Truth, employment and freedom of speech.

2 May

President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, yesterday proffered this analysis of the sacking of SBS sports presenter Scott McIntyre, after he posted a series of tweets that suggested, among other things, an alternative and previously unspoken view of the actions of the ANZACS.

In her piece Professor Triggs refers to the case of Banerji v Bowles (2013) in which Department of Immigration former employee Michaela Banerji was sacked after tweeting criticisms of detention centres, the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Immigration. Ms Banerji used a pseudonym for her Twitter account, and argued that her comments are “constitutionally protected by her right to freedom of political communication as an indispensable incident of representative government.” The Federal Court rejected this view.

Ms Banerji has now replied to Professor Triggs’ observations on her case here.

I know there are readers of Sheep who are as intrigued by legal forensics as am I, and the arguments made by both parties are of significant import to anyone who is employed and uses social media. I won’t add my comparatively ignorant voice to those of Professor Triggs and Ms Banerji, rather I’m interested in Trigg’s observations on the use of social media and Truth.

Triggs begins her piece with a quote from John Milton’s Areopagitica in which the poet passionately opposes censorship, arguing for freedom of speech. “Whoever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” he asks.

Triggs argues that “today’s near universal access to social media challenges the idea that freedom of expression ensures truth will be victorious over falsehood.”  The poet Milton could not have envisaged the extent of free and open encounters awaiting society in its future, and made his observation at a time when only the privileged had access to a public platform.

There are a couple of assumptions in Triggs’ argument that ought to be noted. In claiming that universal access to social media dilutes the possibility of Truth triumphing over falsehood, Triggs, inadvertently I’m sure, is claiming not only that Truth is, as it was in Milton’s time, defined and controlled by a particular demographic who enjoy freedom of expression due to their privilege, but that this is still a legitimate manner in which to determine what is Truth.  Now the masses have unprecedented access to public platforms that democratise freedom of expression, Truth will inevitably be vanquished by the freely expressed opinions of these masses. Whatever is publicly expressed by those other than the privileged and entitled will inevitably be falsehood, is what her argument implies.

Truth is a tricky concept, fluid in the extreme, determined by the orthodoxy, enforced by the state and its agents, and religion and its agents. Social media offers the most expansive and democratic opportunity for the contestation of what Foucault calls “regimes of truth”  that has ever existed in human history.

Truth, argues Foucault, does not exist outside of power:

 on the contrary, truth “is produced by virtue of multiple constraints [a]nd it induces regulated effects of power”. This is to say that “each society has its regime of truth”, and by this expression Foucault means: (1) “the types of discourse [society] harbours and causes to function as true”; (2) “the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true from false statements” and (3) “the way in which each is sanctioned”; (4) “the techniques and procedures which are valorised for obtaining truth”; (5) “the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true” (Foucault 1976, p. 112; 13).

Therefore, “truth” is “a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and functioning of statements”; it is linked “by a circular relation to systems of power which produce it and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which redirect it”. 

It is the function of social media, exemplified most recently by the tweets of Scott McIntyre, to contest truth regimes produced by systems of power that control and sustain what comes to be normalised as “Truth.” Scott McIntyre, Michaela Banerji and countless others have used social media to contest the constructed regimes of truth, to their cost. Whether these challenges to the orthodoxy are accurate or not, the point is they must be made and in a liberal democracy the people who make them ought not to be punished.

There is absolutely no correlation between freedom of expression and what we might, at any given time, consider to be Truth. The very best we can do is, as Foucault recommends, constantly question the origins of our current regimes of truth, by whom are they determined, whose ends do they serve, what techniques and procedures are valorised for obtaining truth and by whom. Our most powerful weapon for contesting regimes of truth is social media. Professor Triggs is quite wrong: today’s near universal access to social media ensures an unprecedented freedom of expression that in turn ensures an unrelenting contestation of truth claims, and herein lies its power, and its threat to authority.

