Fifty shades of fake
By Mikael Hertig, Nuuk. Greenland.
Liar or just delusional?
After the inauguration of Donald Trump as President Of the United States of America focus has been directed at “fake news”.
Namely we have been confronted with simple lies. Lies about the weather or the amount of people before the White House at Inauguration day. No doubt Trump cannot be trusted in the normal sense of this word. He is constantly presenting simple lies. But is that the whole story? I guess it is not.
The Augur was the powerful Roman priest interpreting reality and practice out of the birds’ behavior. Taking advisories from birds fly or operating as priest at the Greek Oracle of Delphi is mysterious and religious.
One might believe that Donald Trump’s approach should be like the Augur’s. To translate mysterious and ununderstandable phenomenas into some sort of practical or rational political context.
But there is no rationality in the common sense understanding of the word ‘rational’ in the President’s behavior. Rationality and predictability has to rely on a common understanding of the real world by presentation. It seems to me that the focus at ‘fake news’ looks more complicated than just the question of the press, of simple lies.
What is common in The Augur and Donald Trump as President is the mystery itself. To understand Donald Trump means speculating and guessing. Trying to establish some kind of motives. He is inventing events that never happens. ( BowlingGreenMassacre, “what happened in Sweden yesterday”) . Whether he is really mad or just is telling lies by purpose we do not know.
The term ‘fake’ refers to deliberately distributed misleading or false news brought through mass media – or social media. As referred in the Wikipedia article the purpose has to be to mislead or conceive the public or just the readers. We are in a world of conspiracy claiming that the purpose is political and in a way evil – just to pursue a political interest.
According to Danish and German law we can distinguish between ” hability” and “competence”.( ‘Inhability’ is the pursuing of an illegal and unjustified, latent interest). In this context we do not have to discuss whether the behavior is illegal or not. It is spreading news as a kind of covert operation we have to deal with. Originally this kind of behavior was connected to the world of agents and infiltration. The use of fake news should be seen of some sort of inheritage from James Bond’s world to the expanded use of spin and lobbyism which has infiltrated the media over the last years.
Nevertheless it seems as if the difference between false and true is vaporizing even when it comes to relatively simple news stories.
It seems complicated to me if some social media anticipate that algorithms might identify fake news. It is really hard stuff because falsification might be anything but trivial. The typical fake news mixes some truth in it’s interpretation of ‘reality’. Motive speculation or fact selection belong to the typical techniques. As perception into some degree always by nature is selective it might be very difficult to distinguish fake news from just extremist’s interpretation ofn reality.
Simple lie and fact finding
A lie is not just a simple. You will have a claim, an assertion telling something considered as physical reality. If you touch a hot hob you get a combostion. You have touched the physical reality around you in an unpleasant way. The senses has been in use sending signals. If you then say: ” My hand feels burning”, the saying is sincere and coherent with your feeling. That the hob was hot is also a truth but about the physical surroundings. If you speak truth you will be telling a story about both what you feel and the physical conditions. But only the latter can be falsified or confirmed.
The Trump theater and its facts discussions has been focusing at claims which were in conflict what fact finders would call false.
How was the weather at the inauguration day? We should normally not discuss simple facts. They can be empirically reinforced or falsified.
All civilized understanding is in a high degree dependant on the agreement that empirical confirmed simple claims should not be discussed, but asserted as common knowledge. It is important to emphasize that this is about simple claims.
A lie is of course a false statement incoherent with what an investigation would proof false. But this is not the only condition. The second is that the person who tells the statement is knowing that it is false.
When it comes to POSAD I am in doubt. At which level does he himself know that he is lying? As we cannot open his soul, mind and brain – we do not know. That most of his statements are typically false should be empirically proven.
Many authors write that these lies should be a part of a plan to break down the trust in the press – which he obviously hates. That is not the focus in this part of this essay.
His claims seems to me overwhelmingly to be falsified. That means: Simple facts as simple fakes. Just for the part which can be falsified. What he is feeling about this is out of scope.
However: If he is not knowing that his claims are false the next question is: Does that mean that he is delusional? If so, it seems to be a case for psychiatrics, not for me.
