The (Alleged) Death of Dialogue

What follows is an edited and extended rant in response to an online friend’s link to an article in The Federalist. [1]

As a remote but entertained observer of politics both in the USA and Europe (and therefore, by extension, in my homeland, the UK), I am sometimes – nay often – left gobsmacked by the execrably low level of public discourse. The USA is a place where ‘free speech’ is allegedly enshrined in their Constitution, which is all fine and dandy, but very often nowadays you will notice two things about it: that it is routinely abused, on the one hand to cause gratuitous offence, and on the other in a narcissistic manner, as if the very fact that one could speak freely means that what you say needs no prior critical faculty in the grey matter (read: bullshit filter), yet in the end, peoples’ intolerance will be the death of it.

When it comes to the right of free speech – something I would never wish to deny to anyone – it does seem to me these days that its abuse in the US stems from the notion that ‘freedom of speech’ equals the right to say literally anything, which common sense clearly suggests it does not. In particular, the tendency of people in positions of financial or political power (I shall leave religion to one side for the purposes of this diatribe) to spout out anything that they think their audience wants to hear (with the aim of gleaning more votes) has been demonstrated in abundance during the 2016 US Presidential campaign, more particularly, one thinks, by the losing party, meaning that onlookers have been alternately buffeted between hysterical laughter and mindless horror for the duration. We won’t continue to trouble ourselves with the fates of the sore losers, except, perhaps, to note with a little more amusement that among the so-called ‘snowflake’ population – young millennials who protested so vigorously against the possibility that The Donald, who seems to originate from outside the rarified atmosphere of normal political circles, might actually win and allegedly had to retire to ‘process’ the ultimate (negative, from their point of view) outcome – were often demonstrable hypocrites who did not even bother to actually vote (the startling figure of 48% non-voters among that group of electors has been bandied about). [2]

‘Free speech’ means that one should be allowed to express one’s opinion without fear of persecution. It does not mean freedom from criticism (which is a different barrel of sardines entirely), or freedom to libel or slander others. Yet this seems increasingly to be what many people desire – the enshrined right to vilify, demean and otherwise generally insult people without fear of legal or physical retribution. To this we might add the increasing general intolerance of many to anything but their own opinion; however, this only serves to remind us of my previous remarks in these pages because what we are seeing is the expression of narcissism; they don’t like to be reminded that their echo chamber is not private.

I have personally been shocked (but on reflection, not necessarily surprised) at the kind of malicious talk of some in the anti-Trump camp, who have thought that their candidate was ‘the One’, when in fact she (yes, I’m talking about Hillary, not Bernie or any of the others) was clearly ill, received more than twice as much in donations as her main opponent and still lost, flip-flopped between all kinds of stated positions and, being part of the Rarified Few, patently thought that the election was hers, like some kind of entitlement. This was a person who would have taken the US and everywhere else (and their dog) to World War III, which was clearly what some of her major financial donors wanted. As for The D., I would say that we should sit back and see what he is able to do. At the time of writing, he still hasn’t assumed his elected office and one would at least like to be charitable enough to suggest that he surely couldn’t be as bad as some of his predecessors…

What brought me to the keyboard today was an article linked on Facebook from The Federalist, which appears to be an American on-line publication with a more right-of-centre slant than one tends to encounter on a routine basis. This is called The Death of Expertise and was written by Professor Tom Nichols of the U.S. Naval War College (which sounds kind of ominous)[1]. I read his article and while I would agree with him broadly as to his main points, I have a fundamental disagreement with him when it comes to the desirability of ‘experts’. Partly, this is a humorous hangover from previous participation in the UK business environment, where we often say that ‘X’ is an unknown quantity, and a ‘spurt’ is a drip under pressure, but also partly that people are often described as ‘experts’ without any guarantee that their alleged ‘expertise’ will lead inevitably to favourable results or situations.

