Peak truth has probably arrived, or nearly so — many cultural observers will note that almost any topic discussed nowadays seems to quickly devolve into an us/them, in/out sort of dynamic where the truth doesn’t actually matter, but rather being the one that’s “right” or that gets the strongest reaction is what’s important.
I’ve noticed this in the comments sections on a number of articles we’ve recently published … as well as nearly everywhere else. While some of those presenting “their” views are no doubt mercenaries of one kind or another, there are still clearly quite a number of the unpaid who are still happy to spend their time trying to do nothing but elicit reactions from those that they “disagree” with. The world reduced to nothing but “entertainment” I guess.
It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that trying to garner the strongest reaction that you can from someone that you’re debating doesn’t actually sway them to your point of view … but rather tends to polarize things even more. But then, if your goal is simply entertainment/distraction, then what does it matter anyways?
And when even the current President of the United States doesn’t seem to mind intentionally goading people with such strategies, then all the more reason to do so yourself, right? (I’ll note, though, that Trump does seem to be fairly sophisticated in his use of these techniques, as compared to the common prostitute/mercenary.)
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) February 13, 2017
The recent comments that President Trump made during an interview on the UK’s ITV channel bring this to mind. Trump tried to provoke the interviewers and audience by directly stating that the world’s ice caps are now at “record levels” — when, in fact, nearly the opposite is true. But, hey, what does the truth even matter anymore — it’s all just noise and flashing lights on screens to most people at this point.
President Trump began by stating that “there’s a cooling and there’s a heating. … The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now. But now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”
As anyone who’s ever taken a genuine look at the subject knows … pretty much none of that is actually true. I suppose that you could argue that the comments were a clever way of muddying the waters, but it seems far more accurate at this point to just say that people don’t give a damn anymore.
Most people know in the backs of their minds that such statements aren’t true (based on my conversations over the last few years, all over the world) but that doesn’t matter anymore … what matters now in most people’s minds is “choosing the right team” and having someone to blame. As a student of history, I’ll say that this trend doesn’t lead anywhere good — and, no, it’s not a matter of specific politics; when society fractures like it now is, almost everyone behaves ridiculously, and just goes along with currents, wherever they may lead.
Those interested may want to take a look at the run-up to the so-called “Reign of Terror” in France — the history there is fascinating, if perhaps uncomfortable for those wanting a simple right/wrong understanding of events.
Of course, the situation nowadays is somewhat different, in a way … as the world’s carrying capacity is now overstretched across a large number of different parameters. Unsurprisingly, this is bringing turmoil to many parts of the world, and the geopolitical ground seems to be shifting. The recent decision by Turkey’s Erdogan regarding military operations in northern Syria serves as a good example — he more or less thumbed his nose at the US by doing so, a situation that wouldn’t have been believable just a decade or so ago.
Anyway, with regard to the recent comments from Trump, I’ll let Reuters counter the specifics: “‘Glaciers and ice caps are globally continuing to melt at extreme rate,’ said Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service which tracks hundreds of glaciers.’
“Trump’s implication that glaciers and ice caps are growing ‘is simply wrong. Or maybe he is referring to a different planet,’ Zemp said. … Andrew Shepherd, a professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, said: ‘I think despite first appearances he (Trump) has chosen his words carefully.’
“‘He was careful to say setting records and not specify whether those are record highs or lows. And of course he does not mention time either, so it’s not clear what years he is referring to,’ he said.”
I’ll note here that sea-ice extent around Antarctica is now at record lows (for this time of year), going on NSIDC data, and sea-ice extent and thickness in the Arctic is at record or near-record lows as well.
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