The following is the first installment of a larger blog post previously posted on tripod. This was first posted on 4/10/2010. Since then the need for accurate information about how are government is running the “War on Terror,” the economy, elections now dominated by bribes thinly disguised as campaign contribution, and many other things has steadily gotten worse and the need to accurate information the public needs to base their decision has steadily gotten more important. The original post will be reposted in several installments and there will be many follow up posts on the subject over the next few months. This subject hasn’t received nearly as much attention as it should and unless the public does more to demand the truth from the politicians and the multi-national corporations they will continue to conduct their decisions that affect us all in secret, for the most part, with little or no input from the public.
This will include several blogs about psychology starting with a description of the Fundamentals of Psychology. The reason for this is that it is important for the public to know how psychological principles can be used to manipulate the public; in order to avoid being manipulated by these tactics the public must know that they’re being manipulated and how. I have already written some posts that have covered this including Manipulation Tactics and Political Manipulation. Once we have better access to accurate information the public will be in a better position to implement Election reform.
There have been several calls for a truth commission or a truth and reconciliation commission about several events including possible war crimes committed in Iraq. This may be a good step in the right direction if it is done right. In order to have a true democracy the public needs access to the information and education necessary to make rational decisions about all major policy issues. Even if the public doesn’t make the decisions directly they need accurate information to hold the representatives that do accountable. Under the current circumstances at best only a small percentage of the public has access to the information and education they need to run a sincere democracy. Past requests for the truth from a government that claims to be democratic were perfectly reasonable and should have been granted yet they weren’t. What many people may not fully understand is that if they start revealing the truth about one subject it may lead to questions about another one. For example a truth commission about the activities at Abu Ghraib may lead to disclosures about the CIA as many people already suspect. This could raise more questions about other activities being conducted by the CIA which may involve many other things including activities overthrowing governments, some of which may have been more democratic than the ones installed by the CIA; and tacit approval if not active participation in drug running operations run by allies of the CIA like the Nicaraguan Contras and other organizations; and corporate involvement in military activities like the incident where ITT was exposed helping to overthrow the Salvador Allende government in Chile. Information from credible sources has already been released about these activities but they have been confused by a lot of propaganda and conflicting reports.
Once a good and sincere truth commission gets started and the public becomes accustomed to finding out the truth the flood gates may open and the truth about many incidents may be revealed. In fact a large portion of the truth may have already been leaked to the public one way or another. This hasn’t happened in a manner that is well organized in a way the public can understand it but if this information is organized in the most efficient way possible and other potential factors that may affect a formal truth commission then it will help set up the commission in the most effective way possible. This is especially important if there is going to be some degree of immunity granted to people that come forward with the truth. In some cases this may involve deciding whether or not a dangerous person guilty of murder will be released to the public again. Proper planning will also help decide what if any reparations should be made and in what forms this should be done. Past Truth Commissions may not have been quite as successful as they have been made out to be; therefore it would be a good idea to review them and find any flaws so they don’t happen again. If they were as successful as they have been made out to be this review will only confirm that; however there is at least one example where the most famous one has turned out to be flawed. The South African Truth Commission let members of the former South African government free without any job training for non violent lines of work and many of them wound up working for mercenary organizations like Executive Outcomes.
A good truth commission should carefully consider priorities before formalizing the conditions. In most cases a truth commission gives a higher priority to revealing the truth and reforming democracy than it does to punishing people for their wrong doing. Some exceptions may be necessary. Most people wouldn’t want to risk putting a dangerous mass murderer back on the streets like Gary Ridgeway or Joseph Kony. In some case a truth commission may reveal more mass murders which people may not want to release. In some cases it may turn out that these mass murderers were once people that were put above reproach in the past. This may be due to the fact that the Mass Media isn’t nearly as unbiased as it pretends to be. Other priorities may involve deciding what subject should be explored first. The highest profile incidents include the war in Iraq and the war on terror but there may be many other subjects that are also just as important. In order to find this out it could be helpful to start by making a list of different subjects and goals and deciding the priorities after considering all of them. Generally speaking some of the top priorities should include setting up a good education system so that the public would have the information they need to make decisions; protecting the environment and preventing the downward spiral that could destroy the ecosystem currently being pursued by the corporations; stopping wars of all kind around the world by supporting peaceful alternatives; and a better effort to reform health care. All these goals should start by looking at the basics in any given subject and working up from there. Allowing the government to ignore the basics as they pursue a pseudo-reform of any subject including the health care program they passed last year shouldn’t be considered acceptable. A truth commission shouldn’t be limited to violent situations as it has in the past and it should include improved education. It would be foolish to allow the Mass Media to set the priorities by focusing on one issue obsessively and ignoring subjects they don’t want to address. If the Mass Media was willing to do a good job they would have done much better already. People should always remember that one of the most important objections of any truth commission regardless of what you call it is to avoid a revolution that “eats its own children”.
