Lies, Damned Lies and Mistakes


The truth has become passé. 

There seems little doubt about that.  Those who practice it, who are dedicated to it, are an aberration[1].  That is especially true in public life and especially in the profession once known as journalism.  Lawyers, politicians and journalists have eclipsed used car salesmen (and women) in the mind of most people as the most dishonest and untrustworthy professions[2].  That is regrettable given that those three professions are the most important in establishing and maintaining “government of the People, for the People and by the People”, although for those who really study history, the author of that quote would probably be comfortable living and working with today’s lawyers, politicians and journalists.

That something is not true does not mean that, when stated, it was a lie.  There are lies that can help us understand deeper truths, metaphors and, to an extent, similes, but we understand that they are figurative tools to make a point through comparison (although depending on how they are used, they can either illustrate or obfuscate).  There are errors that may seem like lies but are not.  A lie involves a deliberate intent to deceive and if the intent does not exist, then a person stating something that is not accurate is merely wrong in what he or she believes.  Being a somewhat naïve optimist, I tend to believe that a great many statements that are not true are not lies, just wrong.  Unfortunately, it has become more and more difficult to correct misimpressions.[3]

Indeed, even when statements involve lies, they can be classified into two principle categories: “hot lies”, momentary, unplanned reactions, and “cold lies”, preplanned and full of loopholes to provide cover and “plausible deniability.  The latter, of course, are the worst, the most dangerous; the most despicable.  Cold lies are complex, preplanned constructs that operate in a boundary between art and science.  Their artists are experts at parsing and splitting hairs and distorting what opponents say in order to make it seem that they are the ones lying.  Their scientists tend to be experts at behaviorist psychology, at finding the exact words, said in an exact, preplanned context and in a specific manner so as to make them function as desired, whether the person to whom they are uttered believes them or not.  “Cold lie” masterpieces are lies “told often enough [to] become… the truth”, a quote attributable to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, and lies “so ‘colossal’ that no one would believe that someone ‘could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously’” from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.  But masterpieces are rare and lies such as those described have become all too common, their rarity diluted, so that we need to find another term to qualify them.

“Hot lies” are common but fairly obvious thus their impact is much less dangerous than are “cold lies.  President Trump is infamous for “hot lies” and mistakes, but “cold lies” are not his forte.  His opponents in the Democratic Party include some of the foremost experts at “cold lies”[4], as does the profession once known as journalism and the conglomeration of planted bureaucrats that some of us have taken to calling the “Deep State”.  Current Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph Biden, is like his opponent, he is also infamous for “hot lies”, mistakes and plagiarism, but his current supporting cast, through its expertise in “cold lying”, is expert at obfuscating his blunders and is diligently working to make him a bit more proficient at “cold lying”.  Unlike the case with Mr. Biden, there is no hope for Mr. Trump.  No one, for good or ill, can control him.  But plenty of traditionalist Republicans can give Democrat “cold lie” pundits a run for their money.

One of the political “cold lies” that annoys me most is the one that claims that the leadership of the Democratic Party is leftist, or liberal, or progressive, or socialist.  That is a bipartisan “cold lie”.  Republicans use it to disparage Democrats and Democrats use it to falsely describe themselves in a manner that will appeal to leftists, encouraging them not to strike out on their own.  Indeed, almost anything that qualifies as bipartisan usually is mired in “cold lies”.  There are leftists and liberals and progressives and socialists in the Democratic Party, but they are trapped there, rendered useless, as though running a race in quicksand.  And there are racists and misogynists and xenophobes in both major political parties, although the corporate media would have us think that their membership is limited to the GOP (the Grand Old Party that, at the time it adopted the moniker, was not very old but perhaps, given that it had just “technically” freed the slaves, perhaps the “grand” was justified, at least back then). 

What there is not in either major political party is honest and ethical leadership, the kind of leadership for which leftists and liberals and progressives and socialists clamor.  The kind of leadership that would abandon foreign intervention and the related armaments industry and focus on the “Public Welfare” the American Constitution of 1787-89 promised.  The kind of leadership that would provide not only free education at all levels and free healthcare, but also free insurance and a guaranteed minimum income sufficient for the poorest among us to have a place to live, food to eat and clothes to wear.  What there is not enough of is the kind of leadership that would allow us to really govern ourselves and to enjoy equality and equity; liberty and justice; and at least reasonable personal security and freedom from fear.

