"Once truth had become oracular rather than factual, evidence was irrelevant."
― Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
A couple weeks ago, Bill Maher had Timothy Snyder on as a guest. Yale professor of history, Snyder's recent book is titled, On Tyranny. Given the Trump presidency, Snyder's book sounds as timely as you can get.
In it, Snyder details the many lessons we can learn from the history of tyranny. One in particular caught my attention. It's the frangible relationship between truth and politics, and how abandoning truth is a frontal attack on democracy:
"Without truth we don't have trust. Without trust, we don't have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don't have democracy."
That was the lesson the twentieth century repeatedly illustrated, though it's one now dangerously lost on today's citizens.
Our Prime Minister shouldn't be held to less a standard because there are more notorious examples in public office. A lie is a lie, is a lie.
Snyder continued on to the link between "Post-Fact" utterances (viz., what our moms and dads called "lying"), and fascism:
"People who are going for post-fact; people who are against the truth are taking the direct line to killing democracy... when we think about post-fact ... what we should be thinking about is fascism."
Then came the part that really grabbed my attention:
"It's the fascists who said everyday life doesn't matter; details don't matter; facts don't matter; all that matters is the message, the leader, the myth, the totality."
What surprised me, listening to Snyder's description of the earmarks of fascism, was that Donald Trump didn't come to mind.
Popping up instead was the image of our own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, complete with sleeves rolled up on his crisp, white dress shirt.
Oh yes, I know, as the Liberal supporters blow a head pipe at such a thought. After all, Trudeau's "post-fact" creations can't be compared to the number of full-blown Trump deviances of deception, a wallowing in Post-Fact reality, lathered by White House chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, (aka, the Grim Reaper)? Right?
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks about the U.S. air strikes in Syria during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 7, 2017. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Sure, I'll admit it. And, I'd also add that Justin doesn't have the kind of temperament as Trump, and Trudeau lacks the overt, brute power of the post-fact machinations of an American sized, propaganda machine.
But be careful here. It's exactly that sort of reasoning that makes fascism so dangerous.
Mesmerized by the most extreme perpetrators, we can then unconsciously ignore egregious abuses of democracy by more "normal," even cuddly-appearing leaders.
The bottom line: Our Prime Minister shouldn't be held to less a standard because there are more notorious examples in public office. A lie is a lie, is a lie.
The comparison then, isn't with Trump. It's with the standard of truth, and Trudeau's own stabs at Canadian democracy, including the declaration that electoral reform is no longer necessary, or wearing big-boy pants and saying too quickly that Trump's military strike in a foreign country is justified. (No surprise, the latter with a gushing, almost orgasmic endorsement from former Harper bully-boy, John Baird; alas, gone but not forgotten.)
What Justin said about climate change is qualitatively no different from Trump saying climate change is a made up conspiracy perpetrated by China. Both are nonsense. Both are Post-Fact.
Let's refocus a moment. Politics is a serious matter. And the consequences are real. So when Justin goes post-fact about the most critical issue facing humanity, Human caused climate change (Anthropogenic Climate Change), the severity of post-fact transgression couldn't get more offensive.
And Canada has to respond. With our large per/capita, carbon footprint, as PM, he has a political and moral obligation to to treat it with the utmost seriousness. No post-fact mooseshit; no alt-fact weaseling.
So we have Justin at the United Nations in New York City, signing the Paris climate treaty, looking all diligent and serious for the cameras (not without a few indulgent photos), saying that we -- especially he, with his newly minted Minister of the Environment and Climate Change -- do take it seriously.
Then, only to return to Canada and say that he has a duty to get our "natural resources" to market, which means the worst of the worst: Further exploiting the tarsands, and building pipelines out to BC to ship bitumen to Asia.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media during a visit to New York on April 6, 2017. (Photo: Lucas Jackson/RM)
Most certainly drawing upon his skills learned as a former drama substitute teacher, Justin dug deep, first with Post-Truth whopper #1:
Quickly followed by Post-Truth Whopper #2:
These two statements, simply and categorically, are a contradiction in terms.
They are no different from the utterances, "the circle is a square." "Some bachelors are married males." "The pregnant virgin." "He's a gentle torturer." "She's a towering midget." "All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others." Or, in Trudeau's case, "Wrong is right, and right is wrong."
All are Post-Fact blatherings. All are an overt shout in the face that, "details don't matter; facts don't matter; all that matters is the message, the leader, the myth, the totality."
The scale of Trudeau's lying is troubling enough, and the consequences could last a generation.
We cannot obscure the facts - the scientifically established facts - about anthropogenic climate change, the destruction it is right now wreaking on life and limb, our economies and international stability - and say, at the same time we can cavort with fossil fuel addictions.
Make no mistake. What Justin said about climate change is qualitatively no different from Trump saying climate change is a made up conspiracy perpetrated by China. Both are nonsense. Both are Post-Fact.
The scale of Trudeau's lying is troubling enough, and the consequences could last a generation. Cynicism can act as a contagion on young people who look for leaders with vision. And when that trust is violated, it's a harshness that's grossly unfair to perpetrate on young voters.
Time to step back from the post-fact precipice, Mr. Trudeau, and to speak the truth.
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