But I would like to assert my view that a person like myself with a background in practical science is hardly the kind who could be branded (as I think this author is trying to do) as a ‘non-expert’ (although in commenting on this, I have to point out that I am not an American citizen myself, and have no desire to be, the way things there seem to be going). One of the reasons I gave up on science is that much of it is falsified and cannot be supported by the data as they stand (or to put it another way, current paradigms fail to account for all the anomalies), and the ‘healthy option’ of having a range of competing hypotheses which could replace the current paradigm is barely ever mentioned because of the emotional, financial and career-related attachments that practitioners enjoy, and do not want to lose. Someone like myself will always be critical of authors like this because when they write, they are really trying to justify themselves and the system which supports them. To take a parallel from science when reading an article like this, one has to remember that waaayyyy back in the year that I was born (cough, cough), Thomas S. Kuhn was already lamenting, in his landmark tome “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, the fact that ‘normal science’ had given way to ‘verification’ of the paradigm rather than trying to challenge it; likewise, in his own book “Against Method”, Paul K. Feyerabend asserted (against a wall of criticism) that ‘normal science’ involved an anarchistic process in which the progress of a scientist’s career – if successful – involved an awful lot of schmoozing and ass-licking. This is essentially what we are seeing here, in the political context.

The author is talking here about the larger political arena, and while he is right to lambaste those who criticise the practitioners in this field on the basis of their personal delusions and acquired (inculcated) opinions, he unfortunately shows where he is coming from when he starts name-dropping with some of the 20th century’s greatest unhung criminals – the likes of Kissinger and Brzezinski. What he is really saying is that when you criticise ‘experts’, you are criticising the ‘status quo’. This is, in itself, wilful obfuscation: we would all acknowledge that (a) a brain surgeon is a virtually unchallengeable ‘expert’ in his field and (b) virtually any commentator (other than another ‘expert’ brain surgeon) would be unable to contradict said brain surgeon’s opinion as to methodology with any reasonably sophisticated or even meaningful argument. However, the brain surgeon operates in an area where peer review (and managerial and other feedback) works to prevent disasters as far as possible; colleagues in the field would be able not just to criticise his practice, but to make positive suggestions. One cannot say this regarding (for example) broad areas of science, where very often an erroneous paradigm is maintained at all costs, and even the direct observation of phenomena (and the data resulting from research) is deliberately obscured so that questioning the data and their interpretation is made extremely difficult. And the more difficult observation becomes, the more outlandish the claims; I have made my opinions clear about this in a range of blogs, but not before undertaking a lot of reading and attempting to understand the nature of the criticisms as well as the phenomena being observed.

To comprehend the nature of my criticism here and my continued reference to the practice of science when the author’s original theme was political, consider the following: the practice of engaging militarily inferior ‘enemies’ at great distance from the homeland mirrors the scientists’ practice of constantly attempting to place phenomena in sufficient isolation, be it in space or time, that casual observation is in fact rendered impossible. Examples from cosmology include the so-called ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Black Holes’, not to mention ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Dark Energy’. We are still living in an age where the power of stars and even the heating of planetary interiors is thought to be due to radioactive decay even though more logical hypotheses such as EU now seem more relevant.

In both cases, when non-practitioners desire to see things for themselves, chances are that practitioners will defend their contemptible little patch up to and including litigation, enactment of specific and targeted new laws (as has been seen in the aftermath of Fukushima in Japan, and now elsewhere) and in the final resort, outright murder of critics. Even U.S. Presidents are not immune from this.

We see also that “Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and an adjunct at the Harvard Extension School.” In other words, he is a well-integrated component of the ruling system whose career is closely bound to its survival; his interest is political as well as practical. But his ‘expertise’ is such that he could never come to me and tell me how to improve a chromate conversion coating on zinc by altering the pH, or likewise how to remove metals from solution by a similar method. I also doubt if he could tell me anything useful about soil husbandry, animal rearing or solar or wind power if my final disenchantment with politics should persuade me to head for the hills. MY education, training and experience therefore lead me to distrust HIS ‘expert’ opinion and to suspect that there is a subtext to this article, and to think that I am right (Kissinger, Brzezinski). I therefore challenge his assertion that a person like myself should be considered unfit to pass comment in the political arena, and advise Americans to be even less tolerant. In reality, he’s trying to tell his fellow citizens how to think.

