Wherever you consider yourself to be on the political spectrum, if you have been paying any attention to developments in western society over the past decade or so you will have noticed just how plainly stupid it is becoming.
The days when evidence, truth, logic, and common sense could be relied on to have some meaningful influence on the evolution of society are fading very fast.
Within any modern progressive society decisions have to be made for the common good, a balance of societal need and personal interests. Inevitably this results in some members or groups within society not having their personal interests met, even though their basic human needs are (or should be) catered for.
The basic needs of members of most western societies are legislated for through various human rights legislation that set a minimum entitlement or expectation for each human within the society.
As an example, the ‘European Convention on Human Rights’ (ECHR) was established in the aftermath of World War Two and aimed to ensure such atrocious human rights violations as had occurred throughout that period would not be repeated in the future. A European court was established where citizens of member states could find legal redress in case of a rogue government abusing their fundamental rights under the legislation.
The ECHR came into effect in 1953, and the 18 Articles that make up the ECHR still have the same core duty – to protect fundamental rights and freedom of expression.
The Articles are:
- Article 1 – obligation to respect human rights
- Article 2 – right to life
- Article 3 – prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
- Article 4 – prohibition of slavery and forced labour
- Article 5 – right to liberty and security
- Article 6 – right to a fair trial
- Article 7 – no punishment without law
- Article 8 – right to respect privacy and family life
- Article 9 – freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- Article 10 – freedom of expression
- Article 11 – freedom of assembly and association
- Article 12 – right to marry
- Article 13 – right to an effective remedy
- Article 14 – prohibition of discrimination
- Article 15 – derogation in time of emergency
- Article 16 – restriction on political activity of non-nationals
- Article 17 – prohibition of abuse of rights
- Article 18 – limitation on use of restriction of rights
One of the myths that as been part of the propaganda of various radical groups over the years is that the ECHR allows individuals or groups to do as they please, often being cited as giving offenders of heinous crimes unreasonable protection and benefits they ‘should not’ be entitled to.
Depending on your viewpoint, perhaps morally perpetrators of certain crimes should not be entitled to the full protection of human rights legislation, but we can not be selective in who the legislation applies to, otherwise it would be pointless.
Although human rights legislation gives protection to everyone, it does not necessarily mean that everyone can do as they please, or even be covered by the legislation in certain circumstances.
Within most Articles there are exceptions where a person’s human rights covered by the Article can be restricted if they are against the greater good of society or a direct threat to the safety and security of citizens.
How these restrictions are implemented within each member state depends on the state’s implementation of it’s own human rights legislation, which must include the basic principles of the ECHR which are adjudicated on within the country’s own legal system.
The ‘European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) only adjudicate as a last resort once the member state’s appeal process has been exhausted, and only on cases the court deems to have grounds for appeal. Despite propaganda, far more cases are rejected and adjudicated against than are heard or adjudicated for by the ECtHR.
An example of how radical propaganda which was wholly inaccurate was believed by the majority of UK citizens was in the case of the extradition of hate preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri to the United States.
Under human rights legislation the UK (as a signatory) can not extradite anyone to a territory where the person would face a death penalty or be subjected to inhumane treatment.
Hamza appealed to the ECtHR on the grounds that in the United States he could face a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole – which his legal representatives presented as being inhumane treatment under the ECHR.
The ECtHR directed the UK government to seek assurances that Hamza would not be subjected to inhumane treatment if he were extradited, and that these assurances must be presented to the court by a specified date – giving the UK government plenty of time to seek and present the assurances.
However, the home secretary of the time, Theresa May, failed to present the assurances on time. The court had to adjourn it’s decision and gave the UK government further time to present the assurances.
It was at this time that there was a propaganda campaign by radical elements and the UK government that the ECtHR had ‘blocked’ Hamza’s extradition. This was totally untrue. It was the failure of the home secretary to comply with a simple directive that caused the delay.
Eventually the home secretary did present assurances (after other delays due to the home secretary’s incompetence) and Hamza was extradited.
