Afterwords - Chapter 31

1

How long have we been around? Homo sapiens appeared in Africa 300,000 years ago. 70,000 years ago they left Africa and conquered the world with their tribal/warrior ethos, along with their evolutionarily developed cognitive, confirmation and argumentative biases.  So let’s compare evolution since the beginning of life 3.8 billion years ago to the last 70,000 years since we Homo sapiens left Africa and conquered the world.  There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour and 60 seconds in a minute.  So there are 24 x 60 x 60 = 86,400 seconds in a day.  So then:

     70,000 yrs    ­                   X seconds               
3800000000 yrs    =     86,400 seconds      then X = 1.59 seconds.

Let’s round up to 2 seconds. So we have been around for the last 2 seconds in the day of life.  We’ve shown up pretty late in the day, at 11:59:58 PM.   

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2

Remember, Science is the study of the real world based on fact and truth. An old fable from classical Greece and Plato’s Republic speaks of a fire inside a deep cave, with men and women standing in back of the fire facing their shadows cast on the back wall, and dancing and reacting to those shadows. One man starts to question all these shadows, and turns around towards the fire and is overwhelmed by the brightness of the light, but decides to shade his eyes, walk past the fire and down the long cave entrance. When he steps outside the cave he again is overwhelmed by the bright light of the sun. As his pupils shrink and his eyes become accustomed to the light, he sees the wonderful world of truth and reality. He’s very excited and runs back down the cave to tell his friends that he’s discovered truth and reality and it’s a lot better than these false and fantasy shadows, the smoke and mirrors!  But no one is listening, he tells everyone, but they think he’s crazy, and they keep dancing to the fire and living their lives by the shadows, the smoke and mirrors. Except for finally the last person he encounters, one woman who takes him at his word, and risks all. They turn around, shielding their eyes from the flames, and walk hand in hand to the end of the cave and see the light of truth and reality. Does this sound like Adam and Eve, with science and truth on their side?  Maybe God is Truth.

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3

I had a very good friend years ago (late 1980s) when I was living in San Diego as a young man. I lived in an apartmant complex and became good friends with an older couple in their 60s or perhaps early 70s. Their last name was Choate, pronounced chote, Margaret and George. They would invite us (me and my fiancée at the time) over to their apartment for drinks and socials, and one thing I noticed was the extraordinary hospitality that George provided.  He would greet us and all visitors very warmly, introduce everyone to everyone, and would continually throughout the evening be cordial in all conversations, going out of his way to ask if there was anything he could do for us, making sure we had enough drinks, snacks, starting conversations among acquaintances, etc… He was just an extraordinary host. You could see that his ultimate concern, aside from enjoying himself and being a jolly fellow, was making sure he did everything he could to make his friends’ stay as enjoyable as possible – he was other oriented, he was thinking about you. At that point I said to myself, I’m going to be like George, and be other oriented, showing concern for others. I’ve tried my best but I come nothing close to George’s hospitality.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed something different in similar social contexts.  I went to a friend’s house for a social, a fine couple 10 years my junior (early 40s) and noticed something different. I was the first over to their home and we were chatting away. When other friends came into the home to visit though, people who I had never met, there were no introductions, the visitors paid no attention to me whatsoever, I became a fly on the wall.  I thought to myself, is this how George would have handled this situation? At that point I decided to interrupt the on-going conversations and introduce myself.

I hosted a Summit Meeting at my home a while ago, where friends get together and discuss politics, as much for fun as for political merit. There, a younger early twenties fellow, the nephew of one of the friends attending the Summit dropped by. He didn’t knock on the door, he sat himself down in at a seat in our round table discussion in the living room, and started texting on his phone.  I greeted him, introduced him to other people in the discussion, and asked if I could get him something to drink.  He said no and went back to texting on his phone while we went back into our political discussions. Occasionally he would look up from his phone, and make some interesting comments, he was very knowledgeable and had some great perspectives from his younger generation. After an hour he got up and walked into the kitchen, my assumption being he was looking for a bathroom, wanted a drink, something.  So shortly thereafter I got up to check on him in the kitchen, and he wasn’t there, he had left just as he had entered.

