this.

 

Meeting 5 (1/3/2017)

 

  • Having read through each other’s research, we began narrowing down our theme by choosing the material on which we have common ground.
  • Discussed a little about how to do our presentation:
    • Interact with each other (maybe discuss as we’re analyzing)
    • Have a revolution – Starting point of presentation. Discuss the chaos of the revolution and reasons as to why it failed before applying the same reasons to our study cases.
    • Slides/picture/audience participation (?)
  • Discussed the following quotation in relation to our topic:
    • “Do we not know, on the basis of historical facts, that revolution is not a solution, that revolutions eat their own children, turn out badly? The trouble with this question lies in its assumptions, in its emphasis on ‘knowledge’, ‘actual’, ‘historical’, ‘solution’, which reduces ‘revolution’ to an actual historical category. Yet if revolution is at once actual and virtual, a historical process and an idea, this recurring critique a la mode never tired of condemning the horrors of revolution, confuses two things: the way reolvution turn out historically and people’s revolutionary becoming. Revolution is always an event that is separated, distilled from the historical situation. However, through time, it becomes assimilated back into history, it is necessarily betrayed. Following this, pointing out that all revolution fail is a banal intervention, for the problem is not the future of the revolution, but, above all, how and why people become revolutionary”
    • Revolution/Revolutionaries – Revolutions make revolutionaries just as makes as revolutionaries make revolutions. Example: If when one is studying the Russian revolution, one only studies Stalin, then the whole scope of the revolution could never really be understood. Quote seen as reductionist, while our approach allows ‘revolution’ to be studied as an interdisciplinary event, allowing far more enriching analytical tools to look at this.
    • (connection between philosophy and politics, possible ‘transition’ during presentation).
  • (Apply our tools of analysis of these revolutions, on Trump’s era?).
  • Agreed to continue researching on the material that was chosen in the meeting.

Research – ‘failure to convey the message’

Philosophical Approach:

  • Breakdown of the concept of Revolution
    • Everything and every society, has an actual existence, is stabilized in one way or another, while at the same time it contains within itself potentialities for change, linking it to the domain of the ‘virtual’. These potentialities are not unreal, rather, they are without being actual.
    • The ‘virtual’ is the indicator of the fact that every social relation can become different, can be re-actualized in other ways.
    • Therefore, things can change because the social world has a virtual dimension.
    • The virtual totality of a society’s unknown potentialities is always in excess of it actual, known aspect – basically, we don’t know what a society can do. At the same time however, an actual society is by definition always lacking in terms of its knowledge of the potential unknowns. The paradoxical relationship between the two series, one presenting an excess and the other a lack, is always a cause for disequilibrium, and it is in this disequilibrium that makes revolutions possible.
    • Revolution therefore, is what joins the singularities which correspond to the actual and virtual series, enabling the passage between them.
    • “Revolution is always an event that is separated, distilled from the historical situation. However, through time, it becomes assimilated back into history. Pointing out that all revolutions fail is a banal intervention, for the problem is not the future of revolution, but, above all, how and why people become revolutionary”
    • History is a theatre, in which dramatic repetition allows the actors to produce radically new events, in which the virtual idea returns to the actual.
  • Dramatization of revolution:
    • Just as each repetition of a play enacts a new interpretation each time it is replayed, each actual or historical act is a dramatization that expresses an idea in new ways.
    • Considering ‘revolution’ in terms of theatre:
      • Concept of revolution = Sophocles’ Antigone (original play)
      • Repetition of Concept = Adaptations of Antigone
      • Adaptations that failed in conveying the message/Adaptations that succeeded (Discuss their failure in terms of conveying the message)

 

The following points are the those that I had mentioned throughout our meetings, and which we got positive feedback back on – maybe we can find a way to incorporate it in (maybe during our ‘play’ we can include some points in subtly, or by pictures etc):

  • Revolution in its original and primary meaning was astronomical as it referred to movements of the sun and planets around the earth
    • The passing or duration of a usually recurring period of time (Revolution as a recurring event)
    • The idea of synchronizing planets (leaving history behind and returning to ‘nature’)
  • The use of seasonal imagery in a political and specifically revolutionary context became a familiar representational strategy of British political writing during the pamphlet wars of 1970’s.
    • Shelley’s ‘Ode to Naples’.

