May 2017, Vol. 3, Issue 8, Honesty and Transparency, the Post-truth (Post-factual Politics) Era

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
—George Orwell

This is an extraordinary time; a time when post-truth culture is thriving in Russia, China, America, Australia, Britian, India, Japan and Turkey. This political climate is founded and furthered by appeals to emotion and on conclusions based on ignorance of and resistance to hard science and well-documented history. A perhaps unprecedented level of bombast replaces common sense, honesty and sincere promise creating a climate that rests on disinformation, intimidation and divide-and-conquer as its primary weapons of control. This all combines to undermine rule of law, free speech and free media. We have administrations evolving in the spirit of Orwell’s 1984 where diplomacy and statesmanship have devolved into manipulative spins calculated to influence the gullible and solidify the power of would-be autharitarians.

With the mixed blessing of social networking citizens seem unable – or perhaps unwilling – to distinguish lies from truth and fact from fallacy. President Obama is described as “obsessed” with this problem (hyperreality) and the mixed ecosystem of professional journalism and social network reportage in which “everything is true and nothing is true.”

“In an age where there’s so much active misinformation, and it’s packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some over-zealousness on the part of a US official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect…If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
—Barak Obama

We’ve decided this month to address the challenges that face our countries and the world. We’ve addressed these in essay and poetry, sometimes head-on and sometimes by a thread. Though perspectives and solutions may differ to some degree, there is clear agreement that the concerns are real as is the need to “resist.”

A last note: Thanks to Michael Dickel for further technical refinements to make this zine more accessible and readily readable. Thanks also to the members of our core team, to our guest contributors and to our readers for continued support, encouragement and the pleasures of our shared values.

In the spirit of peace, love and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Bequines,
—Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”
― George Orwell

Table of Contents

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Honesty and Transparency
the Post Truth Era




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Intellectual Integrity in the Age of Trump | Jamie Dedes

On February 18th the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Bret Stephens, gave the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. Time magazine reported on it and you can read the entire text HERE. I urge you to do so.

In his talk Intellectual Integrity in the Age of Trump Stephens, a conservative, warns us not to “dismiss President Trump’s attacks on the media as mere stupidity.” He writes that open-mined and diligent reporting is important and that “truth is not merely in the eye of the beholder.”

I admit to being beyond irritated with news-as-entertainment that caters to the sensational and salacious, that betrays us by serving up too much free on-air time to people with questionable intentions and morally deficient characters. This is unfortunate, but thankfully it is not descriptive of the whole of the American press.

Let’s give kudos were kudos are deserved: to those hard-working truth-seekers, our occupational cousins: professional journalists who put the truth first and work hard to bring it to us. They don’t deserve to be denigrated by a Republican administration that has lost its backbone participating in attempts to suppress what is crtical to the maintenance of a functioning democracy – an independent press working with impunity.

Our journalists – as with any other professional groups – don’t deserve to be painted with one broad brush by us – their readers (customers). Let’s not confuse earnest journalists with celebrity journalists who often deliver nothing more substantive than political gossip.

Among Bret Stephen’s points:

“Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

“We are not a nation of logicians.

“I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.” MORE

– Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day and Coffee, Tea and Poetry); Barak Obama’s photograph is in public domain; Bret Stephen’s photo is by Вени Марковски | Veni Markovski under CC BY-SA 3.o license

Social Media As Empty Vessels | Michael Dickel

Selling Ourselves
on an Empty Medium

Michael Dickel

I advertise sometimes on social media. I’ve learned something about how it works. These are some thoughts about what social media really is about—perhaps a change of perspective, like the famous wine glass or kissing couple image, will help us to think about how the business of social media provides structure for the post-truth phenomenon.

To be clear, what I have to say is not new or exclusive to social media. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that “news” media (as all media) are not in the business of giving its audience (readers or viewers) the news (or entertainment or other “content”). The business model sells the audience to advertisers. Newspapers used to be sold for less than the cost of printing, and broadcast did not initially charge (cable and satellite changed that, but most news and much other media content comes in the basic plans, without premiums). And, famously, Marshall McLuhan told us “the medium is the message.”

News media at least also provide(d) content gathered, written, and delivered by journalists who (at least before “post-truth”) cared about ethics, truth, and fact, and who provided an important social service (if not perfect and often shaped or biased). The ads, are often seen as a “necessary evil”— commerce to provide this service. Still, ads remain(ed) the business model and, thus, subscriptions and ratings mattered.