Facts and fakes
A fact or a ‘datum’ is an aspect of theoretical interest. That is the very good statement of Arnold Brecht. What does that mean? The curious scientist is asking questions about reality. By use of scientific methods, he arranges his questions so that reality has the best opportunity to give a surprising answer compared to what was expected. The point is that curiosity is the subjective element in the proces, at least into some degree. If the behavioral scientist is asking in a different direction or from another point of view we cannot be sure that the world outside will give the same answer. Nevertheless, the real world seems resilient to good empirical scientists. “The world has a tendency to kick back”, the Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal said.
When we are trying to distinguish between facts, false and fakes we will have to keep in mind: A fake is a deliberately produced false story. If the author is just writing his story from another approach but behaves honest it gives no sense to use the term ‘fake’.
The President as magician or puppet?
The mistakes and false statements are attracting attention. This of course leaves plenty of room for magic trics. What is going on the meantime through the staff? Most of the discussions and reactions to the alternative facts deals with unimportant trivialities. The fact interest into some degree distracts attention from other maybe more important events. We are looking at the magic presidents short right hand fingers while something else goes on at the dark area of the scene. A Danish essayist Peter Goll wrote about this.
A more typical variation is seeing Trump as a handpuppet or Pinnochio figure. He is already seen as a less important part of a greater story. Steve Bannon should, according to this, be the real crook just exploiting a naive and narcissistic person as a medium for destructive plans with America and the world.
Suppose some of this gives some sort of meaning. Does this end up in speculations or conspiration theories? We of course have to remember that conspiracy does exist in politics. It may be meaningful to reveal conspiracy. However this may fall itself into the dark areas of speculation and assertions which can be confirmed.
When truth and reality are mixed up
What happened in Sweden the night between February 16 anf 17? Trump sent his prayers and talked about a tragedy. One might think that in any country any night tragedies happen. The president can send his prayers in any direction. Obviously there was not any important event to observe in international scale, according to the daily news in the press. Nevertheless, POD does not trust the press at all so this unadressed claim seen in any rational context gives no meaning. As the POD himself did not specify this claim among others will have to vaporize into oblivion as most of the others.
However it is not falsifiable. It is merely unadressed, meaningless. If there should be some event to refer to it has not be done and never will be. It me another shade of fake
Different points of view: Values and approaches
There is no possible way to explain that nazism is objectively false. If you will claim a human rights morality you cannot just reject the nazi’s approach as just fake or false. Being a nazi means to have a set of ideas of how the best world would look like and how to get there. It is about the normative set of rules. Looking at the logical gulf between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ we are dealing with the ‘ought’ side. Pure ‘ought’ claims can by nature not be falsified.
We will have to go the assumptions when nazis are producing claims about reality, ie. the superiority of ‘aric race’. Or, in American context the claim of the higher IQ level of white people compared to black was rejected by building in socioeconomic conditions in the set of variables. (Myrdal).
If Steve Bannon wants to demolish all institutions in USA, you might read his articles and statements in order to prove that to the public. One might demonstrate his unjustified abuse of a purpose in order to deceive or mislead by producing fakes. But the approach itself, latent or manifest, is not illegal in itself. This does not prohibit that the simple pointing at a set of values which he represents may discredit his reputation. With other words: Describe and analyze his methods as much as accusing his approach.
Real American values?
The American culture seems to me to be into some degree romantic about modern history and values. The Declaration of Indepence gives both answers and questions; any presidential campaign tries to present a track: “Time for a change”, “Silent majority”, “America back again” indicate more or less a hope for going back to original values, genuity and so forth. Time however runs forwards not backwards. It also seems inevitable that if one part of the establishment is kicked out the hierarchical structure will reestabilsh itself by replacement with other interests, other elitarian people.
Analysts may admit that Midwest people with no hope of work since industrial jobs were lost because of globalization might trust that Trump would be able to open coal mining. I do not know if it will be any kind of good business model to US investors to go backwards to mining. In any case, it refers to a dream of reestablishing the good old days.
People left behind feel disappointed. Academic analytical findings cannot satisfy these feelings.
Seen from Europe United States of America in my lifetime has representing a degree of freedom, a free press, an ability to react when ever necessary (Watergate!). Maybe these days are over.
Values belongs to a culture. Maybe that is at stake.
When we are going to analyze ‘fake news’ we will have to establish refined analytical skills to define the many shades of grey in ourselves as in the fakes.