There is way too much lying but also too much of “being wrong”.  Too much of politicians claiming that they are not corrupt, rather merely inept.  I wish I could honestly say that, collectively at least, we deserved better.  But the truth is that it is our own fault.  Having lived through many important events and experiences ourselves we fail to trust our own memories and permit ourselves to be manipulated through objectivist appeals to emotion, especially fear, and we permit ourselves to be herded into mentalities of us against them, even if the “them” involved were until recently our friends or even our families.  We take to belittling other’s opinions and creating “straw men and woman” to whom we attribute opinions and actions that are not theirs.  Calumny becomes a habit and hate quickly follows.  We permit ourselves to be split into antagonistic, predesigned groupings based on class, race, sex, religion, nationality and values so that we end up totally polarized.  We permit all of that when our better natures scream at us to wake up.  We permit it because we permit ourselves to be cast as opponents, always voting against something rather than in favor of what we believe, always in favor of purportedly “lesser evils” that usually wind up being at least as bad as the purportedly greater evil we were called upon to defeat.  Every election is existential and thus can never deal with our quotidian needs, to political leaders, they are just not important enough.  Those are always reserved for a more practical someday, a someday that will not arrive until at best, “early next doomsday morning”.

All of this is accomplished through “cold lies”, artfully woven and flavored and disguised, “cold lies” which after so many episodes of the “boy who cried wolf” we ought to be able to recognize, against which our common sense should be able to inoculate us, and if not now, it will soon be too late.

Something to ponder as we await another fateful November.
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© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.


[1] Some of us were educated under an honor code where we were sworn to “never lie, cheat or steal, or to tolerate those who do” (honor code of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina), a beautiful code but one that places us at a distinct disadvantage in the “real world” when opposed by those who spent their formative years learning how to lie proficiently.  The following letter from the late renowned author, Pat Conroy, written to the Charleston Post & Courier almost 12 years ago makes the point all too clearly, “Don’t destroy the state’s best college”, Sunday, January 10, 1999.

[2] My apologies to the used car industry which has all too often been unfairly singled out for disdain.

[3] A study reported in the New York Times over a decade ago claimed that proof someone is wrong tends to strengthen rather than correct the misimpression.

[4] See, for example, the reference to Bill Clinton (famous for questioning “what ‘is’ is”) in the letter to the Charleston Post & Courier by Pat Conway referenced above.

Are Trolls Sparking a Potential Political Backlash?

According to Wikipedia[1], “… a troll is a person who starts flame wars or intentionally upsets people on the Internet by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, either for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.

While Democrats and their “traditionalist”[2] Republican allies, the “Deep State”[3], the corporate media and the major Internet platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) all accuse foreign adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran of using “troll farms” to disrupt United States political campaigns, the truth, as I and other independents and third party advocates have experienced it, is that trolling seems an official and, at first blush, effective Democratic Party strategy, as is the practice of accusing others of all the negative things of which Democratic politicians and activists are in fact guilty, both successful Clinton trademarks, something you would never know through a Google search of the Internet where all search results not only ignore such reality but contrive to portray a totally different narrative.  Still, for those of us, mainly to the left of the Democratic Party, mostly independents and third party advocates, our experience on a quotidian basis is very different than that portrayed. 

As has now become traditional, Democratic trolls are launching constant personal attacks anytime anything critical of the Democratic Party or its candidates is posted online, even while many of them acknowledge that their candidates and history are evil, … just … purportedly less so.  The attacks, frequently by our own acquaintances, friends and family members, become increasingly rude and personal if one does not succumb and fade away, apparently in an attempt to bully us into silence (if not acquiescence).  Oddly, the same is not true of conservatives who, although opposed to our philosophies and policy proposals, generally engage in much more respectful and polite debate, acknowledging that we each have a right to our opinions.  Who, perhaps other than George Orwell and Cassandra[4], would have imagined that it would be the Democratic Party rather than the GOP that engaged in such undemocratic, unlibertarian conduct, although one wonders if perhaps efforts similar to those engaged in by Democratic Party partisans against those of us on the real left are not mirrored by traditionalist Republican Party partisans with respect to those to their right on the political spectrum? 

