In the early decades of the 21st Century humanity faces a pandemic of lies, jeopardising the fabric of our society and the environment on which we depend.
Dangerous Globe is featuring a series of ‘short conversations’ by Luke Andreski, looking at the weapons we need if we are to overcome our disinformation pandemic. Having looked at weapons of defence, Luke now turns his attention to weapons of attack.
Let’s talk about the Socrates Bomb.
“That sounds unpleasant.”
More than unpleasant. It’s lethal.
“Is ‘lethal’ moral?”
It’s not lethal for people.
It’s lethal for lies.
The Socrates Bomb is an anti-propaganda incendiary device for use in cognitive conflict. It’s a front line armament in our battle against the 21st Century pandemic of lies – a cluster munition for deployment against disinformation and deceit. As it explodes it shatters into fragments of different shapes and sizes. Its shrapnel includes:
– The evidence shard
– The logic sliver
– The language splinter
– The motivation particle
– The morality needle
On impact each of these fragments itself explodes, fanning out in an ever-widening destructive wave.
It’s a powerful weapon.
Among the splinters and shards there’ll be the perfect sliver that skewers the lie.
Socrates was a philosopher who lived in ancient Greece some two and a half thousand years ago. He was a remarkable man, whom many consider the father of modern philosophy. He believed that by questioning what we think we know we can strip away our ignorance – our blind faith in meaningless phrases, our adherence to unfounded assumptions, the weak and illogical concepts to which we unwittingly cling in everyday life – and so partly reveal, like shadows against a stone wall, what is fundamentally true.
Then, once we’ve established the fundamentals, we can build from there a valid, or at least a more accurate and consistent, picture of the world.
To some extent René Descartes’ approach was similar. Clear away the unfounded dogma, get down to the nub of things, then carefully and meticulously construct a world view from the ground up.
Aside from its lack of empiricism, I like this approach.
You could say I’m a Socratic Cartesian Empiricist.
“I’m a Socratic Cartesian empiricist.”
Haha – very funny – but I’m glad there’s now two of us.
It’s not that you can deduce the world from basic axioms, but that by repeatedly questioning what’s known (or claimed to be known), you can whittle away the lies in our culture and draw closer to the truth.
Socratic Cartesian Empiricism is really just an extension of the scientific method to the unscientific worlds of political and public belief.
“I always liked Socrates.”
Did you know him well?
“In a way.”
It’s a shame he drank himself to death.
“Drank – ? I thought – ?”
It wasn’t voluntary – and the drink that carried him off is one you only drink once.
Yes, hemlock. Best avoided.
All the same, he left us a wonderful gift. A weapon against disinformation, propaganda and spin. A cluster munition for the demolition of lies.
Let’s take a look at how it works.
The evidence shard is one fragment of the Socrates Bomb.
It’s a fragment which shatters, on coming into contact with lies, into splinters like these:
“Where’s the proof?”
“Who told you?”
“What are your facts?”
“Are your stats selective?”
“Where’s the evidence?”
Evidence is an essential building block for truth.
If you’ve got no evidence, you’ve got no way of demonstrating something’s true…. And if you’ve got no way of demonstrating something’s true, how can you know it’s not a lie?
Logic is another shard in the Socrates Bomb.
On impact it splinters like this:
“Does that really make sense?”
“Does ‘A’ really follow from ‘B’?”
“Do your facts truly necessitate the acts you propose?”
“If we take what you’re saying to its logical conclusion, don’t we end up with something absurd?”
“When you say ‘All’, don’t you really mean ‘Some’?”
“When you say ‘Everyone’, don’t you really mean ‘Those I support’?”
“Is what you’re now saying consistent with what you’ve said before?”
Logic and consistency are central to common sense. Skewer the illogical and destroy the lie.
The language splinter is needle sharp. It attacks the words being used, the way they’re strung together, the ways they’re misapplied, their propagandistic intentions.
Ask questions like these:
“Do you even know what your words mean?”
“Are you using emotive language just to bypass my intelligence?”
“Are you using aggressive language to intimidate and mislead, or to avoid answering the question?”
“Are you using nostalgic and prejudice-laden words because you’ve nothing more rational or moral to say?”
“Are these slogans an attempt to infantilise your audience?”
“Are you using words like those in order to manipulate or bully?”
“It’s a great sounding slogan…. What the f*** does it mean?”
Bullies and liars use words as weapons: emotional, manipulative, bludgeoning and dishonest.
Attack their immoral use of language. Expose the bullying and the lies.
Here’s a golden rule of human interaction:
Always question the claims of those in positions of authority and power – or of those seeking authority and power.
This applies to the powerful, to those seeking power, and to those speaking for them. Client journalists, state outlets and the corporate media may entertain and distract – but their honesty is never guaranteed.
“Who pays you?”
“Whose interests are you serving?”
“What are you trying to achieve by telling me this?”
“What are your motives, or the motives of those you speak for or represent?”
“Why would someone provide me with this information or these alleged facts? Are there hidden motives of which I need to be aware?”
“What’s your agenda?”
Questions like these strike at the heart of the self-serving and propagandistic. Motives are a far better indicator of outcomes than words. Unveil their motives and you may reveal a deeper and potentially explosive truth.
The most powerful fragment of the Socrates Bomb for attacking socially divisive and eco-destructive propaganda is the morality question. It explodes on impact like this:
“What’s the morality behind what you’re saying or doing?”
“Does what you’re claiming, doing or proposing encourage others to act with integrity, honesty and kindness?”
“If I go along with what you’re saying, or the information you’re presenting, will the outcomes be moral?”
“Does what you’re telling me enable others to flourish? Does it benefit all human communities? Does it protect the biological world?”
“Is this a claim an honest person would make?”
“Is this a claim a person of integrity would make?”
“Is it moral?”
The 21st Century pandemic of lies is inherently malign. Anything which jeopardises the survival of humanity and the biological world is immoral. Questions of integrity, honesty and morality expose this. They are a weapon which immoral narratives find it difficult to withstand.
Propaganda, demagoguery and lies kill the greatness in us – just as they killed Socrates on a calm and sunny day in ancient Greece, almost two and a half thousand years ago.
They make us squalid.
They make politics dirty.
They divide us from one another.
But Socrates left us a gift.
It’s something the demagogues and propagandists hate.
It’s a weapon against the lies.
The Socrates Bomb.
Luke Andreski is author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).
You can connect with Luke on LinkedIn, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-ethics, on WordPress, https://lukeandreski.wordpress.com/, or via the EthicalRenewal co-op on Twitter https://twitter.com/EthicalRenewal.
For the previous articles in this series on combatting the neoliberal lies pandemic see:
The mind plague
Everyone needs a shield of values
The wall of truth
Thanks for the uncredited mushroom cloud image to Wikimedia Commons. The image is in the public domain because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. https://commons.wikimedia.org.
A free to use, comprehensive and independent search engine which is about to become your favourite. https://thereal.news
TheReal.News is a search engine that has had the spin removed. We use sites that we have studied for some time and monitored for integrity and we don’t use sites that we have seen which either spin or lie their way to the front page. Everybody is biased in some way or they aren’t breathing, but Bias and Bollocks are not the same thing.
People that tell the truth are quite easy to find because they cite references and sources to back up what they say. The opposite is also true.