Categories
Epistemology of truth Identity Politics Race Reading and Thinking Social media

History, activists, and the truth

See,

1) Megan McArdle, “A fight among historians shows why truth-seeking and activism don’t mix,” Washington Post, August 29, 2022 (7:00 a.m. EDT);

2) James H. Sweet, “IS HISTORY HISTORY? Identity Politics and Teleologies of the Present,” Perspectives on History August 17, 2022;

3) Bret Stephens, “This Is the Other Way That History Ends,” New York Times, August 30, 2022.

Further evidence of the weakening belief in freedom of speech is provided by Megan McArdle, who recounts the latest brouhaha over an article by James H. Sweet, the president of the American Historical Association, who warned against the excesses of “presentism”, an excessive preoccupation with the present and the influences of current beliefs on the writing of history.

His basic argument is that it is a mistake for historians to allow themselves to be overly influenced by current debates and current views of what are right or permissible opinions.

It is distressing to have our attention called to this phenomenon, which one might term the infinite expansion of the present moment, which obscures the realities of the past and perhaps also the potential and some of the possibilities of the future.

One suspects that the phenomena is related to the growth of social media and its extreme focus on the present, and the increasing focus of television media on what is happening at this very moment, with all the excitement of the latest “breaking news”.

What is most disturbing in McArdle’s report is her account of journalists being criticized not for telling the truth, but rather for telling a truth which does not support the conclusions which activists want to support.

We need to build support among the younger generations for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the free play of ideas–all ideas. One might start with classic texts, like those of John Stuart Mill, and some history of what advocates of the Enlightenment like Voltaire and the Encyclopedists were pushing for in the eighteenth century.

Indeed, we are in great need of a renaissance of the eighteenth century mind, as its devotion to liberty and freedom of thought has come down to us in the last three centuries.

We have experience with Soviet and Nazi systems of thought control, and other examples on the Left and the Right, and the excesses and crimes to which they have led.

What is called for is a renewed and robust system of civic education, in the schools, in churches and other places of worship, and in colleges and universities at every level and in every corner of the land.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Categories
Epistemology of truth Propaganda Reading and Thinking Social media

How do we know what is real news and what is speculation or even fake news?

One of my readers on my Substack newsletter, Trenchant Observations, has posed a very important question. My answer and advice are reproduced below:

***

You ask, “How do we know what is real news and what is speculation or even fake news?”

This is a very important question.

My own answer and advice are as follows:

1. Draw on your education and your entire life experience in choosing the sources from which you get your news.

2. Curate yourself your own selection of news stories to read. Don’t rely on a news feed, which is in effect curated by someone else.

3. Choose one or more newspapers you trust, and get your news from reading them.

4. Think about what you read. Does it make sense? Is it consistent with news stories from other sources which you trust?

Informing ourselves about the nature of reality that surrounds and affects us is one of the most important things that we do. Our lives and our futures depend on having an accurate understanding of this reality.

Don’t be passive, and expect someone else to bring the news to you. Go looking for it yourself. What you find, actively pursuing accurate news and the truth, will serve you well, and repay you many times over for the small investment of time and effort that you make.

It should also be deeply satisfying, when we use our natural curiosity to investigate what is going on in the world.

Take note and remember the sources of any news that seems important. Consider making written notes.

Written sources are usually the best, as they can be checked and rechecked. Write down the names of good documentaries on TV or radio and when and where you saw them. Always seek confirmation of what you see and hear on radio and TV in written sources.

This is how I try to find real news and distinguish it from speculation or even “fake news”.

If you choose to read newspapers you trust, you won’t see much real “fake news”.

The Spirit of Voltaire

***

Subscribe to the Trenchant Observations newsletter on Substack, here.

Categories
Epistemology of truth Sea of Irrationality SEA OF REASON SEA OF UNREASON UNREASON

Free speech: Yale law students are lost. They are the new Stalinists.And if they are lost, we may all be lost.

See,

Aaron Sibarium, “Hundreds of Yale Law Students Disrupt Bipartisan Free Speech Event; Nearly two-thirds of student body sign letter in support of rowdy protest, ” Washington Free Beacon, March 16, 2022(2022 2:50 pm).

Sirharium, himself a Yale graduate, reported,

More than 100 students at Yale Law School attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on civil liberties, intimidating attendees and causing so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.

The March 10 panel, which was hosted by the Yale Federalist Society, featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty. Both groups had taken the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case involving legal remedies for First Amendment violations. The purpose of the panel, a member of the Federalist Society said, was to illustrate that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues.

It was pretty much the most innocuous thing you could talk about,” he added.

If this report is accurate, Yale law students are lost, and have become the new Stalinists.If they are lost, an entire generation may be lost.

As Ukrainians fight courageously for freedom, including freedom of speech, it is utterly tragic to see how American education has failed to inculcate the deepest democratic values in the new generation.

Tom Paine and Benjamin Franklin would be tempted to despair.

But they would not despair. Neither should we.

Paine and Franklin would rededicate themselves to the battle for freedom. So should we.

Categories
Epistemology of truth Reading and Thinking

About The Eighteenth Century Club: A Home for Eighteenth Century Minds

July 5, 2020

In the Eighteenth Century, the century of The Enlightenment in Europe and America, people read newspapers and read books.  Education was highly valued.  Knowledge was highly valued.  Many, including the Founders of the American Revolution and Constitution, were steeped in knowledge of the Classics, from Plato and Aristotle to Homer and Virgil, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and on up to Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot and the French Encyclopedists.

Knowledge of History was valued.  Reason and Science were the hallmarks of the age.

Now, in the Twenty-First Century, this rich heritage which some high schools, colleges, and universities still seek to instill in the minds of the best students, is under threat.

The threat comes from many sources.  The first has been the development of mass media, from television to social media, which as they have developed–particularly when under the direction of commercial imperatives–have led to an increasing focus on the present moment. This focus on the present entails or is accompanied by an increasing disregard for history and the broader context which the 18th Century mind would have taken for granted, but which today to increasing numbers of members of younger generations seems irrelevant.   Or to put it more precisely, out of the range of their consciousness.

The Eighteenth Century Club is meant to be a home for those Eighteenth Century Minds which remain.  These are the minds that largely run the world, though there is increasing evidence that their grip is slipping.  In America and other countries today, we see manifest evidence of a loss of belief in Science, Expertise, and their foundation, Reason. The Enlightenment, we may recall, was also called The Age of Reason.  Our 18th century democracies were founded on tenets such as Reason, Science, and Expertise. These assumptions appear to be increasingly called into question, or so the evidence seems to suggest.

We invite all those who were fortunate enough to be educated to have an Eighteenth Century Mind to join in our project to herald the virtues of the monumental achievements of the Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, which have lost none of their relevance or significance for today and the future.

Here we aim to celebrate the Eighteenth Century Mind as one of the crowning achievements of mankind’s long struggle to escape from despotism of all kinds, from tyranny and the absolutism of monarchs and other rulers to the despotism of the mind which held freedom and creativity captive for so many centuries, subjecting both to mind-numbing orthodoxies.

We invite your active collaboration.

Collaboration can take the form of making recommendations for articles appearing elsewhere which might be referenced for the benefit of our readers. It can take the form of submission of articles by participants/readers, to be published here.  It can take the form of recommending steps and taking actions to increase the reach of our articles, by expanding both readership and participation.