Freedom of expression has never ensured Truth, not in Milton’s time and not in ours. Social media is a powerful tool for the examination of regimes of truth established by the privileged and entitled, regimes that all too often have little to do with what is true, and far more to do with what is advantageous to those who declare it to be true.

Foucault: Regimes of Truth

 

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45 Responses to “Truth, employment and freedom of speech.”

  1. voradams May 2, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    I did not really take notice on what Scott McIntyre wrote about ANZAC day, as most people impose their own opinions and or beliefs on the topic, and to an extent get it horribly wrong.

    What got my goat was his tweet about Hiroshima being a terrorist attack.

    By taking a term that has emotive connotations and apply it to a historical event is not only irresponsible but factually wrong.

    Yes, Hiroshima was disgusting in the carnage it caused, but this was a war where the Rape of Nanjing is conveniently forgotten, as is the firebombing of Tokyo.

    However what was wrong apart from misapplying terrorism to an event of total war between two belligerent nations, was the context of the use of the Bomb against Japan.

    The Invasion plans of Japan was two stages (under the banner of Operation Downfall). One was the invasion of the ports of Kyūshū (Operation Olympic) and the other was the invasion of the main island Honshū (Cornet).

    The allied planners had no doubts how bad the invasion would be. Apart from suicide attacks from the ground and air, every child and woman was expected to launch suicide attacks against the invaders, with whatever weapon they had on hand (including sharpened sticks!).

    The planned invasion called for 1/2 million Allied casulties and millions of Japanese deaths. It also called for the carpet bombing of the ports with nukes then sending the troops over the glowing remains.

    How far did the planning went? Well one indicator is the Purple Heart award for wounded in action was ordered and made. The US is still using the award made for the invasion to this day!

    To say it was horrific, disgusting and barbaric to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would agree to a point. However when Truman was finally made aware of the bomb (he was kept out of the loop while Vice President) he compared the projected deaths to the projected deaths of Downfall, and it was a no brainer. He launched the bomb.

    Was Hiroshima and Nagasaki a terrorism attack? No. It was an attack to knock an enemy out of the war with the least possible deaths on both sides. Even then it almost failed in its stated aims of forcing a peace, with the Japanese officer corp actively butchering each other and the government for even considering an armistice. The Japanese Emperor broke tradition and ordered the surrender and many ministers and senior officers committed ritual suicide rather than fase the shame of surrender. Fortunately for everyone, the saner heads in Japan prevailed.

    If you are going to call an event like Hiroshima and Nagasaki an atrocity, that is appropriate as it fits the definition https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=atrocity%20definition. To call it terrorism is wrong and shows a callous disregard of the history of the Pacific War. Apply the term to where it belongs, to attacks against people unprepared for the attacks by people who have no regard to human life.

    And Scott McIntyre? He has a right to voice his opinion. He has no right, especially as a public identity, to be wrong. Wisdom of the crowd and what not. Someone will always get offended. No matter what.

    On this topic he showed a callus disregard of facts and wallowed in “feelpinions” that blight political discussions today. You CAN make any statement you want, but you have to use the statements in a context that is appropriate. Saying inflammatory stuff is OK if your context is to debate, shock or inspire discussion (or for humour, but this topic has no real humour context).

    Scott should have either a)made his comments in a closed or semi-closed account like Google+, Facebook or a forum. b) used a different twitter account that was created specifically for debates and arguments divorced from his public SBS profile. OK, that is not perfect, and I am the poster child for this going wrong, but my profile was never as large as his,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 2, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

      He has no right to be wrong? I can’t agree with that, everyone has the right to be wrong, to be corrected, to correct themselves.

      I don’t think McIntyre was off the mark at all with regard to the ANZAC comments, & according to The Conversation of Wednesday April 29th, not too far wrong in his Hiroshima comments either.

      Sacking him was abominable. IMO

      Like

      • paul walter May 3, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

        The treatment of McIntyre was barbaric and irrational.