I later though about that whole interaction and something odd dawned on me. George’s last name was Choate, he was very socially refined and other oriented, and my much younger nephew friend did not have any of these skills, he was socially inchoate – pronounced in-ko-ate – the definition being: just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary. I wonder if we as a society are losing the social skills and empathy that George Choate exemplified.

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4

Preface, by Walter Cronkite
From the 1984 Edition the Novel 1984, by George Orwell

American reporters, given a glimpse of Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran at the End of 1982, were saying that it was like 1984. It's Orwellian, one added.

Big Brother has became a common term for ubiquitous or overreaching authority, and Newspeak is a word we apply to the dehumanizing babble of bureaucracies and computer programs.

Those coinages have come into the language with lives of their own. They are familiar to millions who have never read 1984, who may not even know it as a novel written thirty-five years ago by English socialist Eric Blair, who became famous under the pen name George Orwell.

Seldom has a book provided a greater wealth of symbols for its age and for the generations to follow, and seldom have literary symbols been invested with such power. How is that? Because they were so useful, and became the features of the world he drew, outlandish as they were, also were familiar.

They are familiar today, they were familiar when the book was first published in 1949. We've met Big Brother in Stalin and Hitler and Khomeini. We hear Newspeak in every use of the language to manipulate, deceive, to cover harsh realities with the soft snow of euphemism. And every time a political leader expects or demands that we believe the absurd, we experience that mental process Orwell called Doublethink. From the show trials of the pre-war Soviet Union to the dungeon courts of post-revolutionary Iran, 1984's vision of justice as foregone conclusion is familiar to us all. As soon as we were introduced to such things, we realized we had always known them.

What Orwell had done was not to foresee the future but to see the implications of the present -- his present and ours -- and he touched a common chord. He had given words and shapes to common but unarticulated fears running deep through all industrial societies.

George Orwell was no prophet, and those who busy themselves keeping score on his predictions and grading his use of the crystal ball miss the point. While here he is a novelist, he is also a sharp political essayist and a satirist with a bite not felt in the English language since Jonathan Swift.

If not prophecy, what was 1984? It was, as many have noticed, a warning: a warning about the future of human freedom in a world where political organization and technology can manufacture power in dimensions that would stunned the imaginations of earlier ages.

Orwell drew upon the technology (and perhaps some of the science fiction) of the day in drawing his picture of 1984. But it was not a work of science fiction he was writing. It was a novelistic essay on power, how it is acquired and maintained, how those who seek it or seek to keep it tend to sacrifice anything and everything in its name.

1984 is an anguished lament and a warning that vibrates powerfully when we may not be strong enough nor wise enough nor moral enough to cope with the kind of power we have learned to amass. That warning vibrates powerfully when we allow ourselves to sit still and think carefully about orbiting satellites that can read the license plates in a parking lot and computers that can read into thousands of telephone calls and telex transmissions at once and other computers that can do our banking and purchasing, can watch the house and tell a monitoring station what television program we are watching and how many people there are in a room. We think of Orwell when we read of scientists who believe they have located in the human brain the seats of behavioral emotions like aggression, or learn more about the vast potential of genetic engineering.

And we hear echoes of that warning chord in the constant demand for greater security and comfort, for less risk in our societies. We recognize, however dimly, that greater efficiency, ease, and security may come at a substantial price in freedom, that "law and order" can be a doublethink version of oppression, that individual liberties surrendered for whatever good reason are freedoms lost.