Audience matters more than ever, because what social-media companies discovered is the medium is not just the message. It is everything.

Audience is the only content in social media, in a sense, and the medium (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) simply holds the audience. The audience busies itself with creating its own content and, well, being social. Hence, social media. These media should not be confused with content-media. While both sell audience to advertisers, content-media create or distribute others’ content to attract audiences. Social media create a medium for audiences to inhabit.

Therefore, social media are little more than empty frameworks—pure medium, with no content. The audiences are not only sold to advertisers, they now produce the content that keeps other audiences (and themselves) engaged.

This engagement is necessary in order for the social media companies, which provide the framework-medium, to sell the advertising to reach those audiences. And the medium—computers—provides detailed and accurate measure of the impact of the ads, which makes the advertiser’s purchase of audience more effective per dollar.

The medium, therefore, pushes engagement. Think of the increased availability of emojis / emoticons on the media, including Facebooks additions to the thumb on posts and, now, on post comments. More interactions that amount to increased engagement. Even those not posting have something to do and contribute to the process, and choosing an emoji instead of just clicking the thumb shows a higher level of engagement with that particular content.

So, what significantly differs with content-media, is that the content itself actually comes from the target audiences, who engage in it through an increasing number of channels (posting, comments / replies, likes, shares / replies, emoji, etc.). The social-media companies don’t produce content, just the frameworks—that is, the medium.

We, the users / audience, produce the content for social-media companies, give it away to them, and think we’re doing it to entertain ourselves and friends. However, more important to the business model, we’re also attracting and entertaining audience that the social-media companies can sell to advertisers—and make no mistake, we also are in that the audience for those advertisers.

Many of us, myself included, promote our own projects, work, businesses to these audiences with the “content” we produce. Many of us, myself included, also advertise on social media. So any one individual, such as myself, fills multiple roles within any one social medium. The social-media companies, however, control the medium and benefit from each and every role any individual plays. The more roles, the better for the companies.

(Granted, traditional media to “keep relevant” and stop audience loss, have increasingly incorporated engagement and aspects of content creation—from reader blogs to comments and replies online, so the distinction is less clear with contemporary news outlets than with traditional outlets of the past.)

We, as users / audience, engage— “curate,” “share,” “post,” “like” —all of which keeps the audience for the ads (ourselves and others) distracted from the marketing purpose of the media while providing the audience for the ads that the social-media companies sell (to us). This “engagement” also provides the framework with the information to target our interests so that it can present ads we are more likely to respond to with a “like,” “emoji,” “click,” or “conversion” (e.g., sale for the advertiser, purchase for you). And we participate willingly.

The algorithms the companies create don’t measure truth, although I should say they haven’t up until recently, when Facebook announced one to recognize “fake news.” The companies design the algorithms to measure and record engagement and conversions in relationship to interests and content. Content that attracts attention (and ad responses) rules the news feeds, timelines, recommend-for-you links, and thus rules the media waves.

They call it “Big Data,” all of the information that can be found out about us on the internet, much of it through social media and about our social-media engagement. And the Russians have taken this all quite seriously, using social media for political purposes.

Note that the social-media companies don’t directly sell conversions—the term for sales. The advertisers do track them, with help from the social-media companies and their software. They track these for the effectiveness of the ads and ad settings. Also, the more conversions, the more valuable an audience and the more successful the medium that holds that audience.

All of our content and engagement contribute to the “Big Data” out there. And the data provides a surprisingly, and scarily, detailed picture of who we are.

One researcher found a way to connect pages we like on Facebook with specific personality profiles with some reliability. The methods he used seem to have been used by a political consulting company to shape ad messages to fit those personality types and to target the ads to those specific audiences. They also used the data to choose which audiences to ignore as unlikely to respond.

Reportedly, the consulting firm worked with the Brexit and Trump campaigns, both of which succeeded when expected not to. Whether or not the work this company (reportedly) influenced the “surprise outcomes” remains a question for debate. However, the fact that these campaigns heavily used social media is another aspect of the medium and how important the audience it holds is (and such use is not only in ads, but for tweets and posts).

