THE YEAR OF THE ROOSTER IS UPON US
As it happens, the Chinese New Year is aptly titled to describe the strutting, preening, crowing two-legged creature that has just taken up residence in the White House…
As our readers know, a humanist, sceptic ethos pervades Hog Heights. We believe in reason and research, in evidence, in careful analysis and consideration, in scientific process and very good coffee. It follows that, up here, there are facts but no alternative facts. If asked to choose between Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet and Donald Trump and his rat-pack we would side with Joe.
There are many reasons, not least the pronouncements of Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer. He isn’t the only member of Trump’s cabinet who deliberately misleads and obfuscates – but he’s the one who gave us the term “alternative facts” and in so doing joined a long list of politically-motivated language butchers in the US. Remember known unknowns?
Much has been said about the perverse impact of internet and social media algorithms on our understanding of what’s going on in the world. The political and social damage has been immense, and insofar as it has been a factor in the rise and rise of Donald Trump, it has fomented disaster.
Major digital service providers, Facebook and Google in particular, have been appraised of the role their enterprises played in the unfolding catastrophe. It’s not that they actually promoted the suppuration, it’s rather that they didn’t have regulatory frameworks or systems to deal with false research and fake news. We’ll leave data mining and privacy out of this for the moment.
A majority of people now get their news online. One regular poster commented to the Hog that he has even given up inserting links in his posts, because many people now can’t even be arsed to follow the link to another site or article. Instead he includes bits of what he wants readers to see in the post itself.
That being so, and given the degree to which users of digital media are herded by “intuitive” search processes, you can see how people wind up following spurious news reports. Plus, there is a premium for OMG stories, ones you read and share because they’re so… OMG! Cue “share”…
That reaction is usually based on feelings or intuition rather than knowledge. But since most of your network think and feel like you do, everyone loves it anyway and probably presses “share” too. And so it goes, on and on, the so-called “echo chamber” effect.
The thing is, this has also infected established media streams just as insidiously and completely as it has the general public. Listen to chat radio and news programmes and you’ll immediately sense the degree to which researchers rely on Twitter trends, digital news feeds and internet searches. We’re sympathetic: they have little time and lots to do. But it’s a major issue.
At least everyone has now been alerted to the phenomenon of fake news and it seems that major news providers are, as a result, much more wary than they were. But this didn’t prevent widespread circulation of the rumour that a shop in Cork had sold a Euromillions winning ticket, did it?
Any comfort to be drawn from the sight of Donald Trump sneering “fake news, fake news” was greatly diminished by the realisation that the very concept itself has now become a weapon that’s being used to subvert truth. When confronted with genuine truth the bastards simply shout “fake” to undermine their opponents and distract everyone.
TRADE WAR WITH MEXICO
“Alternative truths” are fundamental to this approach – as are diversionary tactics such as Trump’s persistence in claiming that up to five million people voted illegally. He offers no evidence for this; it’s his way of sabotaging the truth that he lost the popular vote.
You can see why it’s attractive to the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who back Trump, and whose associates sniff power in Europe. If you can pick and choose which truths to accept, you can undermine accepted and proven facts such as the Holocaust.
That said, it may well be that the exceptional vitriol directed by Trump at the media will return to haunt him. Already they smell blood in his refusal to release his tax returns. His rat pack would want to be very careful too.
But the challenge is immense. In the US, Trump adherents choose to believe he’s doing a great job and to disregard critical media reports or even, as one Guardian story from Michigan reports, not to bother with news at all. If a trade war breaks out with Mexico, they’ll blame the Mexicans. If a trade war breaks out with Europe, they’ll blame Europe. And if a trade war, or indeed a real war, breaks out with China, they’ll blame the Chinese.
Over the last weekend, some on Hog Heights celebrated Tet. And Chuc Mung Nam Moi to you too! Elsewhere this is known as the Chinese New Year. The Year of the Monkey has just ended and the Year of the Rooster has begun. Watching Trump, the year of the bull might be more appropriate – in the China shop, so to speak.
But with all that ceaseless crowing and preening, Rooster fits too.
You may be interested to hear that according to a puff piece in the Japan Times, Hong Kong geomancers predict that Trump will strut through the Year of the Rooster and 2017 will be marked by arguments and aggression, these being characteristics of a rooster.
“Hong Kong soothsayer Thierry Chow” is quoted as predicting that Trump will ruffle feathers in his first year as president and that: “There will be a lot of strikes and even riots.” Others say the stock market will rise and the US economy will benefit. But feng shui master Alion Yeo says that Trump’s good luck will only be temporary as the elements turn against him in future years. “He will have a good run in 2017, but this won’t be the case for 2018 (the Year of the Dog)”.
Yeah. Sure. Well, if we believe in reason and evidence we can’t be hanging on the words of geomancers, (that is, chancers), can we? But the idea that the elements will turn against Trump is kinda seductive.
“You can see why it’s attractive to the neoNazis and white supremacists who back Trump, and whose associates sniff power in Europe. If you can pick and choose which truths to accept, you can undermine accepted and proven facts such as the Holocaust.”