Passing Bull 97 – The complete indifference to truth


The book that Chris Wallace-Crabbe and I are writing is presently called Language, Meaning and Truth; Alternative Facts, False News, and the Indifference to Truth.  You will be aware of the events that have prompted the sub-title.  The phrase ‘indifference to truth’ was invoked by John Stuart Mill, and by Professor Frankfurt in his little book On bullshit.  He said:

It is just this lack of a connection to a concern with truth – this indifference to how things really are – that I regard as of the essence of bullshit … Bullshit is unavoidable wherever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.  The essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.

The New Yorker quoted a Russian as saying that the Kremlin has decided that state media was ‘overly fawning in their attitude to Trump, that all this toasting and champagne drinking made us look silly, and so let’s forget about Trump for some time, lowering expectations as necessary, and then reinvent his image according to new realities.’

Well, we expect that from Russia and its state media.  That country has never been decently governed.  But we don’t expect it from America – at least not as brazenly as it is shown in Russia.

The complete indifference to truth of the present White House is revealed in the following extract from the WSJ.

Mr. Trump over the weekend tweeted that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower, where he lived and worked during the presidential campaign— an extraordinary claim for which the current president offered no proof. A president can’t legally order a wiretap, and Mr. Obama’s office flatly denied the allegation.

In an interview with Fox News on Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked why Mr. Trump believed his phone had been tapped. ‘He’s the president of the United States,’ she responded. ‘He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not, and that’s the way it should be for presidents.’

In a separate interview with ABC, asked what evidence the president had to back up his claim, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: ‘He may have access to documents that I don’t know about.’

On Sunday morning, White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a statement said the president was calling for congressional intelligence committees to investigate the matter, and said: Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.


Do Americans understand just how demeaning and degrading this bullshit is?  Ms Conway is a worse liar than the President.  He can’t help himself; she does it in cold blood.  But poor old Dean Spicer just isn’t up to it.  Here is The Guardian about two days after the WSJ report.

The White House has sown further confusion about Donald Trump’s accusations of wiretapping against his predecessor, Barack Obama.

At a briefing on Wednesday, press secretary Sean Spicer initially said ‘we need to find out’ if the president is the subject of an investigation, then subsequently sought to clarify that there is ‘no reason’ to believe he is.

Reports emerged on the Heat Street website in November, and the BBC in January, that secret court orders were issued as part of a justice department inquiry into Russian efforts to intervene in the election on Trump’s behalf.

 Asked directly if the president is the target of a counterintelligence investigation, Spicer replied: ‘I think that’s what we need to find out. There was considerable concern last cycle when a reporter was the target of one. But part of the reason we have asked the House and Senate to look into this is because of that…….’

Spicer insisted the suspicions are baseless. ‘It was interesting if you look at last week all of a sudden these stories that keep coming out about the president and his links to Russia,’ he said. ‘It has continued to be the same old, same old, played over and over again. The president has made clear he has no interests in Russia and yet a lot of these stories that come out with respect to that are frankly fake.’

But a journalist at the briefing refused to let him pursue this tangent, returning to the initial question: ‘He doesn’t know whether he is the target of a programme?’

Spicer replied: ‘I think that’s one of the issues that we have asked the House and Senate to look into.’

Once more the press secretary pivoted to a denial of any connections between Trump and Russia. ‘All of the people that have been briefed on this situation have come to the same conclusion,’ he said. ‘It’s a recycled story over and over and over again.’

The journalist tried again: ‘Are you saying that there’s a possibility he is the target of a counterintelligence probe involving Russia, because you just connected those two?’

Spicer said: ‘I don’t – no, no, I think what I’m saying is there is a difference between that narrative and then the narrative that has been perpetuated over and over again. The concern the president has, and why he’s asked the Senate and House intelligence committees to look into this, is to get to the bottom of what may or may not have occurred during the 2016 election.’…..

The question and answer session moved on to different subjects, including an erroneous tweet that Trump issued about prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay. But just as the briefing was about to wind up, Spicer appeared to look down at the lectern, possibly at a message.

‘I just want to be really clear on one point which is there is no reason that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever,’ he said. ‘There is no reason to believe that he is the target of any investigation. I think that’s a very important point to make’…..

Earlier in Wednesday’s briefing, Spicer also condemned the publication of nearly 9,000 pages of CIA files by WikiLeaks, though he declined to confirm their authenticity. ‘This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our security, our country and our wellbeing,’ he said. ‘This alleged leak should concern every single American.’

Trump praised the anti-secrecy site during last year’s election, declaring ‘I love WikiLeaks’ as it continued to dump emails from Hillary Clinton campaign’s manager. But Spicer said there was a ‘massive, massive difference between an individual Gmail account and classified information that threatens national security’.

‘Anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law,’ he added.

It’s much, much worse than Basil Fawlty.  The poor man has been broken on the wheel by a lunatic liar.

Pauline Hanson made her contribution to nationalist nonsense and showed just how dangerously stupid she is in remarks about Muslims and vaccinations.  She has pulled back on the latter, but she still invites people to do their own ‘research’.  What does that mean, apart from speaking to a doctor?  If it means going on to the Internet, could anything be more dangerous on a medical subject for someone not trained in medicine?  She also showed the reach of Russian intervention in other people’s politics.  She, like Le Pen, admires Putin.  What have his intelligence services done to achieve that?  Well, while most Australians are chary of patriotism, Nationalists like Hanson and Trump revel in the stuff.  She says Putin is a patriot.  So were Judas, Pilate, Stalin, and Hitler.

People like Farage, Trump and Hanson have a lot of very poorly educated followers. Just look at the Hanson MP’s. Trump certainly appears to treat his supporters with contempt.  Many of the followers of these people are very gullible, and take their news from loaded amateurs on the Net rather than trained professionals in the press.  A study by New York University found that about half of readers of fake news on the Internet during the Presidential campaign believed what they read.  You would have to be uneducated to fall that low.

And a lot of these people have a chip on their shoulder about their lack of education.  And that in part explains their aversion to ‘experts’.  Remember the loathsome Michael Gove, sometime President of the Oxford Union, saying that English people had had enough of experts – unless one is operating on one of them, or keeping them out of jail, or navigating an electrical storm at 30,000 feet.

And this envious rejection of expertise is, I suspect, what lies behind the moral and intellectual collapse of the Liberal Party here and the Republican Party in the U S that has led to the worst peacetime problem ever faced by a government in this country – our complete lack of policy on energy.  And in bringing us down with bullshit, our politicians have been aided and abetted by loaded idiots in The Australian and on Sky TV – and by the even more loaded idiots at the IPA.  All parties have had a hand in this catastrophe, but Abbott and Bernardi stand out as inane reactionary house-wreckers and dummy-spitters.

Some take the view that people who get most agitated about climate change and Islam don’t really believe their nonsense they spit out on those issues – it is just a business model, a front to make a dollar.  That suggestion becomes very acceptable when you hear some of them admiring Trump.  Or when you hear Bolt still banging on about climate change.  Or when you hear the IPA still banging on about men shaking hands with women.  That, apparently, is an Australian value.  Is it, perhaps, a mark of our patriotism?

Confucius says

The Master said, ‘The Gentleman helps others to realise what is good in them; he does not help them to realise what is bad in them.  The small man does the opposite.’

Analects, 12.16.

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