Being a leftist, I wouldn’t know. I’m a left-wing political advocate, analyst and activist, both in the United States and abroad, and a dedicated democratic socialist[5].  For the past five decades, I have maintained current on world and political affairs on a daily basis through diverse sources with widely varying perspectives.  Those now include traditional mainstream online media such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, etc.; local Colombian media such asEl Tiempo, el Espectador, la Patria, Semana, las Dos Orillas, El Eje 21, Razón Publica, etc.; diverse other foreign sources such as The Guardian, The Panam Post, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, RT, etc.[6]; and, most importantly, alternative news sites such as Consortium News, Truthdig, Counterpunch, the Duran, Common Dreams, Medium, Vocal, etc.  The diversity of my sources seems anathema to my Democratic Party critics who believe that only sources that support their positions (e.g., CNN, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc.) should be consulted and cited.  That such sources today are obviously biased and all too frequently ethnocentric, incoherent, self-contradictory and distortive is irrelevant.  However, it is apparently not enough that the major Internet platforms are censoring independents and third party advocates as well as right wingers; apparently, everyone must be incorporated into the Democratic Party’s efforts to silence anyone who does not toe the Democratic line, but ironically and oxymoronically, in the name of tolerance and freedom of speech.

George Orwell and many other authors predicted this in many of their writings including Animal Farm, 1984, 451, Harrison Bergeron, etc., but they always assumed that such intolerance would originate from the fascist right rather than from a philosophy-free, pragmatic center seeking to falsely portray itself as the political left.  Hypocrisy and disdain for truth are its hallmarks with constant repetition on all available media substituting for historical accuracy and logic.  Using B.F Skinner’s behaviorist psychology, they are seemingly attempting to prove the accuracy of claims by Vladimir Lenin and Herman Goering that big enough lies constantly repeated will, at least among enough people, replace truth in the public narrative.  One feels as though Democratic Party trolls are secretly Star Trek Borg repeating the mantra “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated!”[7]

As one of the many victims of the foregoing I feel as though I am trapped in a dystopian science fiction novel.  Friends and family members have succumbed and, some, like zombies, have turned into ruthless adversaries.  No opinions are tolerable but their own even if the social and political consequences will eventually prove to be ones they will profoundly regret.  However, as experience during this millennium has demonstrated, the reality of consequences can be expunged by false narratives and if the false narrative momentum can be maintained, a working majority of the deluded can be maintained.

As a democratic socialist I am committed to the premise that we have a dual nature.  We are each individuals but concurrently, members of a number of social collectives and while such natures can usually be reconciled, when reconciliation is impossible, our collective natures must prevail.  The character “Spock” in the science fiction television series Star Trek puts it well when he exclaims (as he frequently does), “logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”  Based on the foregoing, I believe in a number of collectivist sociopolitical and economic policies anathema to the right wing of the political spectrum, among them, universal healthcare, free education at all levels, free insurance, a guaranteed minimum wage, a non-interventionist foreign policy, peaceful resolution of conflict at all levels, ecological responsibility, equity and equality, and, I believe in libertarian concepts such as non-interference by government in personal decisions that do not detrimentally impact non-involved others (such as consensual sexual relations, consumption of intoxicants, etc.).  Many Democrats believe in the foregoing as well and sincerely believe that the Democratic Party is the best political tool to attain them (e.g., Tulsi Gabbard, Dennis Kucinich, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, etc.), however, the reality is that the Democratic Party, like its counterpart, the GOP, has long been politically controlled by economic elites who also own most of the corporate media (see, e.g., “These 15 Billionaires Own America’s News Media Companies”).  Consequently, both major political parties generally implement the same neoliberal globalist economic policies through the same neoconservative interventionist and militarist means.  While both parties seem all too similar in their actions if not their rhetoric, because many people who believe in goals similar to those I espouse are trapped in the Democratic Party (rather than involved in a political movement of their own whose actions rather than orotundity reflect their goals), I see the Democratic Party as far more of an impediment to attainment of my aspirations than is the GOP.  Thus, while I criticize Republican policies and actions as adversarial to mine, especially in foreign affairs, more of my criticism is directed at the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party where my sociopolitical soulmates are not only trapped, but their efforts at real reform are rendered ineffective and their aspirations, like mere mirages, are always just out of reach.

In 2016 many of us believed that the electoral choices hoisted upon us by the two major parties (with the essential assistance of the corporate news which assured that independents and third party candidates were rendered invisible) were as bad as they could get but the Democratic Party has seen to it that the choices in 2020 are at least as bad.  Notwithstanding what was until then the most biased media coverage and polling ever, the most aggressive domestic trolling campaign ever, and, apparently, illegal intervention in the election by the Obama administration, in 2016 the preordained and manipulatively selected Democratic Party candidate lost; an unacceptable and unaccepted result, not only for the Democratic Party but for the Deep State which was profoundly invested in its candidate and extremely distrustful of the Republican nominee who had somehow managed to elude Deep State gatekeepers in the GOP. 