For reasons largely to do with evolutionary survival, we respond to fear, anger, and (literal and figurative) loudness. We pay attention to it because for most of our evolution, these types of social voices warned us, kept us safe, got our adrenalin going so we could put out fires, defend against dangers, or run away.

Therefore, it should not surprise us that LOUD lies, SHOUTED anger, SHRIEKS of fear (or ALL CAPS) get us going, our adrenalin roaring, and our tendency to quickly respond (with more action and less thought). This responsiveness could—just possibly—lead us also to more engagement, as a sort of “action.” We respond by clicking more little icons, typing another comment (reply), sharing (retweeting) more, and yes, probably also by clicking on ads more—a less direct response, but with adrenaline flow, we go.

Those famous (possibly Russian) trolls, however, keep the lies moving, the energy flowing. Why did social-media companies not “do something” about trolls before? And why are their responses (largely) minimal and ineffective now? Probably because they “influence”—the “audience” for ads probably “engage” more on social media and with the ads themselves when trolls keep the medium roiling. As the companies sell both exposure (showing the ad) and response (click), numbers alone are the main factor. However, the higher the response rate , the much more valuable the audience.

So the more engaged the audience and the more sales (of ads, by the users) the audience generates, the more the companies profiting from the medium don’t want to limit or lose that audience or anything / anyone who keeps it engaged.

Trump has mastered Twitter for getting people riled up—it doesn’t matter for or against, his Tweets get responses, articles, commentaries, editorials in response now that he’s President, symbolic head of the vast U.S. social network. Even if you or I reject the legitimacy of his presidency, he ranks as social-influencer-in-chief, or, in other words, troll-in-chief. And most of us have probably read one (likely more) of his tweets or at the very least, read about them.

Truth doesn’t matter in this medium. Only having an audience in it and how the audience responds to each other in it. The more engagement, the more the creators of the media can sell ads—ads fed into and made more effective in the medium according the data our engagement produces. The medium and its ability to hold an audience and promote engagement matter more than anything.

I don’t have evidence to support all of these ideas. These are thoughts I’ve been working through, and may eventually shape themselves into a long-term research and writing project. So don’t take these words as truth. They are not post-truth, either, though.

Think of them as speculation and hypothesis, a beginning of a process of trying to understand something about the media that contain us as its sole purpose to exist.

However, if it is the case that the liars, haters, shouters—the trolls and Trumps—do increase audience size and engagement (clicks and conversions), then we may be destined for a post-truth social media world until we choose not to respond and engage—that is, until as audience, we choose how to respond by not reacting, how to quiet the social around the trolls, liars, click-bait artists who (want to) roil it.

©2017 Michael Dickel

New PEN America Report Catalogues Attacks on Free Expression in the Current Administration’s First 100 Days

PEN America Executive Director, Suzanne Nossel

NEW YORK—PEN America’s new report Trump the Truth: Free Expression in the President’s First 100 Days clocks more than seventy separate instances where President Trump or senior Administration officials have taken potshots at the press, including Presidential tweets decrying “fake news,” restrictions on media access, intimations that the press has “their reasons” for not reporting terror attacks, and branding press outlets as “the enemy of the American people.” These instances amount to near-daily efforts by the Trump Administration to undermine the press during the President’s first 100 days. Such efforts not only chip away at public trust for the media and its indispensable role in keeping the public informed, but also signal to regimes abroad that the United States will not stand up for press freedom.

“President Trump has aimed more barbs at the press than he has served working days in office,” said Suzanne Nossel, PEN America’s Executive Director. “Trump has set a tone whereby government officials are not obligated to answer tough questions, be transparent to the American people, or demonstrate basic civility toward those who report on their policies. The Trump Administration’s posture towards the press has severe ramifications for America’s democracy and for governments abroad that are looking to legitimize abuses of press freedom. His snide, sneering approach to media he considers unfriendly is unbefitting a President of the nation that has prided itself on being a global standard-bearer for free expression.”

The thirty-three-page report—launched to evaluate Trump’s first 100 days from the perspective of free expression and press freedom—also details President Trump’s attacks on the truth, as well as his administration’s efforts to delegitimize dissent, draw the curtains on government transparency and reduce privacy rights at the border.