The kind of obfuscation seen in the scientific context is now rampant in the political arena, where the broad “West” is clearly trying to justify starting World War III by demonising countries such as Russia and China and dependencies such as Syria, and their prime agents are their puppet media; where are the signs that we need to understand the nations in question? How is Russia, in particular, posing any kind of ‘threat’ to the West? The ‘system’ controls the media (do what they say, or lose your career), demonstrating how dangerous the ‘gatekeepers’ can be; and the fact that many modern American laws seem to be the result of industry lobbying and graft rather than solid scientific investigations and/or popular opinion demonstrates the falsehood of this so-called ‘democracy’ itself. Surely modern America is an obvious plutocracy when such things can happen? And when people in the know reveal those things which the system wants to keep hidden, they are not labelled as ‘citizens exercising their democratic right to free speech’, they are ‘whistleblowers’, demonised, legislated against and maybe even murdered for their efforts and opinions. Yet, for some reason, this system advertises itself as the epitome of democratic sanity. Perhaps we should remember that the incoming President got himself elected by (a) inflaming the ‘mainstream media’ to get their outlandish reactions and (b) made (and is still making) extensive use of alternative media to get his messages out. That is democracy and inclusion. The ‘mainstream media’ represent the exact opposite.

Unfortunately (from my own point of view), those who claim ‘expertise’ in the political arena must always be subjected to the most rigorous criticism, because their errors (which may be in concert with the interests of large industrial entities) are of a nature where the consequences of their execution may be dire and when they themselves are dead, other people’s descendants have to handle the downstream sequelae. One would not wish to support a system, as can be seen in so many countries these days, where there is sufficient obfuscatory power that legal systems can be co-opted to actually prevent people from uncovering and interpreting its inconvenient data. Increasingly, so-called ‘liberal democracies’ have been enacting laws to prevent both journalists and citizens from discovering and disseminating information about things that affect them (like Fukushima), the media are dumbed-down and demonstrably complicit in the obfuscatory process and the media themselves shout down anyone who questions anything the system doesn’t like to be in the public arena. This behaviour even extends to sciences like cosmology, which is an utter disgrace to the broader scientific enterprise.

Why all the obfuscation, you may ask? What is the point of all of this? Well, the alternative word for ‘obfuscation’ here would be ‘occultation’, yet when we think of the word ‘occult’, science is the last major field of human endeavour that comes to mind, showing that this methodology of disguise has worked extremely well so far. Science is just as much an ‘occulted’ activity as any Hermetic Order, and therefore its practitioners seek to make access difficult for the ‘uninitiated’; likewise practitioners of politics and the performing arts often have similar involvements, which they often give away with their words and gestures. Mark Passio goes into this in some depth here [3]:

So thank you, Professor, but you’re not an ‘expert’ in any area which interests me. Rather the contrary: from what you are saying, it seems like you are trying to justify a system which essentially disrespects the opinions of intelligent and experienced onlookers like myself, and represent said system’s ossification and elitism. In my opinion, this kind of haughty commentary is only a step or two away from criminalising political dissent… oh, wait…




Minor edits: Sunday 12th February, 2017.

Why All Taxation Is Theft

Damn right!

This is an anarchist talking… something we need to understand better, if only because current political philosophies are so bankrupt and common sense is sorely needed:

Always remember: Theoretical anarchism is only ever enlightening.

More From the FBI…

This was shared to my Wall this morning. And the most interesting comment seems to be part of that about the late Philip Klass:

“Always striving to stay on the cutting edge, Klass published an “Exclusive Report on Counter Measures” in the November 18th and 25th, 1957, editions of Aviation Week. This report was referred to the FBI for the “unauthorized disclosure of information classified ‘Secret’”. An investigation into the disclosure was dropped when the US Air Force told the FBI that the disclosed information could not be declassified for purposes of prosecution.”

This covers a range of characters who by now are well-known to the UFO research community.

As I have stated on a number of occasions (and indeed blogged about fairly recently), I am not personally of the opinion that all unidentified lights or objects in the sky are by definition guided or piloted by beings from other worlds; it seems to me that many of them must be of purely ‘natural’ origin and the great crime of science is that it has persistently failed not only to seek an explanation for them, but also to offer any reasonable explanation of why it has not done so. It seems to me that they provide some kind of convenient ‘smokescreen’ for ‘something’ that ‘someone’ wants to keep in an obscured condition.

We might add (just for a lark) the comments of the late Apollo astronaut and first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, which seem curiously relevant in this context:

“There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of the truth’s protective layers. There are many places to go beyond belief.”

… and one thing you absolutely cannot say about Neil is that he was not someone who knew something.