        Like

    • hudsongodfrey May 3, 2015 at 12:30 am #

      The US DOD definition of terrorism is as follows:

      “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”

      The problem you have with Hiroshima and Nagasaki is no different than the fire-bombing of Dresden or Tokyo when in total war there is so much of what Nicholson Baker right dubbed “Human Smoke” that the above definition applies to almost everything. It may just be that a freedom fighter one day is a terrorist the next, but when even Robert S McNamara admitted that had they lost the war US bomber commander Curtis LeMay might well have been charged with war crimes for the deliberate targeting of Japanese civilians, I think we need to take him seriously. By the time they got to Nuremberg it was more or less accepted wisdom that charges brought would be limited to bad things we didn’t do. That’s not much of a standard to set.

      Nor should the Nanjing massacre, be forgotten any more than scores of other massacres and atrocities that can be linked one to the other over the course of human history. The problem in so doing should however be obvious in the very mention of Northern Ireland or Israel Palestine. At some point we have to build bridges if we’re to stop the cycle of violence these blame games excuse.

      Then and only then will “Lest we Forget” be the equivalent of “Rest in Peace”.

      I for one am starting the détente by ignoring the opportunity to rebuke Truman, not without difficulty.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn May 3, 2015 at 6:53 am #

      Japan was on the verge of surrender and the demented idea that the us had to slaughter hundreds of thousands rather than simply not invade drives me insane.

      And the nukes were terrorist attacks no matter how you look at it and so depraved no-one has ever done it again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote May 3, 2015 at 9:38 am #

        Wrong, as usual. Voradams’ post above is far more accurate.

        Not dropping the bomb would have meant the deaths of many millions of Japanese citizens.

        Like

        • hudsongodfrey May 3, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

          Perhaps I could add that the late Russian declaration of war against Japan also played a role. If we’re honest though, at this late date we have to admit that any further speculation on what might have happened if things turned out differently really is just speculation. Sure, you can have an officer draft a report on how many lives might have been lost, and over time sanitise it to pretend that you didn’t value American lives over Japanese ones, but at best its the victors writing history. The real objection is to the use of the credible threat and what that later implied for the Cold War period.

          Had it not been the case that America spared Hiroshima with an Atomic attack in mind then a view to delivering that terrible threat in a different form might prevail. Even on a generous view there is in the absence of evidence for every effort being made to avoid using those weapons a kind of persistent ambiguity about their intentions. So even those for whom the calculus of war favoured the view that fewer lives were expended in the first atomic attack should question after the second how many they’d have been willing to use before the cost benefit analysis ceased to matter.

          I mentioned the Russians because a well founded distrust of Stalin that existed then could have played out a lot worse given how poorly events in Japan boded for America’s sense of restraint in using weapons of mass destruction. Later on Khrushchev may have been every bit complicit in starting the Cuban Missile Crisis, but to say he wasn’t the better man for stepping away from the brink might be to value all our lives too cheaply.

          Like

    • paul walter May 3, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

      How do you justify Nagasaki when you condemn Nanking?

      Like

  2. helvityni May 2, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    I found the sacking a rather harsh punishment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. samjandwich May 2, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Yeah, I opted not to delve into the Scott MacIntyre thing, as it looked rather too much like journalistic click-bait to me.

    And I’ve often wondered whether this type of behaviour of mine indicates a weakness in Foucault: By focussing on the ingredients and products of power, he lends a kind of sanctity or inherent claim to existence to the things that “societies” consist of.

    I prefer to ascribe meaning and truth to a very few simplistic principles: we are all just biological processes, it’s best for everyone if our decisions are informed by notions of the common good, you shouldn’t fuck kids, disregard someone else’s heartfelt statements, or feel guilty about the circumstances you were born into. The rest is just details…

    Like

    • Jennifer Wilson May 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

      I have to totes disagree with you, McIntyre’s comments on the ANZACS were necessary, it’s not so long ago that feminists marched on ANZAC Day to protest rape in war and the manner in which it is denied.