2014 Press Freedom Index: dark pink, very serious situation; medium pink, difficult situation; yellow, noticeable problems;, light green, satisfactory situation; dark green, good situation;  gray, not classified / no data

Trump the Truth is the newest installment in PEN America’s efforts to safeguard press freedoms and free expression rights under the Trump Administration. On January 15, PEN America held the flagship “Writers Resist” event on the steps of the New York Public Library before submitting a petition asking President Trump to commit to upholding the First Amendment and to refrain from his attacks on the press. The petition, which collected over 100,000 signatures, included the names of every previous living Poet Laureate. In March, PEN America submitted another petition, again with over 100,000 signatures, to Rep. Louise Slaughter, co-chair of the House Arts Caucus, to protest the proposed defunding of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities under the Trump Administration. More recently, on April 25, PEN America awarded the Women’s March its 2017 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, for its “clarion call that Americans would not sit back in the face of threats to values and freedoms.”

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

This feature and the photograph is courtesy of PEN America. The photograph is under CC BY-SA 4.0 license; world map showing countries’ Press Freedom Index classification based upon the report Press Freedom Index 2014 from Reporters Without Borders.


About the Truth | John Anstie


[Image Produced using Cloudart]

The story of cosmology is the story of our search for the ultimate truth

This quote comes from an episode of one of my favourite Science documentary programmes, ‘Horizon’, which was titled ‘What happened before the Big Bang?’. It centred on the thinking, with the aid of mathematics and string theory, of a handful of professorial academics from around the world, who have developed some new theories. One such theory suggests that the expansion of our known universe since the Big Bang, nearly fourteen billion years ago, is only one ‘bounce of a ball’, of a cyclic series of events and that its apparently infinite size is merely a minimal starting point for the next Big Bang. I don’t know about you, but I find this, at the same time, utterly mind boggling and totally fascinating. It also serves to bring into perspective the true meaning of our lives and, in particular, the meaning of truth, which, in consequence, is only a relative term, particularly when it comes to this area of science.

There may be a myriad of learned tomes, on the subject of truth, written by countless thinkers and philosophers over the minuscule millennia of human existence, but, setting aside the search for the true answers to scientific and mathematical questions about the origins of our universe, it is on the most basic social and spiritual level that I choose to focus.

My first prompt for this piece occurred in 2011, when I observed, amongst other exceptional acts of forgiveness and the search for truth, the effects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela’s leadership.

The second prompt is that constant irritation: politicians! To be fair, this affects all those in positions of influence, with vested interest in maintaining status quo or personal wealth, who are so often inclined to be ‘economical with the truth’, if the truth is likely to compromise their position or possessions. This probably includes all of us from time to time. However, if you are in a position of power, when your decisions affect whole populations, then being economical with the truth may be considered, at best, morally wrong, if not downright contemptible! So much depends on the ulterior motive. Difficulty arises when you listen to words spoken by someone, whose allegiances are unknown to you, and therefore leave you with the dilemma of whether or not you believe they are speaking the truth.

For me, sometimes, the solution to this is to do your own research; it is your call.

The third prompt is meat to those who, in telling lies, would argue that the truth is relative to its context. As true as that may be, there are some fundamental questions, which it may be helpful to ask. These questions and their answers rely heavily on my own life’s observations and experience. I’ve presented this, for clarity, in the form of a mock interview …

What is the truth?

“ Where there is pride, prejudice or profit, there you find lies. Where there is poverty, poetry and death, there will be truth ”

The truth is without bias, in conformity with fact and reality, and is concerned only with honesty and integrity.

What defines truth?

The truth is not only defined by its context, but also by your ability to address your conscience*, head on, assuming that it has not been corrupted by external bias (i.e. vested interests). Equally important is an ability to face reality, however unpleasant or painful that may be.

How do we justify the limits we place on our honesty about the truth?

We justify limits on our honesty in many ways: by joining a tribe and deferring to its rules; by focussing on our own self-preservation or our vested interests; and by denying voice to our conscience or contrary opinions.

How do we know what the truth is and how do we recognise it?

In order to know what the truth is, it is necessary firstly to cast off our natural bias and prejudice; to open our minds; perhaps also to become pantheistic in our outlook and accept that this might make us vulnerable.

How much of the truth can we, as individuals, consciously face, head on?

Knowing your limits is a safe harbour, but this may also provide a block to discovering the truth. So, it may be necessary to be courageous in the quest.

What strategies can we devise to help us find to the truth?

Somehow we may not only have to overcome personal prejudice and swallow our pride, but also face the facts and stop echoing and repeating popular myths and memes that come from the pens and mouths of others.

