22 November 2019

What si truth

We are in a time when truth is relative, when facts are queried, where people will say and believe something on flimsy evidence or none or on hearsay. We used to be certain; we trusted our institutions and media and their truths were ours. Largely. For good and bad; in a decent society, mostly for good. These days I feel conservative, trying to maintain some grasp of truth, still laying trust in science and largely in the media, but the pollies have lost it and the West, or maybe the Anglosphere, is awash with the unbelievable. From pollies, from some media, from various conspiracies and self servers. I remember a visiting ex-US Admiral in Canberra in the '80s who spoke to a political group about CIA stories that were invented and published through MSM to influence opinions. He talked that time of one case which had been very successful. I had followed this very case a few months earlier, about something in Africa, that seemed odd but... It had been successful so it ran an unusually long time, perhaps 2 weeks. But it was false, invented. That is, if I could believe this ex-US Admiral, if that's what he was. Then we watch conspiracies, the noddy ones like no Moon landing and vaxxers. At least they are just nutty and not commercial or government plots. Either way, they can still be dangerous. Vaxxers have real personal and social costs and climate denialism is existential and unrecoverable. That's the biggie and it may finish us all off. So who do we trust? People we know are a start, and institutions that have history. But when you don't know how you can confirm truth, you/we are in trouble. So this mills around in my mind as I go to a book launch by Tony Kevin.

Tony is a musical acquaintance and ex-diplomat and author of some serious works of investigation, not least on Siev-X. He was interviewed by a friend who holds my considerable respect, Ernst Willheim, lawyer, advisor, academic. Tony was launching his new book, Russia and the West : The last two action-packed years 2017-19. It's a product of Tony's recent visits and consideration of international relations with respect to Russia. He talked first of Russian's awareness and acceptance of their history: WW2, Yeltzin's "failed state", revival under Putin. [What, I think: Revival under Putin?] "It's not an accident that Putin is so popular in Russia". [I had heard something like this before.] Then on through normality, manners, pride, law and order which are "ahead of Australia now" [thinking of strip searches and Dutton's blackshirted staff]. Russia is self-sufficient, no longer worrying what the West thinks of it [!]. There's inequality, oligarchical capitalism, and Putin requires "loyalty" from his capitalists, but for ordinary people there's welfare, health, justice "better than Australia" [thinking of our string of current secret court cases, Collaery, Witness K, several others and ex-NSW Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy: "At first blush, this looks like the complete abandonment of open justice" ('Are we now a totalitarian state': case of Canberra's mystery prisoner alarms judge / Christopher Knaus, IN The Guardian 20 Nov 2019)]. Then misreporting by Anglo/Australian media. Proof? 1/ Tony has analysed the Skripal case and claims the official Western story has contradictions and lies: different poison, little evidence, threadbare story and passing nurses and contradictory evidence from Swedish scientists. [I think of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Iran and the conflict with UN investigations, but still used as an excuse for war. The unreliability of claims was self evident a mile off, even in our press, but we - Howard, Bush2, Blair - still went ahead. Great outcome there!]. 2/ White Helmets, "killers under humanitarian cover", and that Syrian chemical weapons attack. [I think of the recent news announcement of the leader of the White Helmets having died and how I'd been surprised he was ex-SAS or similar. It seemed odd even before I heard from Tony]. The evidence of the chemical attack and the missile on the bed with moderately russled bed clothes and no injury to the bed and that hole in the roof. "Completely false story, accepted by the West" says Tony. He also claimed we were very close to WW3. [I'm not sure how I feel on this. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/is-this-proof-white-helmets-staged-chemical-attack/ and more]. 3/ Downing of MH17, "an unexplained incident full of ... " [I missed the last words here]. No impartial investigation was held; within hours the US Secretary of State had allocated blame "I've seen the evidence" (Quick evidence may be feasible with satellites etc. but I am assuming that it was not released]; "convenient", Air traffic control had even allowed the flight. "It's been a propaganda stunt" said Tony. Tony talked on about being on the outer, how he's not now invited to ABC or book events despite his success with Siev-X. He spoke of an entrenched narrative, that Russia and China are the West's nemesis and of a new cold war. Then of who sets policy. It's clear enough that DFAT is less influential and intelligence and defence agencies are more. Why? The Military Industrial Complex, or is that another conspiracy? But wasn't the Iraq war illegal? Certainly it didn't have Security Council approval. Then on to Julian Assange ("being brain murdered") and Collaery and the whistle-blowers and thinking more broadly on "the national security state that we've become". Think Dutton again, and how our Internet and mobile use is tracked (all of us, quite legally, and we pay for it) and those ~80 pieces of security legislations since 9/11. And Five Eyes as the real source of international policy formulation for Australia. And Tony again: "I don't see that changing in a hurry". Then a few words from the Russians, from a representative of the Embassy who advised that "our relations [with Australia] are frozen at the moment". That trade/economic ties are "below zero" (and the Russians know of low temperatures) although some cultural, medical, scientific sports tourism relations continue. Our 2014 sanctions on Russia include a ban on political relations, so no Federal Minister of higher can meet with Russians. And to end, truth, trust and fear ("truth is what trusted people say"). And imposed narratives; agents provocateurs, loyalty. And finally advice to put Russia on your tourist bucket list. So, I leave in a muddle. Truth is more confused and its sources more vague and unsure than ever. I'm sure someone wins out of that. Trump and his mates, perhaps?

Tony Kevin (author) launched his latest book, Russia and the West : The last two action-packed years 2017-19, at Paperchain Bookshop with Ernst Willheim prompting the discussion.

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