 

Regarding our ‘revolution’ play – I thought we could maybe make our own mini adaptation using Antigone’s storyline just as Brecht and Anouilh did, but adjust it to our own ‘revolution’. I’ve picked possible ‘sections’ of the play that we could change and make ours, I’ll bring you copies on Wednesday so we can discuss it and decide.

Further Research

Revolution has been central to the formation of the modern world. The word itself is understood as radical, fundamental and transformative overcoming of the past rather than progressive change. In respect of our previous discussion on the central question of our presentation ‘What defines the failure of a revolution?’, I argue that a revolution could be interpreted as a failure for not bringing immediate change.

There is no denying that the French Revolution was a success on a long term, because it actually triggered a massive chain of events which eventually led to the diffusion of its ideas and principles throughout Europe. The whole world received the message of liberty, equality and fraternity and the welfare of the common man became the paramount priority and required changes were made in their constitution by the different countries. (A more detailed research on the long-term impact of the French Revolution could be found in my previous post) However, for France, the French Revolution was a turning point which failed to turn because it failed to bring immediate changes or these changes lasted shortly.

  • Failed to achieve the original goal of the total abolition of the monarchy. Instead of creating a viable and lasting democratic constitution capable of governing and defending France, the French Revolution led to several rapid changes of regime (most of them were republican but short-lived), and finally culminated in military dictatorship of Napoleon and the restoration of the monarchy. Moreover, the change in regime created severe power vacuum which allowed radicals to seize power and sow chaos within France.
  • The principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which the French Revolution was based upon have never been realised in France. After the overthrow of Louis XVI, the citizens of France were stripped of their everyday liberties. To ensure power did not fall back into the hands of the higher classes, all aristocrats and royals were targeted and slaughtered on guillotine. This extremist attitude led to suspicion of anyone and everyone and many innocent people were sent to the guillotine on false accusations of supporting the crown. Equality was once again not accomplished as those in power took over the properties and estates of the aristocracy and the poverty of the people continued. Although the Old Regime with its three-estate classification (clergy, nobility and peasants) was removed, but there was still a major class-structure and a sense of disgruntlement of unequal treatments. Contrary to the aims of revolutionaries and hopes of the lower class, the living conditions of the poor did not better with the ascension of a new government but worsened. The key goal of the revolution, to take wealth out of the hands of the aristocratic who had inherited it, and to use that wealth for the good of the poor, was not accomplished, because the Bourgeoisie took power from the aristocracy and the poor, approximately 80% of the French population, continued to be ignored. Moreover, instead of a spirit of unity between the citizens of France, there was an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust which turned Frenchmen against Frenchmen. Thus, the principle of fraternity was ignored as well. The French Revolution did not really directly achieve anything after it overthrew the king, no improvement in society, economy and politics.
  • Failed to bring stability but extreme violence, chaos and constant wars. The extreme bloodshed of the reign of Terror is typically a proof.

The connection between the French Revolution and ‘immediate change’ is quite confusing, but I think the above are the three most obvious evidence to suggest that the French Revolution was not an immediate success for not bringing immediate changes to the French people or those changes were indeed short-lived and thus did not change France overwhelmingly.

Hope these are useful and will keep researching.

Useful links:

https://jaz07.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/the-french-revolution-failed-as-the-reign-of-terror-did-not-accomplish-the-principles-of-liberty-equality-fraternity/

https://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/handle/1874/32246/The+Failure+of+a+Revolution.pdf?sequence=1