Even so, much of the UK public is still under the impression that the ECtHR was obstructive and tried to prevent the extradition – which is untrue.
Although Hamza was a despicable human it doesn’t detract from the fact that he was entitled to protection under human rights legislation – whether we personally agree with it or not.
You can look up ECtHR cases and decisions here (opens in a new tab/window) as well as statistical information concerning member states.
The problem with this kind of misinformation is that it becomes stuck in people’s minds as truth, and once something is generally believed as a ‘truth’ it is very difficult to dispel the lie, even with undeniable evidence.
The reasons why people will continue to believe misinformation are varied, but often include social compliance, the misinformation appeals to their own prejudices or view of the world, lack of analytical skills or capacity, laziness, elitism, personal financial or perceived social gain, and so on.
In the Hamza case, this becomes problematic because the opinion of a large number of the population is that the ECtHR was purposely obstructive in allowing justice to be done. In fact, the ECtHR were ensuring justice was done despite the incompetence of the UK government department involved. This then has a knock-on effect when there are decisions to be made concerning the UK’s interaction with the European Union (which is a separate agreement but perceived by many as being the same thing), as in the current Brexit situation. When analysis of the people who voted to leave the EU was conducted 49% (opens in a new window/tab) cited their perceived lack of judicial autonomy as one of the reasons. ECtHR ruling myths contributed to this perception.
In another example (within the UK) in recent times are the claims made by radical feminist groups of a ’gender pay gap’.
Their claim is that women in the same employment as men are being paid less.
There has been legislation in the UK since 1970 prohibiting less favourable conditions of employment and pay based on gender. Current legislation is the Equality Act 2010 which also protects the rights of women who become pregnant while in employment, with severe penalties for employers if they commit an offence under the act.
The claims of a ‘gender pay gap’ have been proven to be wholly false. They are based on ‘research’ being taken out of context and extremely poor analysis of information.
A woman working in the same position as a man working the same hours is paid the same. Where the alleged ‘pay gap’ is seen is where women have taken time off from the workplace (perhaps to look after children), not worked the same hours as men, do not have the same experience, or are less qualified. This ‘gap’ would apply in the same conditions regardless of gender.
Even though the factual data shows there is no difference unless a criminal offence has been committed, the propaganda from radical feminists still gained popularity in the media and various popular internet platforms. This was to such an extent that the government and political parties cited the ‘gender pay gap’ as a hot issue, and established various committees to investigate and address the matter – a total waste of public money.
In these two examples, we can see that radical groups can have a significant influence on the society we live in purely through their propaganda that they remain unaccountable for. All they have to do is get the misinformation ball rolling and it will gain it’s own momentum if enough people accept the spoon-fed false version, rather than investigating the matter further.
The way radical groups operate is very similar whatever their cause.
A group may be established through a defined ‘representative’ organisation (or collective of organisations) or a collection of individuals with the same claimed concerns. Some remain small and others evolve into large commercially driven organisations. Whether an identifiable organisation or a collection of individuals, they are usually formed and evolve in much the same way.
A group of people come together in some common perceived cause. Their claimed concerns may be genuine or false, it makes no difference to the process. If the ‘cause’ gains popularity the process of evolution is the same.
Initially the group (or organisation) may consist of people who genuinely believe in their cause, whether based on factual information or not. Equally, they may be manipulative individuals attempting to gain attention and some form of credibility for their self-interests.
They will present information they perceive as ‘fact’. It is at this point that an organisation can become radical or accepted as authoritative.
If the information presented by the organisation is factually based and objectively analysed, then they gain credibility because independent analysis validates the campaigner’s claims. In general, such organisations seek to engage in genuine debate to bring about change through democratic process and negotiation.
Unfortunately, there are many more organisations or groups of campaigners that do not present valid factual information. This is particularly evident in relation to social issues which are emotionally charged, such as race, gender, children, disability, women’s rights, the environment, sex, and so on.