Even before the inauguration of the unanticipated victor, the Democratic Party called for his immediate impeachment and launched an effectively organized and savage, no holds barred “resistance” with well-financed and pre-organized protest crowds ready for any opportunity, all too frequently accompanied by rioters, arsonists and looters, all impugning the legitimacy of the election and doing everything possible to make the United States ungovernable and the United States population miserable[8].  Amazingly, for a long time, such efforts seemed unsuccessful as, despite his boorish personality, unpredictability, penchant for not verifying information and lack of diplomacy in dealing with other countries, President Trump inexplicably accomplished a great many of the goals he had set for his administration and the United States economy reached milestones in many areas, including areas where minorities had never fared as well.  But, almost as if in the form of divine (or demonic) intervention, the Covid19 pandemic came to the rescue, a curse to most everyone in the world but a blessing to the Democratic Party, the corporate media and the deep State.  Finally a scenario existed where everything the President did could be criticized effectively, notwithstanding what decisions he made or failed to make.  The task was greatly facilitated by the federal nature of the United States which the citizenry, for the most part, does not understand, a scheme of governance that makes authority and responsibility difficult to place and easy to misrepresent.  If the President acted (e.g., as when he claimed authority to reopen the national economy) he was usurping state rights, if he accepted that certain functions were the prerogatives of governors (e.g., as he eventually did with the same issue as well as with mandates to wear filtering head-ware, etc.), he was failing to lead.  A perfect setting for his opponents to whom the public welfare was not nearly as relevant as was regaining political supremacy.  Traditional Republicans loyal to the Deep State quickly jumped ship and joined the Democrats where, notwithstanding their former status are reviled enemies, they were now proudly showcased as patriots who placed country over party.

To independents and third party advocates all of the foregoing should have provided the catalyst for finally making it clear to the electorate that both major parties were inept, jaded, ineffective and power mad with little interest in the common welfare.  Bernie Sanders once gain promptly surrendered and delivered his adherents to the masters of the status quo, and Tulsi Gabbard, the real hope of many was promptly ostracized from Democratic Party debates through impromptu rules changes and rendered invisible by fraudulent pollsters and the corporate media.  Given the nature of the resulting major party candidates, 2020 ought to be a perfect year for consideration of available alternatives (although it’s been 160 years since a third party candidate attained the presidency) but alas, the world has changed drastically since the halcyon days of the 1860’s (satire, of course, … pretty much, … comparably).  Communication has become so monopolized that a similar result seems virtually impossible, as Democratic Party trolls so frequently remind us.  The reality is that, amazingly, despite a plethora of presidential candidates in addition to those of the two major parties (see, e.g., “Third party and independent candidates for the 2020 United States presidential election”), the corporate media has made it seem as though there are only two choices and, those of us who are trying to correct that misimpression through posts on social media and articles published on alternative media are being subjected to vicious personal attacks, distortions and interference by the aforementioned army of Democratic Party trolls. 

So, what to do?

One option, one I do not recommend but which may come to pass, is to turn the Democratic Party’s trolling campaign into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  To protest their actions by voting for what they themselves are making seem to some of us as the real lesser of two evils, their opponent.  By acting as though we were what they claim we are.  That would probably be emotionally satisfying but probably counterproductive.  Another GOP upset of a corporate media pre-crowned Deep State candidate might well be the best thing possible for the left-wing of the Democratic Party making it at least theoretically possible to depose the entrenched, Deep State-allied leadership that since 1992 has moved the Democratic Party from the left, through the center, and now to the right of the political spectrum.  But that is the hope that too many progressives have clung to, the hope of change-from-within that has been unsuccessfully sought for decades during which the Democratic Party has strewn the field with the political corpses of progressive heroes like Dennis Kucinich[9] and now Tulsi Gabbard.  