Critics and scholars may argue quite legitimately about the particular literary merits of 1984. But none can deny its powerful, its hold on the imagination of a whole generations, nor the power of its admonitions . . . a power that seems to grow rather than lessen with the passage of time. It has been said that 1984 fails as a prophecy because it succeeded as a warning -- Orwell's terrible vision has been averted. Well, that kind of self-congratulation is, to say the least, premature. 1984 may not arrive on time, but there's always 1985.

Still, the warning has been effective; and every time we use one of those catch phrases . . . recognize Big Brother in someone, see a 1984 in our future . . . notice something Orwellian . . . we are listening to that warning again.

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5

New York Times, Sunday July 1, 2018:

The truth challenges unchecked power.
The truth exposes the crisis of ethics.
The truth demands our attention.

New York Times, Sunday April 29, 2018:

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6


Have you ever seen the 1978 Dow Bathroom cleaner with scrubbing bubbles?  I recall watching it as a kid. In a cartoon, scrubbing bubbles in the shape of bubble brushes in a bath tub form a group led by their bubble brush leader:

“Alright bubbles, get ready to hit the dirt! Stop worrying kid, we’re gonna give this bathroom the shine of its life! We will show no mercy, dig in kid, dig in, clean and shine, disinfect, deodorize.  We’ll never scratch or leave any grit, oh we never do, never do. You did good kid, now let’s go down the drain together. We work hard, so you don’t have toooooooo!”  As they whoosh down the drain.

Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh0OdgjOdDk

I take the liberty of the scrubbing bubbles cleaning a toilet, since the toilet is part of the bathroom.  And I picture the scrubbing bubbles swirling around cleaning a toilet while it’s flushing.  The bubbles represent the alt-Left and alt-Right as they inevitably keep yelling and screaming their bullshit as they get flushed down the toilet – that’s the only thing that will shut them up. Hopefully Truth will do the same.

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7

A Muslim friend of mine said: if you tell a lie 3 times it becomes the truth. The Koran says do not lie.

A Muslim friend of mine said: Anything you know is easy, anything you don’t know is hard.

Twenty five years ago I went to Bangladesh, a primarily Muslim country surrounded by India and Myanmar at the mouth of the Ganges river, the Ganges river delta. I stayed there for a month with a Bengali friend, Shafiq, mentioned above. He had invited me to join his brother's wedding in Dhaka, the capital. As the plane was landing I recall seeing lots of green and brown. When we got to his brother’s home, everyone was tired and took a nap, for some reason I wasn’t and decided to take a walk through the city and find the Ganges river. I walked out the front door of the 3 story concrete complex onto a muddied cracked concrete walkway and turned left. I saw a long alleyway with crowded shacks with tin sheet roofs and many people walking around going about their business. There was our version of the convenience store, a long window with a shelf selling the usual; soft drinks, candy, cigarettes, etc…. I walked a few blocks into a larger tarred block with tons of traffic and colorful 3 wheeled vehicles which I later learned were taxis. The city was thriving with people and also rather grimy. A that point of course I had no clue where I was or where I should go to find the Ganges river, so I thought I’d ask someone.  I approached a middle aged guy and asked him where the Ganges river was. He was very polite with a Bengali accent and said he’d be glad to show me, and we chatted about the city and culture for a little bit. Then he said “before I show you the river, you must come to my house for dinner.” I gladly accepted. We reached his home, which was a higher end shack and he introduced me to his family, older grandparents, wife and children, and a few friends. We all sat down at the dinner table over wonderful choice dishes and had merry discussions, told stories and learned a lot about each other’s cultures. After about 2 hours of this grand exchange I thought it would be appropriate to ask to be taken to the Ganges river, so I asked the gentleman if he would be so kind to bring me to the river. He said certainly, and got out of his seat and walked into the living room, I got up and thought I’d stand for a bit and chat some more while waiting for the gentleman to get ready. He put one knee on the couch and pulled up a large brown shade, which I thought was just part of the brown wall, and said, here’s the Ganges! Their home was right on the banks of the Ganges! I ran to and kneeled on the couch and looked out the window, the river was very wide and itself a light brown, with tall grasses and plenty of mud along the banks. There were many small paddling wooden long boats on the river, and on the other bank there were many additional high end shacks, tall grass and a few trees swaying in the grayish blue sky. That was my introduction to Bangladesh, the river, and the people.