A common tactic in the attempt to gain credibility is for an organisation to claim it represents the group in society that is the subject of the organisation’s cause. This is usually a lie. The organisation has appointed itself as representative even though there has been no process whatsoever where the organisation has been appointed by the affected group, or a process where the people in charge of the organisation have been approved or appointed. The fact is that the organisation is merely representing itself even though it’s cause may affect a group in society.
For example, a trade union will state that it is representing it’s members, even though it works to make change happen that will benefit all workers. The union membership elect representatives and leaders through democratic process and votes on policies that affect them. The union then engages in various campaigns. It is clear what the union is and who they represent.
In contrast, there are thousands of organisations claiming to represent the interests of various social groups.
Stonewall is an organisation in the UK claiming to represent the interest of LGBT people even though it has never been appointed to do so through any democratic process within the group(s) they claim to represent. They claim (or strongly infer) that they have been instrumental in changes to legislation affecting the ‘LGBT community’ and that they conduct ‘research’ about, and education in, ‘LGBT issues’.
The reality of Stonewall is very different. It has been criticised on many occasions by various organisations and individuals (including members of the ‘LGBT community’) for spreading misinformation, using bullying tactics, and damaging the public perception of the ‘LGBT community’.
The vast majority of gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people do not recognise Stonewall as an organisation that represents their interests. It is (as many other organisations are) a self-interested organisation more interested in it’s own existence and agenda than true representation of a social group.
Stonewall only started to include ‘transgender’ people in their campaigns in 2015, having previously excluded the ‘trans community’. In 2017 they produced a document called ‘The School Report’ that claimed to represent ‘The experiences of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans young people in Britain’s schools’. In the report it is claimed that 45% of ‘trans’ young people had attempted suicide.
Since the report was published, the claimed attempted suicide rate has been extensively used by various ‘transgender’ advocates and organisations, and is still quoted as researched fact.
However, the report is nothing but an online questionnaire to which 3713 (presumably) young people with self-identified gender responded, with no standardised or recognised academic controls or research methods in place to collect or analyse data. In research terms, it is junk – it has no meaning whatsoever as any form of useful (let alone reliable) data.
Requests by academics and others interested in the study to clarify and justify any research methods used have received no response at all from Stonewall or it’s agents in the survey.
The FACT is that attempted suicide by young people identifying as ‘transgender’ is EXTREMELY rare, and is no higher than statistics for general children’s mental health services in the UK. Dr Polly Carmichael, Director and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Tavistock clinic (considered to be experts in children’s gender issues) stated in October 2017 at a conference in Bristol that ‘research’ presented by Stonewall has “deeply flawed” and did not represent factual data.
It is concerning that Stonewall present themselves as some kind of ‘authority’, even including ‘advice’ for organisations, employers, and schools.
In particular, if schools are fooled into considering Stonewall an authoritative source and implement any advice from the organisation, this could have very serious detrimental effects on the mental health of young people.
Stonewall is one of hundreds of organisations in the UK, and thousands across the world that operate in much the same way without any credibility whatsoever.
When these organisations make claims that appeal to the emotions of affected groups, they tend to become popular ‘fact’ very quickly as they spread from person to person and organisation to organisation, sometimes being embellished along the way with subjective and presumptive reasoning and anecdotes.
As an organisation or cause gains popularity so it attracts the attention of more people. Some of these people will attach their own meanings and perceptions, or create an identification with the cause for their self-interest, often adding further subjective experience or ‘truth’ into the mix.
The organisation or cause can then become a magnet for more radical self-interested individuals or groups, who effectively attempt to hijack them. This can occur through infiltration into the organisation or through associating themselves with the activities of the organisation.
The most obvious example of this kind of behaviour is where an organisation or people involved in a cause organise a peaceful demonstration that is then infiltrated by various undesirable radical elements whose behaviour is aggressive or unacceptable.
The process by which an organisation or cause can become hijacked by radical elements is described in detail by Professor of Psychology, Andrew Lobaczewski in his book ‘Political Ponerology’.
In essence, an organisation can be infiltrated by radical elements who then spread their false information within the organisation as ‘truth’, primarily using psychologically weaker members as vessels. Even if the new ‘truth’ defies common-sense and objectivity it can become accepted as ‘truth’ through social compliance. In effect, the new ‘truth’ becomes so pervasive that it dilutes or overshadows attempts to counter it by the more psychologically robust members of the organisation or supporters of the cause.
If the more psychologically robust members of the organisation or supporters of the cause are unable to redress the balance one of two things tends to happen. They will either capitulate and give up trying to redress the balance, perhaps making the occasional gesture when the opportunity presents itself, or they will leave the organisation or detach themselves from the cause altogether.
In either scenario, the significant reduction in the influence of the more psychologically robust members or supporters allows the radical element to attract like-minded or similarly inclined individuals in to the organisation or as supporters of the cause – further reinforcing misinformation to a wider audience.
Other organisations or groups can be radical from their inception, in which case the aforementioned process doesn’t need to happen to fulfil the attention seeking self-interest of group members.
Once established, the method of operation of a radical group is much the same regardless of cause. They enter into campaigns where they attempt to supress any alternative or opposition to their viewpoint.
Common tactics include:
- Look for anything that will support their claim regardless of relevance.
- Cite highly dubious ‘evidence’.
- Misrepresent real evidence.
- Develop unsubstantiated theories based on flawed or manipulated evidence.
- Present subjective opinion as fact.
- Will not engage in genuine debate.
- Will not answer directly challenging questions.
- Will attempt to personally attack those with alternative or opposing viewpoints rather than attempting to disprove them.
- Will attempt to prevent anyone with an alternative or opposing viewpoint from expressing themselves.
- Will organise disruptive interventions against those with alternative or opposing views, or who question the validity of the group’s claims.
- Will attempt to gain support through emotive tactics and the use of slogans or/and buzzwords such as the currently popular and vacuous use of ‘phobia’.
- Will enforce ‘safe spaces’ – which are used to shy away from answering challenges to dubious viewpoints.
- Will attempt to gain support from those they perceive as psychologically vulnerable and/or suggestable.
- Will castigate any member of the group who questions the group objectives or ‘facts’.
- Will claim victimship in an attempt to garner sympathy or support.
- Attempts to criticise them will be called ‘hate speech’ or some kind of ‘violence’.
Although these tactics are specific to radical groups they are also used by individuals.
These tactics and general method of operation strike a resemblance to the core principles of fascism.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has the following definition of fascism:
“a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control”
The basic principles of fascism are:
- The state is everything to which every member must conform. The ‘state’ being the individuals in control at the core.
- Everything outside the state is a threat and must be ‘conquered’ and forced to conform to the state.
- No criticism of, questioning of, or opposition to the state is permitted.
The ‘state’, or in this case the ‘group’, becomes the only authority without question or accountability with the primary interest of protecting itself (or rather, the core members) from external threat.
Fascism is generally referenced in political terms as being the domain of the far-right, but the core principles and actions can be attributed in modern form to any radical (or extreme) organisation regardless of politics.
Even though there may be discussions within the group where there is a perception that members can express their views, opinions, and share knowledge, individuals within the group are inconsequential to the core members other than as agents to facilitate the spread of core propaganda that they sanction. Anyone who shows any sign of opposing the core view will not be permitted to be in a position of influence within the group, and if considered to be a threat to the core ‘truths’ will be put under duress to leave, or will be expelled.
Group members within a radical group will follow whatever the core dictates, often regardless of common sense let alone real evidence that contradicts them. In this form of social compliance individuals may feel validated through being a member of the group, especially if they feel invalidated by society in general. They will use the group as a place of safety where through their compliance they mitigate any uncomfortable challenge, or exposure of their ignorance or perceived weaknesses. Sometimes the group will seek to maintain members through claiming to provide them with ‘safe spaces’ where views, opinions, and motivations are not challenged. This reinforces the individual’s loyalty to the group and it’s doctrines.
Members of radical groups often make claims of being ‘free thinkers’ or possessing some special knowledge, or of being ‘individuals’ separate from the indoctrination of society.
The irony is that members of radical groups are far from being ‘individual’, and in many respects are some of the most compliant individuals in society.
Becoming part of a radical group inhibits ‘free-thinking’ and merely appeals to the person’s subjective (often emotionally based) perception of the ‘cause’ or of society in general. Although there may be elements of real evidence and ‘truth’, these are often perceived out of context with no real effort by the individual to objectively consider the matter in question in context. Having a lack of understanding or knowledge, the person automatically takes on the ‘truth’ of the group as fact.
In order to affirm their validation within the group the person will take on generalised attributes of other members. This can include behaviours and the way they present themselves, such as dressing in the group’s ‘uniform’. If we take away the influence of any fashion in place at the time, looking at a radical group reveals that the majority dress in very similar ways.
An argument for why people form or join radical groups could be that they have no outlet or voice within general society. This may be true in some instances, but is rare in modern ‘democratic’ societies where non-radical groups create awareness or influence society based on genuine and well-presented arguments.
One of the things that make radical groups so problematic in today’s society is the ease with which they can spread misinformation.
Before the days of widespread social media, or even availability of the internet, there were natural societal filters involved in the process of getting information to a wider audience. This would involve engaging in face to face exchanges, organising meetings with people in society who might have interest in the cause, getting articles or letters published in physical media, or gaining the attention of mainstream media such as radio and television.
This presented a more challenging process for any idea that was based on false information or which was of dubious credibility. It would be rejected and remain within a small circle of followers rather than being pushed in to the wider public domain. There were exceptions, but in general most radical ideas were limited in their exposure. In today’s society this process is short-circuited. Anyone with any idea can transmit it around the world in a matter of seconds and will probably find people with similar ideas which may lead to the formation of a ‘community’ – thereby normalising and self-reinforcing delusional, dysfunctional, and untrue information.
Radical groups do no good for any cause, and make life more difficult for those they represent.
Societal norms are slow to change and are formed through a process of gradual negotiation and acceptance on both sides of an argument. If the argument is genuine then it will become accepted – if not it will be rejected.
The one thing that does not work is force. Trying to force a concept or argument on to a society will immediately meet resistance, and if continued, will generate resentment which could lead to the societal group concerned becoming targets for undesirable elements in society, or society as a whole in extreme circumstances. Bringing adverse attention to a cause through radical initiatives significantly delays, and could prevent, wider acceptance by society. In effect putting the cause or idea back and undoing any work that may have been done by genuine groups.
A radical group that gains media attention by associating themselves with a group in society or cause may be perceived by the public as having some authority, or as being representative of a societal group, when this is not the case. This becomes dangerous for society as a whole if the radical group becomes involved in any form of consultancy with other organisations, such as government.
The knock-on effect is that the misinformation of the radical group will influence processes such as law and policy making by politicians even if the misinformation does not influence them directly. There is then a situation where the whole of society is affected by the self-interest of a very small minority.
A society can only evolve effectively if it bases it’s decisions on fact and truth. Otherwise we end up with a divided and confused society lacking in common direction and purpose. Different societal groups end up pulling in different directions and slow down, or even inhibit, progress.
Ideally each individual in a society would have the capacity, resources, and motivation to objectively investigate or research the claims presented by various outlets as fact on which decisions are made that affect society as a whole. The reality is that most people are busy with day-to-day tasks and take small pieces of information from various sources of varying quality on which they base their opinions.
If those sources are misinforming a society’s members then opinions formed on that information will be at best faulty. And so, society continues on a dysfunctional and messy path.
No matter what we personally think of real evidence and truth – whether it fits our personal view of the world or not – it still remains fact whether we like it or not – no matter how we wriggle and squirm trying to find justification for our own faulty thinking. Denying truth only results in us denying ourselves the opportunity to develop as human beings and evolve past the state of ‘group-think’ and prejudicial bigoted lies.
Truth comes from many sources, even sources we may not personally agree with or even like. But truth is truth wherever it comes from.
Truth is that which is undeniable, obtained through recognised objectively measured and robust systems of analysis for which there is no alternative that meets the same criteria.