The real answer lies in replacing the Democratic Party with a real leftist political party, one that would really represent African Americans, Latinos and other minorities but without setting us all at each other’s throats, one that would debate policies with its political adversaries without resort to character assassination, distortions and violence; one that was not wholly owned by the globalist, neoliberal Deep State and its billionaire masters.  Indeed, perhaps the Democratic Party could fuse with traditionalist Republicans in an official Deep State party, without meddlesome political philosophies and outside political spectra and the current Republican Party could become a Trump led Tea Party with libertarian Republicans returning to fortify the Libertarian Party.  The real answer is that a two-party system is not democratic.  We need multiple parties, parties with equal rights to political participation and news coverage, and we need an independent, non-monopolized news media.  We do need electoral reform but real reform, eliminating elections by mere pluralities, something most of the rest of the world has already done, something already tried and true.  We need real change and expecting those who most benefit by the inequitable and inefficient current political system to be the instruments of change is foolish.  And we need that change to start now by doing everything possible to support independent and third party candidates, especially when the choices of the two major parties are so abysmal.  And we need to do so while forgiving our “trollish” tormenters because, as Jesus purportedly exclaimed with his dying breath, “they know not what they’re doing”.

Something to not only think about but on which to act.  If you agree, please share this article or even better, write one of your own and circulate it.  And in any event, ignore the trolls and keep posting what you believe.[10]
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© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.


[1] Admittedly not the best of sources from an academic perspective but a great place to start.

[2] Traditionalist Republicans include those who are neither libertarians nor part of the so called Tea Party movement but rather loyal to traditional establishment policies some of whom identify themselves as “never-Trumpers”.

[3] The “Deep State” in the United States is a loose, informal alliance between unelected bureaucrats, primarily in justice, defense and intelligence agencies, who do not change based on electoral results; the purportedly mainstream media now consolidated among six news and entertainment conglomerates as well as the owners of the principle Internet platforms (e.g., Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wikipedia, etc.); and, most billionaires who, especially since the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 [2010]), now control both major political parties and own most of the mainstream media. It is dedicated to globalist neoliberal economics implemented through neoconservative military and interventionist policies seeking to maintain the world in a constant state of belligerence justifying enormous expenditures on defense. The Deep State seeks to have its policies implemented regardless of electoral results by promoting political allies and destroying elected officials they cannot reliably control. The Deep State is not a United States phenomena, rather, it is associated with similar collaborative structures in other pseudo-democratic systems, although it is the dominant and most important such structure.

[4] Cassandra was the Trojan seeress, daughter of King Priam, who accurately predicted the future but was never believed.

[5] From 2007 through 2017 I was a lecturer on government, political science and international affairs chairing the related programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales and since 2017 have served as an adjunct professor in the master´s program on Social Justice and as a peer reviewer of publications and graduate theses at the Universidad de Caldas, and, as a translator for the official publication of the National University of Colombia’s Political Studies & International Affairs Institute.

[6] See a myriad of such sources at NationsOnline.org.

[7] Not to mention the dozens of daily emails with which we are bombarded daily from Democratic Party activists and allied issue based organizations, each seeking money and, intermittently, advice or signatures to self-serving “petitions”.

[8] Ironically, during the 2016 campaign, when the Republican candidate had declined to pre-approve the results of the pending election, both the corporate media and the leadership of the Democratic Party had joined the Democratic Party candidate in calling the refusal to accept the legitimacy of a presidential election treasonous.

[9] Gerrymandered from office with the collusion of the national Democratic Party in 2012.

[10] This article is dedicated to friends who will remain nameless but who know who they are.

Shades of Cold in White on White

Snow sparkles as it falls from a cloud-clad sky; fields, verdant eons past, now just white on white.

A pale woman, clad in silvery fleece from head to toe, leaves prints on the crinkly ground, pale steam streaming through pearly teeth kisses pallid lips then mingles with swirling mists.

Crystalline trees caked in ice, limbs, too heavy, lie scattered on the frozen ground. Snow covers frozen meres and a frozen tarn, white on white.

A pale old man sits in a snow covered skiff, his hair and beard almost as bleached as the swirling eddies of crystalized rain that beat at his small dirty sail, his breath mixing with the pale mist, stars obscured but a pallid crescent moon peaks down on the homochromous lake-scape.

Shades of white on white cover burrowing elder seeds and ancient slumbering roots still dreaming of the spring they once knew as, from cavernous shadows, sibilant sighs echo, soon lost in the long arctic night.


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Dirty Dishes, an Allegory for Political Change

The table was set, real silver flatware, crystal glasses, fine china cups and porcelain plates, but all were dirty, filthy in fact, crusted with food now rotten and beverages putrid, the wine not even decent vinegar.

“Dear”, the lady of the house said to her children, “perhaps it’s time to use the other set of dishes and flatware, the ones in the dining room china cabinet”.