      The devil is in the details….

      Liked by 1 person

      • samjandwich May 2, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

        Yes well, perhaps I could add to my list, “you shouldn’t presume to understand what goes on inside other people’s heads”.

        I liked this article: http://theconversation.com/anzacs-behaving-badly-scott-mcintyre-and-contested-history-40955, “The response to McIntyre’s tweets is a demonstration that the popular perception of Anzac is completely out of step with the historical reality”.

        This to me is an incontrovertible point, which a society’s “regime of truth” can’t touch – and in that sense I think Foucault treads too softly around, or even excuses the tendency of societies to accept dominant discourses, since truth is often staring them in the face. For me the more pertinent question is, why do people accept these things?

        The dominant discourse does of course largely dictate one’s employment prospects, and in a technical sense I agree with Gillian Triggs that Scott McIntyre was walking the line with his comments. Perhaps you could say though that his protests are a sign that his potential extends beyond being a sports reporter for SBS.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson May 3, 2015 at 8:13 am #

          I think Foucault saw his role as one of analysis, identification and dissemination of his findings, all of which are pretty radical occupations from which other events follow.

          Why do people accept these things? Foucault answers that question – because they are normalised and people such as McIntyre who question them are severely punished. Whistleblowers, and those who divert from an accepted path, are treated very badly, discipline and punishment maintains the established order and the established myths.

          Technically McIntyre was walking the line, and the line is wrong, not McIntyre.

          Like

        • paul walter May 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

          No way was he walking a line, anymore than Copernicus or Galileo.

          Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter May 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

        Agree, EMPHATICALLY

        Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter May 3, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

        Is his name George Brandis?

        Like

  4. JD Anthony (@ranterulze) May 2, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Yes, the issues are complex in Australia and we are easily trapped by simplistic slogans like “freedom of speech” – Gillian Triggs, while attacked ferociously by Abbott and company, seems to get it wrong in this case because she relied on Mainstream Media Accounts.

    The citizen journalism approach – Twitter, Facebook, individual blogs and “collections” like AIMN – presents the possibility of actually engaging the broad population in substantive discussion more like old-school village councils or women’s circles.

    Thank you for bringing these comments and articles together.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hudsongodfrey May 2, 2015 at 11:55 pm #

    I know I’ve mentioned some of this before, but while Australia does not have the US solution guaranteeing freedom of speech, with a Bill of Rights, I think we get the best part of the bargain. While our rights are not enumerated it remains implicit that everything is permitted that is not specifically proscribed in law, and that can be a very good thing.

    In Scott McIntyre’s case he may be deemed to have entered into an employment contract that precluded certain public expressions which could be interpreted as political bias. In the case of a news journalist, as opposed to his actual role as a sports presenter, then I can see how it might be argued that his apparent lack of objectivity could damage their business. I do think those are matters that could well find themselves put before the courts should he file for unfair dismissal.

    SBS as his employer could also take a dim view of on air personalities using the public profile their employment affords them to court controversy, because it may have negative associations with the broadcaster. As long as the employee enters into a valid agreement stipulating they won’t do so, and that does not contravene any other State or Federal Law, then they could be legally bound by it. I doubt even finding examples of inconsistent application of such a contract clause would necessarily be enough for case of discrimination to succeed, but it might have made it interesting had Jeremy Clarkson worked at SBS.

    As for the tweets; I always thought “Lest we forget” referenced war as a cautionary tale we should never repeat. Yet we have forgotten, and somehow in the interim turned the official narrative towards glorification of the Gallipoli mythology. It’s an almost perfect example of what we’d like to feel about history distorting or ignoring almost all of the facts with something worryingly close to religious zeal. I find it discomforting, and have sympathies for some of the anti-war sentiments in McIntyre’s tweets.

    On Foucault’s view of truth verging upon a social contract when it comes to democratic systems of government translating those sentiments into law I think the Bali executions may provide another cautionary tale. If the human rights of certain persons are secondary to the lesser requirements of another group simply because the second group happens to be in power, then you can make a law, but you can’t call that justice.

    Similarly to the political processes that ended Slavery or brought about civil rights what social media may be pointing to here may be another form of injustice, albeit a smaller one. Perhaps akin to the injustices that ushered in anti-discrimination laws. I don’t know that a complete and unfettered right to freedom of speech no matter how hateful will ever truly be enshrined as the kind of human right one cannot sign away, but a lesson in not lightly penalising employees to the tune of their livelihood might not go astray.

    I think some such regulation tying the hands of an employer might just lead to a more mature attitude in general to unfortunate commentary. Particularly in social media where the author faces an immediate penalty in ill moderated backlash. There’s room in cases such as these to take it all with a grain of salt avoiding real world knee jerk reactions to otherwise inconsequential cyberspace shenanigans.

    And if you just want to say “I’m offended by that” then as Stephen Fry put it “Well, so fucking what?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 3, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      It seems that some employment contracts do require a relinquishing of rights of freedom of speech, public servants for example.

      I hope McIntyre does investigate unfair dismissal, it would be interesting to follow that.

      For myself, I am at one with Stephen Fry in this business of offending. There is no human right not to be offended and that we should have laws against offending someone is ridiculously precious. Harassment, vilification etc fair enough. But offending?

      Liked by 2 people

      • paul walter May 4, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

        The obvious conclusion of this ends at Chelsea Manning, a person persecuted for revealing a gross crime while the real criminals were left unpunished.

        The contracts cynicism is an instrument that fosters a totalitarian society.

        Liked by 1 person

        • hudsongodfrey May 4, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

          I would say MLK was an even better example of what I was talking about, partly because the price he paid was the ultimate one, but also because the point about the injustice he helped to overcome was so well made and vindicated…. And by the way there’s a guy I’d love to have seen using Twitter.

          Whereas the revelations Manning made should have been seen in the special light of whistle blowing where revelations conveying valuable information about important people or events are involved as opposed to expressions of opinion. The former qualify for as protected speech in the public interest whereas the enter into a marketplace of ideas where they may be valued according to their capacity to persuade.

          It is interesting, though perhaps not strictly relevant to our topic, that the matters Manning blew the whistle on have thus far gotten a little bit lost in the controversy, not least because some people strove to obscure them. They nonetheless created some of the impetus behind a shift in the mood of Americans that eventually cost governor Bush’s party the white house. You could say that the messenger became the story and in so doing switched from an informative mode to a persuasive one by proxy in the media and online.

          Like

          • paul walter May 5, 2015 at 12:07 am #

            Isn’t it a fairly straight forward, when boiled down to its essence?

            Manning had access to a war crime and moved evidence on to Wikileaks, in order that the public be alerted to the reality that all was not as authority claimed it to be as far as fair and honorable conduct in a war zone was concerned. Quite the opposite, what was presented was evidence of a mini My Lai; something the Common Man, Manning, found so shocking as to require for personal peace of mind, direct action concerning something he felt could not pass unremarked. So he took a legal risk, aware of probable repercussions should he be exposd as the person passing on the info

            Also with McIntyre, what happened was some thing akin to a pointing out of a truth of the Emperor Has No Clothes type, no attempt was made to offend, merely do a citizens duty in pointing out situation that indicated a type of denialist behaviour dangerous to individuals and a community.

            We can’t wonder through life pretending things are other than they are, this is ultimately suicidal and I think it is a shame honest people are subject to such Draconian retaliations for merely performing a civic duty and taking a measure for self-protection. How can there not be a place for conscience in a society that proclaims itself rational and demographic?

            Like

            • hudsongodfrey May 5, 2015 at 10:07 am #

              All of what you said may be more or less true depending you your point of view, if somewhat oversimplified when it comes to meeting opposition in either case.

              I think what you probably meant to say is that Manning and McIntyre share common ground in being dealt with unfairly by their employers. Whereas I’m more interested understanding what was wrong with the employers’ reactions.

              We might not choose to dwell on it, but Manning did behave at times erratically,in ways perhaps capable of being construed as less optimal for a whistle blower focused solely on exposing gross injustices. Whether or not we sympathise with sufferers of gender identity disorders or embrace the political implications of leaking isn’t the appropriate test as to when those revelations should be protected speech. What’s really most relevant to that is the need to hold the criminals accountable.

              If some people might choose to say McIntyre’s tweets could’ve made the same points better without risking offence then I think we come at questioning where the harm lies from a diametrically different standpoint to whistle blowing. The defence of free speech to be made for McIntyre is that in the absence of any other harm the presence of offence is entirely subjective and therefore allowable. Here consideration of harm falls on the opposite side of the equation and knowing how the employer should be entitled to act depends on understanding as much.

              Thus I came to the point of asking how justice is best served rather than simply analysing how existing laws may have been written. I chose MLK as an example where the civil rights movement led to legal reform for black Americans in the repeal of the last remaining Jim Crow (segregation) laws and the Civil rights rights act of 1964.

              Like

  6. doug quixote May 3, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    It seems rather excessive a reaction to sack an employee, unless he had “form” and was on warnings for previous breaches.

    There is a right to freedom of political speech and the High Court is developing the doctrine case by case. But if your very employment requires that you refrain from criticising your employer and its policies, the employee should seek employment elsewhere. I have sympathy with Banerji, but she and I have had this very discussion in this blog previously and I think she may well agree with me.

    McIntyre will probably seek relief for unfair dismissal. It will bear watching.

    Liked by 2 people

    • paul walter May 3, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

      He must win on this, yet Jennnifer is describing a court case; the Banerji one, where thejudgement is so troglodyte as to make even the barbaric US supreme court decisions on some issues appear enlightened by comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter May 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      DQ, does it apply if the employer is (later) engaged in or facilitating an arguably illegal activity?

      Why should a person lose their livelihood or be forced to seek work elsewhere if the employer is at fault?

      I finally got back to the missed Bannerji link, briefly read those comments and agree with her point there. I think her basic human rights have been tampered with.

      Still as HG has hinted, I lack the acumen to follow this stuff with the same facility as the rest of you, although that could be down to laziness and inertia on my part..I’m just not sufficiently engaged, or too unengaged, to add further comment without going back and rereading and thinking about issues raised here.

      Maybe Í just don’t care any more.

      Like

      • paul walter May 5, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

        Yep, definitely jaded. Just went to FB and that isn’t kicking in either.

        Triggs’ article seemed to make the point that Bannerji was operating under some sort of understandable misconception as to her rights to freedom of speech and social participation. If there was an error, could it be said her employes appropriate first response should have been counselling rather than sacking?
        She did, after all, use a pseudonym.

        Triggs seemed almost to be saying people have no right to socialparticiption, by implication, if you go a certain way with the argument.

        Paradise of Dissent, by no means- how is the truth ever uncovered if people are not even allowed to to talk, on the technicality of a contract, as to politics ( as opposed to industrial secrets, formulas, etc)?

        Like

      • doug quixote May 9, 2015 at 8:51 am #

        To your first question “does it apply if the employer is (later) engaged in or facilitating an arguably illegal activity?”

        Clearly not. The employee ought to get out, and present chapter and verse to the police. And put the employer in prison.

        Like

  7. hudsongodfrey May 3, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    I agree on the unfair dismissal angle, but upon reflection I could’ve organised my thoughts better.

    If you took the general prohibition on courting controversy first then I think it would indeed flounder on the rocks of discrimination. Despite seeming to be the stronger exclusion of free speech anything too broad would be almost impossible to exercise consistently

    If you then take the more specific rationale for newsreaders to maintain a veneer of impartiality and found it not to apply to Sports presenters in this context, then SBS may be running out of defences for sacking him.