My experiences there thanks to Shafiq and his family for hosting me for a month were memorable.  I recall walking along a waterway in the city and a little girl perhaps 12 years old was on a second floor veranda across the water who asked me where I came from?  I stopped and told her from the United States, and we exchanged niceties for a few minutes when her mother came out and whispered something in her daughter’s ear, I thought she was saying “don’t talk to strangers, get back in the house.” The little girl then looked up and asked, “Would you like to come over for lunch?, while her mother was smiling. I graciously declined and we chatted for a few more minutes, I thanked them and went on my way.

Later in the trip I was walking down one of those muddied alleys near my friend’s home, the neighborhood was nothing more that crowded shanties eight feet tall with tin corrugated roofs, a sense of dirt everywhere due to the muddied walkways and a slight tinge of sewage smell in the air.  One woman was crouched over a small fire in front of her shanty cooking something in a small pan atop the fire.  As I approached, the wonderful smell of curry chicken overcame the scent of sewage, and I guess the woman had noticed and asked me if I wanted some. I told her “No thank you,” but did stop and take a wonderfully long sniff over the pan to get the full sensation.

My visit to Bangladesh was quite a moving cultural experience. Bangladesh is a very poor third world country, very hot, sea level rise impacting the Ganges delta, many neighborhoods are nothing more than crowded shacks on muddied alleys, but everybody was happy! These were the friendliest most giving and caring people I've ever met.  Perhaps we here in the world's richest nation could learn something from the Bengalis.

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8

Recall the ancient Roman Colosseum?  The Colosseum seated 60,000 and was used for public spectacles such as gladiators fighting to the death, executions, animal hunts, chariot races, re-enactments of famous battles including at one time mock sea battles with the colosseum filled of water.  Gladiators fighting is similar to football with its physical acumen and face to face battle, one modernized difference being football players don’t kill each other, they just voluntarily brutalize each other to move the ball, with occasional career ending or lifelong injuries. I think that’s why we call fans spectators. I love the pre-game tailgate parties in the football stadium parking lot, recall the roman emperor entertained the masses with “bread and circus”? Well for us it’s bread, beer and circus.

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9

I was in an Irish Pub a few weeks ago with a large group of friends for an Irish wake. There were three of us sitting at the end of the long bar table having a grand old time. One gentleman was an immigrant from Ireland and every other word out of his mouth was a swear, utterly profane commentary. The other gentleman was African American, and he was spouting out some nasty profanities as well, but not to the same degree as the Irish fellow. And I of course was making my contributions to the debauchery. Then the apparent Irish manager of the restaurant/bar directly approached the black fellow and said, “Hey, watch your language over here, we have some people in the restaurant over there.” We all looked at each other somewhat quizzically, then we chatted with the manager for few minute or so and he left, at which point we said, “What the f$ck was up his @ss, what a total f%cking ass hole he was, and continued our colorful discussion, as did the rest of the party of 20 stretched down the standing bar table. Note that the gentleman in our group that we were speaking with was the only black guy in the entire bar and restaurant. The manger reappeared in 10 minutes and directly approached our black friend and said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The Irish friend with us then said, “Jesus Christ, I’ve been f#cking swearing louder and more often than this lad, why aren’t you f%cking asking me to leave?” “Well, I didn’t hear you, I only heard him.” “Well lad, you must f%cking have black ears then, because you only hear black and not white.” I was so pissed off I told the manager he was a racist @sshole and offered to leave with my black friend - "Let's split." A bunch of other friends came over to deescalate the situation, we settled down, the manager left and we stayed for another hour and a half and continued our debauchery, mentioning of course that that total f%cking @sshole manager was a prime example of cognitive, confirmation and argumentative bias genetically wired into his brain as a result of human evolution.

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Martin Luther King Jr. citing a quote from Theodore Parker: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

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11

George Santayana - Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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12

Truth Proverbs:

The truth hurts.

Truth always wins.

Eventually the truth comes out.

Truth or consequences

Science is the study of the real world based on fact and truth.

Nature knows only truth.

Perhaps God is Truth.

Recall Lifton’s statement "malignant normality" in Chapter 24 - the gradual acceptance by a public inundated with toxic untruths until they pass for normal.

Truth is power

Truth to power

Truth trumps False

Truth will trump Trump

The Emperor has no clothes!

Speak the truth, but leave immediately after. ~ Slovenian Proverb

If you tell the truth too early, you are laughed at — too late and you are stoned. ~ Iranian Proverb

When money speaks, the truth keeps silent. ~ Russian Proverb

The truth is a heavy burden that few care to carry. ~ Hebrew Proverb

What people believe prevails over the truth. ~ Sophocles

Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light. ~ George Washington

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I shudder to think of a statement made by Junger in Tribe, On homecoming and Belonging:

"The United states is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying her might be the United States herself, which means that the ultimate terrorists strategy would be to just leave the country alone. That way, America’s ugliest tendencies could emerge unimpeded by the unifying effects of war. The ultimate betrayal isn’t acting competitively – that should be encouraged – but predicating your power on excommunication of others from the group. That is exactly what politicians of both parties try to do when they spew venomous rhetoric about their rivals.  That is exactly what media figures do when they go beyond criticism of their fellow citizens and openly revile them." 

The difference here being Russia and Russian state craft are not attacking us militarily, nor are they leaving us alone, they are attacking us via social cyberwarfare.

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17

A contributor on the synthisophy website said this:

“The most effective tool the tools have is right here on social media....posting shit that pits dems against reps & vice versa & it works amazingly well. This country has devolved into a tech addicted, gullible collection of useful idiots killing their country & too stupid to know it.”

I hope this is not the answer to Ben Franklin’s question, “We’ve given you a Republic, can you keep it?”

Chapters 11-14 and 16-31 were published on this site on March 14, 2018. Chapters 1-9 and Chapter 15 then as 10, were published on this site on August 16, 2017.

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13

YouTube, the Great Radicalizer
Zeynep Tufekci , New York times, MARCH 10, 2018

"At one point during the 2016 presidential election campaign, I watched a bunch of videos of Donald Trump rallies on YouTube. I was writing an article about his appeal to his voter base and wanted to confirm a few quotations.

Soon I noticed something peculiar. YouTube started to recommend and “autoplay” videos for me that featured white supremacist rants, Holocaust denials and other disturbing content.

Since I was not in the habit of watching extreme right-wing fare on YouTube, I was curious whether this was an exclusively right-wing phenomenon. So I created another YouTube account and started watching videos of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, letting YouTube’s recommender algorithm take me wherever it would.

Before long, I was being directed to videos of a leftish conspiratorial cast, including arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks of Sept. 11. As with the Trump videos, YouTube was recommending content that was more and more extreme than the mainstream political fare I had started with.

Intrigued, I experimented with nonpolitical topics. The same basic pattern emerged. Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons.

It seems as if you are never “hard core” enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.

This is not because a cabal of YouTube engineers is plotting to drive the world off a cliff. A more likely explanation has to do with the nexus of artificial intelligence and Google’s business model. (YouTube is owned by Google.) For all its lofty rhetoric, Google is an advertising broker, selling our attention to companies that will pay for it. The longer people stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes.

What keeps people glued to YouTube? Its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with — or to incendiary content in general.

Is this suspicion correct? Good data is hard to come by; Google is loath to share information with independent researchers. But we now have the first inklings of confirmation, thanks in part to a former Google engineer named Guillaume Chaslot.


Mr. Chaslot worked on the recommender algorithm while at YouTube. He grew alarmed at the tactics used to increase the time people spent on the site. Google fired him in 2013, citing his job performance. He maintains the real reason was that he pushed too hard for changes in how the company handles such issues.

The Wall Street Journal conducted an investigation of YouTube content with the help of Mr. Chaslot. It found that YouTube often “fed far-right or far-left videos to users who watched relatively mainstream news sources,” and that such extremist tendencies were evident with a wide variety of material. If you searched for information on the flu vaccine, you were recommended anti-vaccination conspiracy videos.

It is also possible that YouTube’s recommender algorithm has a bias toward inflammatory content. In the run-up to the 2016 election, Mr. Chaslot created a program to keep track of YouTube’s most recommended videos as well as its patterns of recommendations. He discovered that whether you started with a pro-Clinton or pro-Trump video on YouTube, you were many times more likely to end up with a pro-Trump video recommended.

Combine this finding with other research showing that during the 2016 campaign, fake news, which tends toward the outrageous, included much more pro-Trump than pro-Clinton content, and YouTube’s tendency toward the incendiary seems evident.

YouTube has recently come under fire for recommending videos promoting the conspiracy theory that the outspoken survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are “crisis actors” masquerading as victims. Jonathan Albright, a researcher at Columbia, recently “seeded” a YouTube account with a search for “crisis actor” and found that following the “up next” recommendations led to a network of some 9,000 videos promoting that and related conspiracy theories, including the claim that the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.

What we are witnessing is the computational exploitation of a natural human desire: to look “behind the curtain,” to dig deeper into something that engages us. As we click and click, we are carried along by the exciting sensation of uncovering more secrets and deeper truths. YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while Google racks up the ad sales.

This situation is especially dangerous given how many people — especially young people — turn to YouTube for information. Google’s cheap and sturdy Chromebook laptops, which now make up more than 50 percent of the pre-college laptop education market in the United States, typically come loaded with ready access to YouTube.

This state of affairs is unacceptable but not inevitable. There is no reason to let a company make so much money while potentially helping to radicalize billions of people, reaping the financial benefits while asking society to bear so many of the costs."

As Tufekci concludes above, Google and YouTube and their algorithms are promoting the unreal for their own profit, and the cost is an increased polarization within the populace that is unneureal.

15

We are aware that since WWII the Soviet Union and Russian state craft has been sowing falsehoods in American society as a means of impacting their enemy. The latest and most powerful of which has been Russian interference on the 2016 Presidential election, for which 13 Russian Nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted. "The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said. The Russians are using information warfare to destabilize American democracy and our Country, they are stoking our biases, pressing our argumentative buttons and turning our warrior ethos inward against ourselves. Recall the upside-down bell curve reflecting polarization surging among the politically engaged:

 

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14

Through the internet, social media, cable news and other outlets, truth and our democratic society are presently under assault. Once truth is irrelevant, dictatorship, tyranny and fascism inevitably follow.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute on 5.17.18 addressed this assault and possible consequences:

If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or are accepting of alternate realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not.

Active citizens and synthisophy in our democracy is the antidote to this assault.

Note that the Declaration of Independence also refers to such an assault:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

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The End of Intelligence, author and article by Michael V. Hayden:
In a “post-truth” world, facts are less influential than emotion and belief.


Synthesis/History/Sophy

Synthesis - the integration of the constituent elements of separate material or abstract entities into a single or unified entity

History - a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, etc…

Sophy - Greek root: wisdom, knowledge; an intellectual system embracing knowledge and truth; sciencethe study of the real world based on fact and truth.

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16

Quotes from On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by historian Timothy Snyder:

Throughout history, tyrants have “despised the small truths of daily existence, loved slogans that resonated like a new religion, and preferred creative myths to history or journalism.” And that elevation of mythology over truth has consequences. So “Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights. Post-truth is pre-fascism.”