“But mother” two of the children” dared reply, a boy and girl, the youngest two of the large family and thus still a bit brazen, not yet properly jaded, “those are at least as filthy, why not the ones stored unopened in the attic, they’ve been there forever and ever and are brand new”?

“Oh you foolish children” replied the mother, “those just won’t do. Don’t you know that all the fine dining critics in all the best newspapers and magazine and the most popular cooking shows on cable all agree that only the ones on the table and in the china cabinet are the only ones fit to use? At least for now. This is not the time to change them, perhaps someday but not today, this dinner is too important to experiment with anything new and untried!”

“That’s what you always say Mom” exclaimed the littlest girl, “and the dishes keep getting dirtier and dirtier and no one eats what’s served on them so the filth just keeps accumulating, and we have all those other boxes of unpacked dishes and flatware and glasses and cups and everything, … and I’m really hungry!”

“Now, now dear” soothed the mother as she straightened out her hair and flattened her filthy dress, “maybe next time”.

“That’s what you always say Mom” cried the little boy this time, “and I’m hungry too! And every time we try to eat off of these dishes I get sick and throw up.”

“Regurgitate dear” corrected the mother, “we have to watch how we say things, it’s not polite to use crude language, it only makes matters worse and we have to keep up appearances, appearances are what count after all. Maybe next time”.

The other children, all emaciated, looked on bored. They’d all been through the same pre-adolescent stage but had now grown out of it. Change was frightening and one gets used to things they’d decided. Who even knew if there was anything in those old, old boxes? Better to stay the course as the people on television, on the radio and in the newspapers and magazines made so clear. After all, the two sets the family had alternated seemingly forever had been bought on credit and hadn’t even been paid off yet. And they were certainly the top brands and all the advertisements claimed they were made of the finest materials, all tried and true.

“I wonder if we were that naïve when we were that little” the eldest girl whispered to Mark, the eldest brother, coughing as she did so, all the children had been ill for a long time, seemingly forever, but the family couldn’t figure out why. He just shrugged and responded “they just don’t understand yet. Now is not the time. This time the dinner really is too important to experiment with newfangled things”.

“Now don’t you mess with those old boxes” warned the father! The two younger children seemed exasperated and one never knew what they might do.

“Maybe next time”.

“And remember to brush your teeth!!!!”


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Democracy in the Era of the Censorship, Identity Politics and Woke Pandemics?

The United States finds itself as polarized as it’s ever been, culturally, racially, with respect to gender, generationally, economically and philosophically.  Patriotism for a great many is not only passé, it is vile (perhaps not a bad thing).  Freedom of expression?  As New Yorkers might say “fogget about’t!”  Trolling has become an art form with purportedly progressive volunteer Internet monitors breaking into others posts to ridicule those who dared express their opinions and hurl personal insults with organized responses insisting that voting one’s conscience is heretical treason (independents and third party advocates are deemed the worst).  Freedom of expression?  Again, the New Yorkers’ response: “fogget about’t!”  Toe the line!!!!  All of the foregoing are elements of fascism but spouted by those of all ages (though mainly younger, Caucasian and well off) who seem to believe that all those who do not believe as they do or do not behave in the manner they deem appropriate are “fascist pigs”.  Why pigs you might wonder?  Why is it always pigs?  We really need a porcine liberation front!  Riots with looting arson and mayhem organized and led by black clad “progressive” purportedly anti-fascist storm troopers spout slogans last effectively used by Confederate politicians while insisting all non-Union Civil War memorials be destroyed.  As Elphaba, the purported Wicked Witch of the West (bad press really), wailed as she melted: “What a world, what a world!”

And soooo, let’s consider democracy in the context of the censorship, identity politics and woke pandemic.  Hyperlinks are provided to relevant supplementary information for those interested.

This past week, Ron Sprovero, a well-educated, very experienced and intelligent friend, shared with some of us the fact that he had been suspended from a purportedly neutral Internet platform because he had posted the accurate and uncensored birth certificate of a candidate for national office, something seemingly relevant to decisions as to whom to support in the upcoming United States federal elections. 

Stories such as Ron’s are becoming all too common.  The Internet platform involved enjoys a virtual monopoly on the sharing of information by its members and rejection of their participation has a direct impact on electoral results not at all different from limiting the right to vote itself.  Proponents of such censorship insist that it is not inappropriate because the entity is privately owned and the fact that it has attained monopolistic power any government would envy is irrelevant.  The reality, however, is that censorship by any entity with such massive public access and which claims to be politically neutral is not only inappropriate but too dangerous to tolerate, at least in a purported democracy.  If we are fine with an elitist oligarchy of the 1%, then of course their point is valid.  If not, then, well, perhaps we should consider eating cake as Marie Antoinette is reputed to have suggested several centuries ago.

Experiences such as that suffered by Ron are now all too common and not only on the specific platform involved but on all major Internet platforms.  Censorship decisions are purportedly made through use of “politically neutral” algorithms and are supposedly designed to only eliminate inappropriate postings, however, in reality, even assuming only algorithms (and not partisan humans) are involved, their programmers’ political biases assure that they are tailored to generate very specific political results.  They do not only impact conservatives like Ron.  To many of us who write from perspectives to the left of the Democratic Party, it has long been obvious that a very specific wedge of the political spectrum is favored, indeed, our progressive readership was artificially contracted by more than 80% immediately after algorithms first began their attack approximately four years ago.  Surely a coincidence!  Like the pandemic which we are currently facing, such censorship has spread globally so that now, major corporations and myriads of self-anointed, holier-than-thou individuals are busily seeking to decide for all of us what information is fit to be shared and even what terminology is fit to be used, all oxymoronically in the name of preserving First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of association.  Caitlin Johnstone, a free-lance journalist and civic activist captured the spirit of the times, as she so often does, in an article entitled “How We Could Wind up Banned from Discussing an October Surprise on Social Media this Election”. It, like so much that she publishes (except perhaps her attempts at poetry) is very much worth reading.

So, … what are the most important issues involved in this new “memeticized” pandemic?  To me, they involve the issue of whether even a semblance of democracy exists or can exist when relevant information is restricted.  For purposes of this article, I will posit that democracy is generally a good thing, at least when it is functional, but can become horrendous when it is distorted (as occurred during the metamorphosis of the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich).  That it can be a good thing does not mean that it is the best form of government in every context, it requires an involved and participatory citizenry and today that seems the exception rather than the rule, but for now, it is what we claim to “enjoy”.

Whatever the form of governance, its most important aspect would appear to be that it be perceived by the governed as legitimate.  But what makes a government legitimate?  I posit that what makes a government legitimate is the consent of the governed, although determining the existence of such consent is difficult outside of a democratic framework.  Democracy is not a scientific method for arriving at correct decisions.  It may not even be functional.  It is more an art form predicated on the premise that the collective wisdom and perceptions of a majority of the members of a society will, more often than not, arrive at functional decisions, especially in the intermediate to long term.  It is an imperfect system but one that improves over time if permitted to function through trial and error and is provided with unrestricted access to information.  If those fundamental requisites do not exist, then neither does democracy and the verisimilitude of democracy peddled to the citizenry will, at best, be a dysfunctional system subject to manipulation in favor of those who are willing to attain and wield power ruthlessly, especially if done so subtly, especially if done so hypocritically with liberal doses of hyperbole.  Especially if done in the way it is being done today.

In a democracy, elections are supposed to be the periodic event where citizens individually exercise their right to evaluate information on their own and come to decisions as to governance which are then tabulated to determine a collective consensus and implemented based on majorities attained.  But elections only work when access to information is not limited.  It is up to the individual to evaluate the accuracy of available information and thus all information ought to be available.  When information is filtered, democracy cannot function regardless of how well meaning the censor.

Censorship of any kind distorts the exercise of democracy and when censors have a political agenda (as, being human, they always do), they impose their perspectives on the electorate rather than facilitate the electorate’s exercise of political rights.  Elections are and always should be about “meddling” and opining, but freely and openly.  If any group is excluded, the pool of information from which one can select what to believe becomes distorted and useless.  The role of journalism is supposed to be to make more, not less information available, and to do so in a neutral, not a partisan manner.  Only then can democracy function.  “Political correctness” is anathema to free speech, to a free press and to functional democracy.

Democracy is a social collective of individuals.   The citizenry serves the role of the cells in a human body.  Our elected leadership, hopefully serves as the brain and the information necessary to make informed electoral decisions constitutes the blood.  In this metaphor, the entities involved in facilitating circulation of information (which ought to include journalists and the major Internet platforms) would function as the heart, but the reality is heartless.  Then again, the problem is not novel[1].  Objective journalism has never been the norm in the United States; indeed, journalism’s highest awards, the Pulitzer Prizes, are named after the founder of “yellow journalism”, Joseph Pulitzer who, with his chief rival, William Randolph Hearst, crystalised the concept.  That journalists, as censors rather than neutral intermediaries in the circulation of information, perceive of themselves as well-meaning is a hugely condescending insult to our collective intelligence.  A patronizing elitist oligarchy is the biggest threat that any democracy can face. Democracy is not about making decisions that partisans consider correct but about the exercise of free will by the citizenry, thus, inappropriate meddling does not involve the sharing or circulation of information by foreigners (who, due to the dominance of the United States in world affairs, have legitimate interests in the outcome of our elections), but the filtering and withholding of information and restrictions on our ability to share and circulate information we feel is relevant.  Unfortunately, that is what the mainstream media and the major Internet platforms are doing to us all.

So, where do we find ourselves?

As seemingly always, we purportedly find ourselves in the midst of an existential election whose results will irreparably impact us and our progeny forever, but with our choices artificially limited to interchangeable greater and lesser evils (there are other options but our censors are pretty successful at keeping them hidden) and with access to information manipulated in order to distort our perceptions and thus our electoral decisions.  And we find ourselves more polarized than at any time since our devastating Civil War, one from which we apparently have yet to recover.  The right wing of our political spectrum, relying on the Second Amendment to our current Constitution, is well armed but slow to violence and the left wing, now arming as well, seems all too prepared to not only accept but promote violence in the name of progress (although some might wonder how looting, arson and mayhem promote equality, pacifism and equity). To some of us it appears imminent that, as the War to End All Wars had to be renamed World War I a bit more than 20 years after it ended, our own Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War between the States, etc.) will all too soon need to be renamed Civil War I.

Do we still enjoy a functional democracy (assuming that we ever did)?  Do a majority of us consider our government legitimate?  Do we believe we have access to the information we need to make informed electoral decisions?  Do we have faith in our ability to effectively express our perspectives?  Do we really trust the purportedly “mainstream” media?  Will we be voting for candidates we trust and in whom we believe?

I think that in each case, the answer is a resounding: “No, ….  Hell No!” but the reality (if it can somehow be determined) is that as Adolf Hitler noted in his epic, Mein Kampf, (I paraphrase) omnipresent efforts to manipulate us politically through use of behaviorist tactics in the dissemination of information, even when we know it is inaccurate, have an effect.  That was certainly the experience in the Republic of Colombia’s 2018 presidential elections, the results of which were all too quickly regretted by the all too gullible electorate.  The Deep State and the mainstream media have learned from their defeat by the United States electorate in 2016 and have quadrupled their efforts to more efficiently dampen the populist waves from both the left (Sanders) and the right (Trump) which defeated them that year.  Consequently, it is unlikely that their efforts at bending us to their control will not prove more and more successful as their tactics are refined, improved and implemented and our reactive options limited.  One clear indicia you yourself can test is whether or not you have heard of electoral options other than those proposed by the two major parties in terms other than their roles as spoilers.

We seem to have become a collective metaphor for Laurel and Hardy the instant before Oliver turns to Stan and comments: “well this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into” and, daring to mix metaphors, in the place of Elphaba, the purported Wicked Witch of the West (bad press really), as she melts, observing, “what a world, what a world!”  We find ourselves with our ability to communicate and receive information censored, perhaps without any choices at all except to accept domination by our self-proclaimed betters and hope for the best. 

One wonders if that is how the decent citizens of the German Weimar Republic felt at the dawn of their own elections in 1933.
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© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.


[1] Indeed, the famous Peter Zenger Case which established the predicates for protection of the press found in the United States Constitution was premised on the right to engage in seditious libel and, two centuries later, virtual impunity was granted to the press by the United States Supreme Court in the “infamous” case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), a case which once again involved the media’s apparent right to be wrong without consequences.  The situation has drastically exacerbated by another Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) which gave the wealthiest among us cart blanch to buy political power through bribery in the guise of political contributions, huge speaking fees and generous book deals.  As ominous, as disclosed in an article four years ago, the wealthiest among us have gained total control of the United States media (see, e.g., “These 15 Billionaires Own America’s News Media Companies”), now concentrated in six media conglomerates, interestingly, most now fused with the entertainment industry and those same billionaires now virtually own many of the most important career federal and state bureaucrats, especially in federal intelligence, justice and defense agencies and in state departments of justice (see “George Soros’ quiet overhaul of the U.S. justice system” a prescient article published on Politico four years ago by Scott Bland).