Since the government and the Mass Media are currently unwilling to address the manner in an honest manner it might be better to start with an informal truth an education commission. In fact this is already happening. There may not be people referring to it in that manner but there are people trying to do their part to reveal parts of the truth to the best of their ability. This includes many authors and low profile web sites that the government and the mass media aren’t paying much if any attention to right now. These efforts could be better organized simply by making a list of all these organizations and books. For example some good organizations that are producing books about reforming the government are The American Empire Project and Free Press (founded by Robert McChesney). They have provided some good books that organize many of the information released in the past about government activities that have been undemocratic and how the Mass Media has been corrupted by commercial interests. There are many other academics that have addressed different subjects that are also important that are not included in the American Empire Project or Free Press like some of the authors who have research into the damage done by child abuse. The long term damage done by child abuse is mostly underestimated by most people.
Organizing a lot of information from a lot of different sources will be helpful but once this begins it will quickly become apparent that many of these sources often contradict each other and in some cases even themselves. The most credible ones will usually have the least amount of contradictions and mistakes. But in order to find out which organizations and individuals are credible it will be necessary to confirm their work even for the good ones. The most credible ones shouldn’t see any problem with confirming their work since if they did as good a job as they claim it will stand up to scrutiny and this will only confirm their credibility. When it comes to confirming the credibility of any one source the first thing to do may be to look at the quality of their organization skills. This won’t guarantee that they are credible or not but if they did a good job organizing their information it will be much easier to either confirm or refute the information. Surprisingly some sources have provided reasonably good organizational skills and when checking them it becomes clear that they are misrepresenting their sources. In most cases that I have seen where this has happened there have often been other red flags indicating problems without even checking the sources though. Other sources have done much better which clearly appear more credible but if they have a few bad sources in there it will be necessary to find them. In some cases this may involve sorting through tough subjects where a misinformation may have been spread to confuse the issue. If someone does a good job citing his sources and organizing his information then anyone who believes his conclusions are false should review the sources and the work. Any effort to discredit someone with good organizational skills that doesn’t also discredit the sources or the way they were presented should be considered suspect.
It has often been said that the burden of proof should belong with the claimant. This seems reasonable in most cases but there may be some cases where the claimant doesn’t have the organizational skills necessary to meet this criterion. If this is the case then the burden of proof should belong with those who have the research abilities and sincerely want to find out the truth whether they like it or not. In some cases if the claimant doesn’t do a good job presenting his work due to lack of skills and there is something to his claim perhaps he could benefit from the help of a sincere researcher with better academic skills. There may be some cases where there is an effort to confuse the issue to cover something up or to obtain preferential treatment for a certain group. I have never heard anyone says “The burden of proof belongs to those that disagree with me and they have no credibility.” However there have been many people or organizations that have given this impression with their actions. Sorting through conflicting stories won’t be quick or easy. The public shouldn’t be given the impression that a truth commission will magically bring out the truth; instead they should be encouraged to learn how to sort through at least some of the details so that they can confirm for themselves what is true.
Another advantage of starting out with an informal truth commission is that the conditions of a good official truth commission should have the approval of the public based on a reasonable accurate perception of the truth. Under the current circumstances a large percentage of the public has been influenced heavily by misleading propaganda from many different sources. In order for these people to agree on a rational and fair truth commission they may have to learn how to sort through some of this propaganda on their own and figure out what is true. When Patrick Leahy called for a truth commission he was rejected and even ridiculed. This may have been a blessing in disguise. The public should have access to the truth but if the current politicians are in control of the conditions of a truth commission they may set unreasonable terms. Problems could arise when the truth comes out and the public becomes more aware of how the politicians and corporations have been using sophisticated ways to commit fraud and rob the public. When this happens the public may demand some reparations. We would never let a bank robber go free without returning the loot if he still had it; why should we let multi-national corporations go free without returning the loot they have stolen?
Additional posts in this series include the following:The Fundamentals of Psychology
Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment Partial repost of original Truth and Education post, that includes a few extra comments
Coruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association
Political Psychologists are suppressing democracy
For links to the American Empire Project and Free Press see the following:
To read complete original article for Truth and Education Commission see: