Think critically to make sense of Politics in Era of Fake News

August 5, 2017

Think critically to make sense of Politics in Era of Fake News


by Dean Johns

Image result for Najib the Faker


As I doubt you have any particular cause to recall, in my previous column  I tried to argue for the crying need for us all to cultivate our critical thinking skills to better equip us to rationally resist the tsunami of fake news and views with which ruling regimes continually contrive to swamp our minds.

But I then went on to express the reservation that rationality appears to be powerless against the ‘passionately-expressed but patently false emotings of US President Donald Trump, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak or any of his mendacious paid mouthpieces, or the ravings of any of the world’s countless other misleaders.’

Or, in other words, as I went on to extend this thought ‘the very idea of dealing rationally with the verbal vomit such people constantly spew forth, and that their venal, vapid or utterly vacant supporters so eagerly lap-up, seems ridiculous to me.’

Such was the apparent lack of interest in this or anything else I had to say in the column that it drew only two comments. But, to my surprise and delight, both vividly illustrated the points I was at such pains to make.

In one comment, ‘The Analyser’, a critic of Malaysiakini articles and columns so ubiquitous and  anti-Opposition that many readers rightly or wrongly consider her to be an UMNO-BN stooge, seemed to largely agree with my first point.

Political philosophy 

‘Thank you for all the philosophising, but I think I’ll stick with the facts,’ she typically sarcastically wrote, but then, completely ignoring the question as to what these alleged ‘facts’ might be, went on to concede that ‘a tiny bit of political philosophy in Malaysia would go a long way to squashing the existing ideology of selfishness and greed.’

But The Analyser’s somewhat surprising support of my argument in favour of rational argument based on critical thinking was totally blown away by the only other comment on my column, which was a tour-de-force demonstration of why I have doubts that reason can ever prevail over unreason.

Image result for david hume  on reason

Some regular Malaysiakini reader and commentator posing as a cigar-chomping ‘Tony Soprano’ provided as compelling proof of philosopher David Hume’s proposition that passion can trump reason as even the current US President or Malaysian Prime Minister or any of such peoples’ spokespersons could be capable of.

Not that I have the slightest intention of, or feel I have any justification for, attacking ‘Tony Soprano’ personally, you understand.

In fact quite the opposite, if anything, considering that all the comments I’ve read that he’s made at Malaysiakini in the past have left me with the impression that he’s as disgusted with the UMNO-BN regime as I am, and thus, at least on the proverbial ‘my enemy’s enemy’ principle, a friend.

Image result for donald trump quotes

But unfortunately, my attempts at a rational argument against the possibility of Trump’s ever realising his incessantly-trumpeted intention to ‘make America great again’ appear to have turned ‘Tony’ from friend to friend.

Reason-killing rage

Or, more specifically, by mentioning just a few of the recent and current apparent lapses from greatness on the part of the US, I’ve so offended his sense of patriotism as to provoke him to reason-killing rage or what the shrinks call an ‘Amygdala rush’.

Here, to save you the trouble of looking it up from a week back, is how this ‘Tony Soprano’ hissy-fit went, with my own brief notes in square brackets:

“Another America-bashing Commonwealth citizen who’s undoubtedly not spent any time in the US [False] It is a great country [Any evidence at all?]; making it great ‘again’ is merely another misleading Trumpian slogan.

“Two-thirds of the gun deaths are either accidents or suicides [But still deaths, right?] Meanwhile violent crime has been declining drastically since 1993. I live in a very safe and friendly city of 500,000 [Bully for you. But your point is?] Trump is Trump and wasn’t even elected by absolute votes [Just like Najib, in fact, in GE13].

“In case you’re not aware [as if anyone could not be], the checks and balances are closing around him [S-l-o-w-l-y]. As for the Vietnam War, you can go back in history as far as you want. [Not very far, is it? With one of its chief war criminals, the mad bomber of Laos and Cambodia, Henry Kissinger, still alive? Or is the US re-writing its history Malaysia-style?]

“China annexed Tibet in 1950. China murdered millions of its own citizens even up to 1989. Many of her prisoners are POLITICAL [Yes, but what on earth does this have to do with the alleged greatness of America?]. How could you be so epistemologically immature [???] as to miss that point?

“Australia is notorious for its outrageous treatment of boat people and other refugees. [True. In fact, for this and many other reasons, I loathe Australia’s current government almost as much as America’s] Indian students were afraid to apply to your universities due to a spate of violent attacks. [Fake news. It was only in Melbourne, and the attacks were on employees of 711 stores, most of whom happened to be Indian]. You forgot to mention all that.’

As I’m sure you clearly see without even reading my comments on it, far from removing or disproving any doubts that America is ‘great’, whatever that supposedly means, this ‘Tony Soprano’ diatribe, like similarly irrational ‘arguments’ in favour of Malaysia’s UMNO-BN and sundry other false and crooked regimes, only serves to support my thesis that fakery, finger-pointing, and other passionately-employed propaganda techniques can be highly confusing and even convincing.

Or, in short, as everybody knows and I’ve endlessly repeated previously, bullshit has a way of baffling brains. And the fact that today we’re apparently faced with more phony facts, fake news and views and other forms of bullshit than ever before is the most compelling possible case for us citizens to all think as critically as we can.

5 thoughts on “Think critically to make sense of Politics in Era of Fake News

  1. The opposition should use bread and butter issues such as :
    1. How much have the price of basics such as food and shelter gone up since this MO1 started his reign not withstanding the manipulated Consumer Index;
    2. How many of their youths are unemployed or under -employed;
    3. Cleanse their organisations of UMNO planted sweet talking Trojans such as the one who sent DSAI to Sg Buloh;
    4. At this junctiure seek concord”while maintaining differences’and have the single objective of ridding our beloved country of the MONSTER KLEPTOCRATIC MO1 and self styled FLOM;
    5. Remember hand out is from our own money and those people who give the miserable hand outs are taking BILLIONS of our money. They are buying up luxurious apartments, hotels, Paintings overseas;
    6. There is now a horde of SUPER BUMIPUTRAs who get instant documents to be on par with the Malays but who are now taking away jobs from Malaysians,
    7. You think you have your power of the vote? Think again 11/2 millions civil servants ELITES which together with their family forms at lease 3 million voters;
    8. The East Malaysian highway is contracted to crony Bustari;
    9. The much lauded MRT with announced ridership of 160,000 thousand per day cost at least RM28 billion to built. Assuming each user pays RM6 per ride daily collection is Rm960,000 with annual collection at Rm350,400,000 maybe not even enough for operating and maintenance expenses. It is supposed to take 16,000 cars of the road but the road will benefit form maybe that number of e-hailing cars.;
    10. Taxi drivers, mostly ex Police and armed forces are being forced to return their taxis to the owners or suffer losses;
    11. Where are the “units” owned by Blazen Sky when they are needed to pay IPIC and which default will have a hugh impact on our economy.
    Hey, Brothers and sisters, let us act wishly and not be victims of the spinners for the sake of our future generations.

  2. It is not that anyone does not know of 1MDB or incapable of understanding it. They even understand the abuse of power and destruction of institutions is lethal. What most voters cannot comprehend how AN ENTIRE CLASS, AN ENTIRE SYSTEM of their very own can simply fail them and selfishly look after themselves and the system they feed on rather than take personal responsibility. And its an entire system – both UMNO and Hadi’s PAS, not to mention BN parties in Sarawak and Sabah.. How is it so many can fail the rest of them so much especially when, at least they think, it has never happened before?

    But the fact is the Malay Sultans failed the Malays and even during independence, they were failures, dependents rather than parties to the achievement. The fact the democratic-pretending Royalties of UMNO and theocratic PAS would fail them should not be a surprise, in fact, build into our original constitutions that should have prevented it. What is happening with UMNO and Hadi’s PAS would be consistent with the failures of historical Malay governance and leadership.

  3. 11. Before I forget, MO1 paid half million ringgit for the wife of the Health Minister to go for SPECIALIST TREATMENT. This is the respect of the health minister for the hospitals under his Ministry. Hospitals and clinics are being starved with cuts in the budget. PMO budget increase at the expense of basics like health and education.

  4. Critical thinking is, indeed, vital in an era of fake news. Lies, distortions and hoaxes are increasingly crowding our political and media landscapes. Instead of being open-minded consumers of information, we are in search of news that reinforces the view we already have. Fake news – false reports or hoaxes disseminated on social media to boost both clicks and profits – is popularized in part because social media is even faster than the rumor mill. That can lead to a lack of critical thought, because we aren’t having deep conversations anymore. The information overload and people’s busy lives give fake news a lot more opportunity to gain traction, even on real news sources. Fake news has become almost synonymous with Facebook, which is just about the biggest thing in the universe right now. And I’m not sure who will be deemed villain of the decade 10 years from now – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg or Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Facebook is a ridiculous overload of information, real or fake. I think we’ve invented something our brains are way behind catching up with.

    When I were young, teachers did well to teach us students to think critically and to research topics thoroughly. Those are skills for life. You’ve got to really seek out the facts, and it’s work. Today’s youngsters just turn on the internet, it’ll be tough to pull the plug on fake news unless people stop clicking on it and forwarding it.

    • Sadly We have degenerated into a nation with an honesty deficit on top of a huge budget defiicit carrying out mega projects without even doing a cost benefit study. and competitiveness is not a consideration. Look at what keep MACC busy nowadays. Wanna learn business? get close to Tan Kay Hock, Bustari Sarawak and a host of others.

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