In the heat of the political battle, objective reality is having a tough run | Peter Lewis | Opinion

What passes as political debate in Australia right now feels like it is careering out of control, a mutinous vessel no longer anchored to facts, context or reality.

Politicians argue about the need to burn coal to allow our privatised electricity network to deal with summer heatwaves, ignoring that increased capacity is caused by a climate change they vehemently deny.

Opponents of marriage equality construct a bizarre postal survey rather than allow parliament to debate legislation and then argue if you don’t know the detail about the protection of religious freedom then you should just vote no.

Laws are rewritten to outlaw industrial activity in the construction industry so that the unions who operate outside these constraints can be demonised as criminals.

Those in the fourth estate who used to arbitrate facts have taken the redundancy cheques; those who remain (present company excepted) too stretched or too compromised to fight for truth.

And all the while the shrill voices on the fringes indulge in what has become an eternal Twitter-fuelled shouting match, reinforced by whatever truths they want to believe.

While the emergence of the bellicose orange-hued blowhard in the White House may represent the zenith of post-truth politics, his is just an exaggeration of what our world had already become.

In a challenging read in September’s Atlantic magazine “How America lost its mind”, Kurt Andersen puts Trump in an historical context that he argues goes to the heart of the American Dream: the right of the individual to believe whatever it is they want.

“The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control,” Andersen argues.

“Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation – small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realised how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.”

Andersen’s America believes in creation and heaven and hell, ghosts and angels, UFOs and extraterrestrial landings; it embraces conspiracy theories on everything from climate change to vaccinations and staunchly defends its rights to hold these views.

And the kicker in…

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