How much do we have to sacrifice both to seek and to tell the truth?

We have to set aside our need for unnecessary material things and kick the habit of consumerism, because this provides an immediate pride, prejudice and (perhaps) a greed for status. We also need to examine, evaluate and better understand our pride and prejudice (with apologies to Jane Austen).

Who will speak the truth?

Any of us can speak the truth, but, before we do, we will have to develop the inner strength to resist and cast off all those temptations that beset us with envy, greed, carnal hunger and cognitive bias.

I recently attended a concert, in which the headline act were a folk and roots singer/songwriter duo, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman whose talent and performances we have come to enjoy. The unusual and refreshing part of this concert was that the supporting act, who came on to ‘warm’ us up, was a poet, whom I had first met last year through the Sheffield WordLife movement, at the opening of the Sheffield Literature Festival. The poet is Joe Kriss. One of the self penned poems he read, concluded with words to the effect: stop talking, start thinking and listen to what lies between your ears; only then will you know what’s true.

There are many parts of our lives for which exposure of the truth, if shared with the majority and if reconciliation was achieved, would make for a better world. I wonder, however, if finding the truth in every part of our lives would challenge our humanity. If that truth were too unpalatable to face – the prospect of our own imminent failure, the discovery of a skeleton in our own cupboard, life threatening illness and death … would we still want to know the truth?

Perhaps you might let me know if you have found your truth … and whether you feel it set you free?


• The defining of conscience could, no doubt, be the subject of a veritable treatise. For now, suffice to say that conscience is defined as “the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual”. Put more simply, it is “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience “.

© 2014 John Anstie

This article first appeared in the BeZine three years ago under the title: “ Quid est veritas? … Veritas vos Liberabit “, which translated means: “ What is truth? … The truth shall set you free.

How Comey Learned to Live with Nausea | Phillip Stevens

Few Americans knew we lived in a “post-truth” era until the new President arrived—one who thinks “truth” is a four-letter word.

Two four-letter words: “Fake” and “News.”

Sartre to Comey: You misread me completely

FBI Director Coomey felt “mildly nauseous” that his announcement Hilary Clinton was, once again, under investigation rammed her campaign over the guardrail like an Abrams tank and a 1970 Honda Civic. Even so, he claims, he sticks by his decision because it was the right thing to do.

Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier

(Even though the investigation turned up nothing and, we later learned, the FBI possessed no reliable clue to suggest it would.)

This could be a footnote:

Forty percent of American voters will dismiss the last two sections as fake news the instant they read them.

I take that back. Trump voters will never read this article. They aren’t likely to read The BeZine. Many don’t read unless they know the publication will parrot their thoughts.

We entered a “post-truth” era because pundits grew weary of “post-modernism.” Post-modernism was the eighties; we needed to move on.

Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier

We entered a “post-truth” era because pundits grew weary of “post-modernism.” Post-modernism was the eighties; we needed to move on.

Postmodern criticism noticed a disconnect between the expression of truth and the demands of commercial media.1 Memory is short; new is better.

“New is better” defines post-truth thought too, but post-modernism saw irony in the pursuit of the new. In the post-truth era, new is all that matters.

Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier

My first professors taught me truth is black and white. Everything else is relativism. Then I transferred from a Texas university, which required Bible classes in every degree plan, to Michigan, where professors brought up Jesus when they stubbed their toes.

My department had three tenured professors—an existentialist, a Jesuit and a phenomenologist. Truth became relative, and three times as confusing.

Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier

Neurophilosophy and post-modernism rose to prominence together. Neurophilosophers reduced every thought to a corresponding brain state. In short, truth is chemically induced.

Derrida sank their ship before it sailed.

To borrow from the neurophilosophers’ vocabulary: Derrida suggested that a finding in neural research can be mapped to a brain state, but we can’t map the brain state of one mind to the same brain state in another.

His version went something like this:

Ideas can’t be contained in the sentence that frames them. They break free and transmute over generations, languages and even a simple conversation.

mage components courtesy of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Draper Labs, and Nicolas P. Rougier.
Building Connections
Neurons build connections that shape the way we think. The more we focus on one idea, the less able we are to recognize evidence we might be wrong.


Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier


Neuroscience scattered more nails across the road to truth. Our brains beat back new ideas with a one-two punch.
The amygdala throws the right punch. They produce a fear response to ideas that challenge core beliefs every bit as intense as the fear response to a shark closing its jaws around our heads.

Neurons set up the left-jab with a select and protect shuffle. When we embrace an idea as either truth or fake news, our brains build a neural connection, or bridge to memory. When we accept new evidence to support that belief, they make the connection stronger. Over time, our brains reduce conflicting information to white noise. We couldn’t see the truth if it smacked us in the face and said, “Your brain is clogged with crap and it’s time for a neural cleanse.”

Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier

Historians suggest the post-truth era began when civilizations used education and the arts to promote conformity and thought control. Even Athens, the birthplace of democracy, manipulated citizens at the margins of power with games, festivals and the occasional call to vote.2 No surprise then that the Athenians condemned Socrates for teaching his followers to question everything.

More relevant than it seems

When Jackie Robinson signed with Montreal, the Minor League Baseball Commissioner claimed:

It is those of the carpet-bagger stripe of the white race, under the guise of helping, but in truth using the Negro for their own selfish ends, who retard the race. It is my opinion that if the Negro is left alone and aided by his own unselfish friends of the white race, he will work out his own salvation in all lines of endeavor.

Neuron image: Nicolas P. Rougier


When he sentenced Jesus to death, Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” No doubt he stuck to his decision as the right thing too. What’s the death of one poor Jew against the cooperation of Israel’s religious leaders?

The irony of flexible thinking: Flexible thinkers push the envelope and expand the frontiers of freedom and knowledge. Sometimes, however, those in power exploit that flexibility to suppress and oppress those they rule.

Upper right: The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David. Lower left: Christ before Pilate by Munkácsy Mihály
Convicting the wise to shelter the sheep.
The deaths of Jesus and Socrates were mandated, in part, by the need to retain political power and influence.

It’s all in who you serve

Jesus claimed to be the truth—not an idea, but a person. Followers won’t admit it, but Jesus never viewed “truth” to be objective reality independent from people’s needs. He believed we experience truth through our connection to others and how well we treat them. Treat others as we desire to be treated and the truth connects us all. Use others for our own ends, no matter how we rationalize our conduct, and we trade truth for convenience.

  1. e.g., disseminating commercial memes. ↩︎
  2. Ralph Casey, “The Story of Propaganda,”, ↩︎

Kept Promises | Paul Brookes


day is summer’s horse, called Skin
whose smooth mane shines bright
over my spiral horned cows
and black faced sheep chewing cud,

drags their shadows over fresh
grass like a dark memory,
ahead of cold night’s black mane,
nuzzle foam flecks fall as dew

as I recall yonks ago
a promise I makes to boss
of these riches and a blue
dun stallion gallops pasture.

My promise that if any
other man than me or Boss
rides this horse called Boss’s Mane,
I’ll know, find them and kill them.

I hires Lone Soldier, eldest
son of my neighbour, who makes
promise lad is hard worker
and no flibbity gibbit.

Everyday Lone takes my
black faced sheep to safe pasture
returns them come that evening,
cuts fire wood, looks after Boss’s

Mane and his 12 mares, I tell
him about my promise, that
he can use other horses
for whatever, whenever.

Lone agrees ” Very fair deal.”
and promises to do his
best, and pulls his rag out
for whole of sweated summer,

but one day, some sheep flit off
he can’t find them anywhere,
he scours fields for entire week,
so ragged, he goes to the mares,

to ride one to search yonder
fields, but when he turns up, all
mares scatter, only Boss’s
Mare stand stock still as a stone.

If he rides it his promise
not to will be broken, if
he decides not to, his vow
to care for farm is broken.

Lone ponders that to keep one
promise must break another,
reckons as sheep more valued
and only way to find sheep

is on Boss’s Mane, judges
as riding him back in time
I’ll never know about this.
On Boss’s he finds lost sheep.

returns all sheep to their place,
doing his job as always.
And as not needed Boss’s
gallops all way home to me,

till near my farm, I see him
sodden with sweat, steam rises
off his flanks like mist off a
morning lake, muddy, panting,

so I know someone has ridden him
and it weren’t Boss, so I goes
with an axe in search of Lone,
and after long chat, I asks

“Did you ride Boss’s Mane?” He
couldn’t deny it, so tells
me the truth. “Thas done well in
telling truth. I would forgive

thee but I’m bound by promise,
and when promises are made,
bound to be kept, as you know.”
so I kills him with my axe

make a decent grave for him.
Lone’s father weren’t happy.
Tha can’t break thee promises,
no matter hassle tha has.

night is winter’s horse, called Frost
who’s rime mane darkens more
over my spiral horned cows
and black faced sheep chewing cud.