    At the point where regulation well sorted it not only defends the right of a worker, it provides that SBS can both distance itself from employees social media, and be freed from the need to respond to petty matters as if viewers’ offence was relevant.

    ~

    By the way I don’t disagree with Foucault’s description of systems of truth I simply think it allows for some societies to reach flawed conclusions. The question of how to break out of socially conditioned received messages that are wrong is very much a live one for me.

    The price we pay for global connectedness leading to greater empathy may well be a kind of stagnant homogeneity that comes up short when an outsider’s perspective of one another’s societies would come in handy.

    There’s also another school of thought around scientific truth positing that free will does not exist and the distinctions some people seek to make between different kinds of truths aren’t necessarily supportable.

    The first hard part of being progressive is maintaining your poise and a sense of hope in the face of the naysayer’s fears that everything will go wrong.
    The second hard part is feeling sure the future will be better and knowing you probably won’t live to see it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. paul walter May 3, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    Foucault describes how things work sociologically, but this need not obviate the concept of absolute truth.

    Abbott claims the Indonesians are barbaric for executing Sukumaran and Chang, yet condemns those who question Indonesia’s harsh tactics in West Papua, but would a normative response not be that it is wrong for authority to execute anybody by fiat (given the inconsistencies in the Bali 9/2 cases)?

    Foucault is right, but there is such a danger of slippage to almost, an alibiing of callous and lazy reactionary relativist positions, given the way the case is expressed.

    Hudgod, you are right to observe the slide toward homogeneity and herogeneity; in the end the clueless state Jennifer Wilson describes reasserts itself..there must be some sort of sociological Says Law that expresses what appears to be a totalising tendency, in blunt terms.

    Like

    • hudsongodfrey May 3, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

      Sociological understanding need not obviate absolute truth, but it’d be a bloody good idea if other people who believed in such absolutes stopped pretending to believe in certainty without evidence.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson May 3, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

        Yes!!!

        Like

      • doug quixote May 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

        Yes for me as well.

        HG, your short posts are often gems.

        Like

        • hudsongodfrey May 3, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

          I was annoyed that I used believe twice to be honest, but I guess you’re trying nicely to tell me tl;dr, and I’m pleading Pascall’s excuse.

          Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

          Like

          • doug quixote May 5, 2015 at 11:15 am #

            I believe you can use believe as often as you believe necessary. But i don’t believe anyone should ever use “to be honest” or “to be frank with you”, though I believe many do believe it adds credibility; I believe it does not, and only calls into question their every other utterance. This I believe.

            🙂

            Liked by 2 people

            • hudsongodfrey May 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

              Depends on the context a bit.

              I occasionally use it as a turn of phrase to segue from one thing to another. That seems harmless enough.

              Nor does using language that means to draw the reader into one’s confidence seem altogether condemnable. As long as it isn’t done too often it might mark a point of separation between statements I’m confidently asserting or argument I think is supportable from a more subjective personal preference I merely wish to disclose.

              So frankly and to be honest opening oneself up to make subjective and personal remarks isn’t something I believe ought to be criticised as harshly as it sometimes is unless someone misuses it to smuggle in something really objectionable. I’ve seen enough politicians be guilty of that in that past to suspect it may be where your objection comes from.

              Like

            • Jennifer Wilson May 7, 2015 at 7:13 am #

              I especially dislike personal values statements such as “I always tell the truth” and “I always treat people equally.” In my experience if this has to be stated it is likely to be untrue.

              Like

  9. paul walter May 6, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    Yes. It is taking a while for such a good piece of writing to percolate through, but I now sense it has been worth the effort keeping it in mind, even if its truths have been unreleivedly sobering.

    “Freedom is when there’s nothing left to lose”?

    I wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 7, 2015 at 7:15 am #

      Freedom is also when there is plenty left to lose, but the prospect of loss is regarded with equanimity rather than fear and dread.
      How’s that for first thing in the morning.

      Like

  10. paul walter May 7, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    I know.. I have to shake it off a bit, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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