What is Truth? And What’s It Worth?
By Dennis Loo (8/7/13)
In the Bradley Manning trial, presently in the sentencing phase, those who have been packing the courtroom and demonstrating outside in support of Manning wear black t-shirts with the single word printed in white on it: TRUTH.
It’s an appropriate retort to the kangaroo court prosecuting Manning for revealing truths about what the U.S. government has been and is doing in the world. It has the elegance of concision: this is what is at stake in his trial – Truth.
That is what Manning risked his career and his life for: to reveal the truth to the people because he believed that the American people deserve and would want to know the truth.
I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general….
In the famous scene from the 1992 film “A Few Good Men,” written by Aaron Sorkin, Jack Nicholson, playing Col. Nathan R. Jessep, driven to his psychological limits, heatedly says from the witness stand, “You can’t handle the truth!”
In a non-fictional but even more interesting version of this, see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s take on the nature of truth. This is from a post of mine from January 18, 2007:
Jeb Bush, speaking to retired Naval Intelligence Officer Al Martin:
“The truth is useless. You have to understand this right now. You can't deposit the truth in a bank. You can't buy groceries with the truth. You can't pay rent with the truth. The truth is a useless commodity that will hang around your neck like an albatross -- all the way to the homeless shelter. And if you think that the million or so people in this country that are really interested in the truth about their government can support people who would tell them the truth, you got another think coming. Because the million or so people in this country that are truly interested in the truth don't have any money.” - (cited by Uri Dowbenko in Bushwhacked, Sept. 2002).
Fascinating. Governor of Florida, brother of the President, Project for the New American Century member, thinks truth is a useless commodity and that there are only a million or so people in this country who care about the truth about their government. His comments are so self-revealing and so concentrate what is wrong in America today.
First, he thinks that truth's an albatross around the neck. Truth isn't something to be discovered, sought after, disclosed when found, and spread. Truth isn't something that sets you free. It's something to avoid and something that will interfere with what the government wants to do (and get away with). So this is both a statement about epistemology and about what he believes government to be. Government operates best when it shields the people from the truth. Weber, who said so much about bureaucracy, put it this way: "Bureaucracy naturally welcomes a poorly informed and hence a powerless parliament - at least in so far as ignorance somehow agrees with the bureaucracy's interests."
How contemptuous of the American people that only a million or so in his mind think truth is worth anything. I wonder what the people who vote GOP would think of this? Have they all been herded into the "faith-based community?" As Jason and Randy on ESPN's Cheap Seats would perhaps say to them: "Do you care?"
No wonder Jeb can sleep at night knowing that he was instrumental in rigging vote totals in Florida in 2000 and 2004 - after all, who cares about the truth? But then, again, from his warped and privileged perspective, the only people who care about the truth are losers and impoverished. "Winners" like him treat truth as an obstacle. Truth doesn't matter. Creating something that looks real to people, a useful fiction, that allows people like him to do what they want - now that's for the winners of the world. "We are the champions of the world. And we'll keep on lying till the end."
Second, and this is possibly even more fundamental in what is wrong with Jeb and his ilk, is that he weighs everything in terms of commodities - if you can't sell it, can't buy it, then it's not worth anything. Marx put it this way in the Manifesto: "The bourgeoisie ... has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his 'natural superiors,' and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment'... It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom - Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."
Truth isn't an albatross around the neck except for those who seek to mislead and plunder the people. Truth as an albatross does deserve to ring the neck of people like Bush.
So the question of what truth is worth? Here is how I put it in Globalization and the Demolition of Society:
“Truth does not need to be kept in a temperature-controlled room, isolated from the winds and storms of the world. If what someone says is true, then they have nothing to fear from those who disagree with them; truth grows in the context of vigorous debate. Debate, however, is not for showing off or trying to bully those who disagree with you. Debate works if and when it is for the purpose of getting at the truth. Being open to other viewpoints and wanting to wrangle over the truth is a hallmark of a wise person. Truth always needs to be struggled for because it represents the most advanced understanding at any point in time.” (p. 359)
The last line here is especially important to grasp: truth is not something that the mainstream of any group gets at any given point in time. Truth represents, instead, the most advanced understanding at any point in time. It has to be struggled for because it doesn’t exist as the lowest common denominator.
Those who understand and appreciate the indispensability of truth therefore have to step forward and fight for it because the fate of humanity depends upon you to do that. This is true even when the majority of people around you don’t see what you see. Indeed, that is going to be more the case than the opposite. Those in leading positions who deny this and try to bludgeon people like Manning with the basest philistinism and pass this off as the wisdom of the masses and the pinnacle of patriotism are precisely the ones who most stand in the way of humanity’s interests. For humanity to advance, authority of that kind needs to be challenged and ultimately defeated. Truth is and can only be the ultimate authority. In other words, in response to the question of “What’s It Worth?” The answer is: Everything. Truth is everything.
This is the video that Bradley Manning released, dubbed “Collateral Murder” by Wikileaks, that the prosecutor at his trial returned to again and again as what gave him and who he represents such fits. Watch it, spread it.