© Paul Brookes

Unpalatable Truths | Paul Brookes


are those you cannot hold
in your mouth
make you want to retch
to clear your gob

and then eat something sweet
to take the taste away.

And knowing you need
to tell another a truth
they do not want to hear
makes you want to delay
the fetch, makes you consider
the depth of sweetness
you need to take the feeling


© Paul Brookes

Post Factual Poem | Paul Brookes


Whatever you say
whatever you do
is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have facts that directly contradict
your facts, because your facts are wrong.
If you can’t believe the facts
believe the truth.

© Paul Brookes

The cat didn’t lie | Michael Dickel

Apocalyptic Winter I Digital art from photos ©2016 Michael Dickel
Apocalyptic Winter I
Digital art from photos
©2016 Michael Dickel


Apocalyptic Winter

Murk clenches around the world—
solstice, yes; cruor, surely; necrosis,
possibly; apoptosis, likely. Trees pull

back, plants close for business,
even cockroaches go dormant,
or almost sleep through the long night.

Those few flowers on a windowsill
only admonish me in the name of the
painted flood that stained last summer.

Dried herbs crumble, anamneses of the sun.
I stop, though, and talk to the feral cat
whose felicitations hiss out from iron bars

on top of a stone wall that divides civic
sidewalk from exclusive parking. I would
purr, unlike this ginger gamine cat,

if I had cause enough to lucubrate.
The thalassic truth of this spot sidesteps
my yearning to swim in the desert.

Apocalyptic Winter II Digital art from photos ©2016 Michael Dickel
Apocalyptic Winter II
Digital art from photos
©2016 Michael Dickel

Absinthian coffee wakes something
harsh, chlorophylloid, but not for long, and my
bleak, burnt bones creep forth on a nameless road.

The moon climbs, someone wants me to offer
straightaway. A ray penetrates the darkness
and lifts the crux to spheres surmounting

dictionaries and thesauri that spill
obfuscations, tangle moods and modes
into articulated modifications of noumena.

The cat didn’t lie, so neither will the eye.
Clouds hid the moon. An uncanny aura
spilled down from a lunar eclipse. The trees

gamboled, lifting their roots and dropping them,
a geographic gamble. Stories stumbled down
cliffs. Nothing changed in the seething

and nothing persisted unchanged, which
I don’t really apprehend. The tongue does not
construe such spectacles or words unconstrained.

Apocalyptic Winter III Digital art from photos ©2016 Michael Dickel
Apocalyptic Winter III
Digital art from photos
©2016 Michael Dickel

If you put the mouse cursor over the links and wait a moment, text will appear over (and appear to define) the linked words. This poem appeared originally on Meta/ Phor(e) /Play as Winter Poem. It has since been published in my chap book, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism (free PDF download). You can also purchase a print copy through locofo chaps.


Double Life | Michael Dickel


I mention an image that for some days now has been mounting in the sky of the revolution…Chantal’s image is circulating in the streets. An image that resembles her and does not resemble her. She towers above the battles.

—The Envoy in Jean Genet’s The Balcony

Your lost lover becomes a martyr—
a new revolutionary cause—
as the judge, an abandoned father,
conceives the child’s anarchistic calls.
Balconies crack, begin to falter
while the white rose petals start to fall,
and the soft dust now rises up to
cloud our bishop’s visionary realms.
So you saunter down to the twelfth bar.

It’s not very far for you to go—
down the road to the mausoleum,
where knowledge no longer wants to flow,
and wisdom the police chiefs promised
evaporates in blue cloudiness.
My forlorn lovers take one last look,
executioners seal sacred books,
and we dream that time will return us
again to where Chantal’s dance began.

We slip on ice in larch swamps covered
by fog, which obscures the histories
unfolding Irma’s worn tapestries—
lies of the victors, lies of the lost.
We change the general’s blank dance card,
then drop three photographers’ needles
into a heavily falling snow.
Your martyr turns into a lover—
an evolutionary lost-cause.

