Truth and knowledge

To the editor:

I think many of us would agree with Mr. Pai’s well-written and insightful Oct. 1 letter that “We continue to repeat history.” Socrates’ philosophy, that the wisest man is he who humbly understands that he doesn’t know everything, should be the inspiration for becoming perceptive, analytical thinkers. But the challenge we face today is that anyone can call themselves “experts” in service to egotistical agendas and self-serving motives. “Knowledge” then becomes a weapon, not a tool for enlightenment.

No longer can we assume that if people had more information, it would serve to expand and better inform their opinions and attitudes. Now, we have profit-driven individuals like the owners of Fox News, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or InfoWar’s Alex Jones, all of whom are being charged with misinformation/defamation. But millions believe unverifiable and selective facts to arrive at incorrect conclusions.

History repeats itself when those with extensive scholarly knowledge are negated and silenced. Hitler’s method of control was to first send educated scholars and skilled professionals to the concentration camps; thus ridding himself of any criticism. He then took control of all information coming from the media, surrounded himself with people who feared him and played to popular prejudices by scapegoating the Jews as the cause of all of Germany’s problems.

Many of us have pointed out that Trump uses similar methods to amplify his power. He disparages the expertise of educated and experienced professionals, proclaiming instead on Feb. 23, 2016, “I love the poorly educated.” Trump labels mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” and dismisses any documented criticism as “fake news.” Like Hitler, he uses his own media feed to unconditionally support him no matter what he does. Trump’s politicians cower because he promises to get revenge against anyone who disagrees with him. As in Germany, Trump appeals to latent racism and blames Black people and immigrants for ruining America.

And why, we ask, won’t Trump’s followers acknowledge the parallels of a maniacal power grab being repeated in history? Not because they don’t know what happened in Germany. Not because they don’t know that their relatives fought and died to prevent a narcissistic, cold-hearted man from ever rising to power again. But because they don’t want to. Denial releases them from introspection and any responsibility they have for enabling events to repeat themselves.

Scripted ignorance, deep-seated attitudes and denial don’t respond kindly to unwanted information. Given that Socrates, himself, was sentenced to death by those who feared his ideas were “corrupting” youth is all the more reason to stand up for the principles of absolute truth and knowledge in the face of this present assault on an enlightened democracy.

Martha Hodges



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