An old father begins his judgement
with many anachronistic flaws.
And Carmen’s petals flake slowly off
like snow melting in a beggar’s tale
of the freed slave’s magic midnight sun
where my desire has never failed.
And the rose petals? The bruised petals
from the flowers you took the envoy
cover the gravel under your feet.

At first, people were fighting against illustrious and illusory tyrants, then for freedom. Tomorrow they’ll be ready to die for Chantal alone.

—The Envoy in Jean Genet’s The Balcony


Note: In each of the two days I have been working on the poem above, the ones just before I am posting it, exactly 18 people visited my blog, where this originally appeared as Chai equals eighteen (things have changed—yesterday 222 people visited, a more usual number since the beginning of 2017). The poem has four stanzas of 9 lines each, for 36 lines (double 18), not counting the epigrams from Genet. Each line has 9 syllables. The total number of syllables is 324, plus the 36 lines, equals 360—the number of degrees in a circle. Chai, חָי —Hebrew for life, equals 18 according to gematria. So, 36 lines, double 18, is double life. Or, perhaps, a double life. Jean Genet‘s The Balcony may offer a key element to this equation.

Double Life has since been published in my chap book, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism (free PDF download). You can also purchase a print copy through locofo chaps.

A Mirror of Chantilly Lace | Renee Espiru


She sees that truth has been manipulated and twisted
suiting no one but the one who engineers it
like clandestine meetings between those who
consider themselves lawmakers wearing their guises
like black widow spiders whose loving opponent
will meet their demise when they are deluded
into believing they meet on equal ground
having something both believe in and that
truth is the foundation on which discussion
is built but their meeting of minds is clouded
by deception a grand design of charismatic nature

She sees that there has become a truth laden
with roads without destination convoluted as much
as the murky waters of polluted lakes and rivers
with whirlpools swirling the masses’ thoughts into
a funnel going ever downward where there is no passage
out and from which no amount of mesh can siphon its’ debris
that consists of life without beauty for when the
mirror is looked upon it consists of an acetate fabric
of which everything appears dim and unclear and that
even Chantilly lace when looked through has wonder but
the important elements are missing as though becoming
a puzzle without any solution so each day is the same

© May 2017 Renee Espriu

This Utmost Truth | Mike Gallagher


A solemn gathering – the earnest poets,
philosophers and theologians versed
in weft of word and erudite discourse,
the rudiments of life and death obsessed;
pet theories threshed, pet propositions flashed,
fresh theses so politely sent to bed,
old certainties dispatched with such panache.
And yet, was aught of import really said?

The more that we are shown, the less we see.
Nothing that we have learned is absolute
and reason is but leave to disagree –
gut man has known for long this utmost truth –
just like the ass, the ape, the stupid fly,
survive to sally forth and multiply.
© Mike Gallagher

basement dwellers… | Charles W. Martin

the view
from the basement
hasn’t changed
i can
only see
are made
makes them
some movements
so erratic
as to
engender panic
of us
looking up
from the basement
i must admit
i prefer
those who walk
confident steps
that are
well measured
it gives one
a sense
of hope
the basement door
will someday
be unlocked
get a chance
to view
what’s really
going on
up there

the merchant of lies | Charles W. Martin

truth buried alive
rings the graveside bell for help
but greed’s songs of joy
hush the safety coffin’s pleas
shylocks dance upon truth’s grave

© 2017, Charles W. Martin

translucent… | Charles W. Martin

lies too often heard
like bread cast upon waters
call us to believe
but evil deeds multiple
benefiting the lair

© 2017, Charles W.Martin

red tipped canes | Charles W. Martin

are rarely
they’re more often
when dealing
issues of humanity
no one
wants to be seen
a villain
the murder
of mothers
is concealed
the opaque protection
an unborn child
a barren minded wanna-be-saint
religious infection
in more deaths
but their
cataract vision
god’s words
lets them
strike their white cane
into the womb
a defenseless woman
all in the name
a god
that does not
the entry list

© 2017, Charles W. Martin

truth for the modern style | Eric Nicholson


from a newly minted dictionary
Blackberry a glossy substitute
for juicy blackberries
acid slipping between leaves
of grass
consonants drift
like dandelion seeds
words crumble worlds
like cremated bones

© 2017, Eric Nicholson