Plausible Deniability

There will shortly come a time, next year in five years maybe ten, when many Americans who voted for Donald Trump and the Brits who voted for Brexit will try to deny they ever did so. This phenomenon will be directly linked to a thing political commentators call plausible deniability where people make promises or do or say things that turn out to be false but the speaker or doer believes there is just enough wriggle room to escape blame, deny they ever did it or better still place the blame with someone else if it turns out to be a big fat lie. Donald Trump’s team now seems to spend most of their time using plausible deniability to ensure when most of the ridiculous things he says or tweets prove to be false, some kind of spin can be put on it so that the blame goes away or is at least mitigated.

The many faces of Trump
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The same can be said about Theresa May’s minority government stance on the impending catastrophe of Brexit. Whilst most people in Britain now accept Brexit, particularly a hard Brexit will reap havoc with the economy and affect society in a very negative way there are still some people who cling to the lies in favour of Brexit put forward during the Leave or Stay referendum of last year. This despite almost every champion of the leave campaign now deploying plausible deniability to distance themselves from many of the lies they peddled at the time including such whoppers as: “We send £350 million a week to the EU let’s fund the NHS instead.”, just one of many massive false claims. The problem of course with Brexit, unlike the Trump cartoon time presidency is that it has not yet happened. So its full effects beyond a collapse in the value of the pound and a steady migration of jobs and agencies to Europe have been delayed thus far.

We are left wondering at what point the misled, ignorant or basically downright racist voters, who made both things possible begin to deny it? It can’t be too long, weeks maybe months before many if not a majority of people who put Trump in the White House deny they ever voted for him. Brexit voters will do the same but it will take a little longer, months or years perhaps because the process of implementation has barely begun. But deny it many of them will as it gradually proves to be such an enormous error of judgement? After all it is human nature to want to back a winner – no one wants to back a loser.

Britain's disaster
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Polls taken before Trumps recent meltdown over his implied support for Nazi’s and White Supremacists and the departure of his Alt-Right advisor in chief Steve Bannon show a serious drop in his popularity ratings particularly in the rust belt states that delivered him the presidency in last year’s Russian hacked election. In the UK there has also been a steady decline in people who will publically admit that they actually voted for Brexit. A trend that saw its biggest spike in the weeks after Theresa May’s disastrous election gamble at the official beginning of the EU departure negotiations. It suddenly dawned on people that her Brexit team had barely a clue about where to even begin to the point that the chief UK negotiator David Davis turned up metaphorically naked with barely an idea, which meant he had to concede most of the details, structure and even the timeline to the EU negotiator.

Trump, sorry, I mean Pinocchio
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Plausible deniability is a politicians best friend. It’s something they seek to maintain in most circumstances by giving broad and vague statements that will offer future wriggle room. Although for President Trump plausible deniability has become a way of life and the screen onto which he projects the lie that he is doing great things when he has actually achieved virtually nothing. The ability to pretend he didn’t actually say what he seemed to have said is something the Trump team have weaponized and exploited. It is something he wields against opponents in an effort to constantly muddy the water and rally his shrinking base of supporters against a common enemy. This was seen to great effect only last week in Phoenix, where he all but denied anything he had said on camera just a week earlier.

Trump once famously admitted that he’s a big fan of Vladimir Putin, who is perhaps the grand master of plausible deniability. Brandishing it to deny helping Bashar al-Assad kill hundreds of thousands of innocents in Syria or to interfere in places like Ukraine and Georgia. Also denying Russia’s proven involvement in manipulating national elections in an effort to sabotage liberal democracy in favour of candidates like Trump. Putin is driven by an obsession to move the global balance of power further to the right in the hope that corrupt nationalistic and populist veneer democracies (dictatorships) like his will one day no longer be the exception but become the norm.

Britain's financial outlook
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It isn’t hard to predict that one day the word Trump will become a byword for fiasco or something dangerously out of control and inherently dishonest. In the same way “he’s a Boris” as in Boris Johnson has already started to replace town crier in London as cockney rhyming slang for liar. But the big question is this: at what point will a critical mass be reached? At what point will a majority of the misled, ignorant, open or closet racist voters who made both Trump and Brexit possible begin to plausibly deny it or say they didn’t bother to vote? Yes a majority… Impossible? History is littered with examples of events that went from being inexplicably popular to being hugely unpopular.

Until 1943 in Germany a huge amount of boys were christened Adolf and many girls were given the name Adolfa as either a first or middle name. Nuremberg rallies were so full that the streets around the Nazi propaganda events were always packed with people trying to get a glimpse of Hitler of just hear one of his rants on the speakers. Fast forward to a survey carried out in 1948 just 3 years after the war ended and 93% of German respondents said that they never ever believed Hitler was a good Leader. They could plausibly deny it of course, because there were people around who always hated him. A similar response was seen when most civilians, mainly women told the interviewer that they had no idea about the depravities and extermination camps existing all around them. But of course there are still some limits to deniability.

Binning Nazi ideology
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Staying with World War Two. Neville Chamberlin’s trips to meet Hitler in Munich and his declaration that “we have peace in our time” are now looked back on as the actions of a weak man, the appeasement of a dictator. But at that time – just 20 years after the calamity of the first World War, memories were still so fresh that hardly anyone wanted war with Germany. Only a few individuals notably Winston Churchill were prepared to openly call it appeasement at the time because most people were behind Chamberlin and wanted peace at almost any cost.

The Vietnam war was another example. In the mid 60’s a majority of Americans had bought into the theory of the domino affect of communism – if it was not stopped it would soon knock on the door of the next country in line until it eventually knocked on your door. Barely 10 years later in a 1975 survey hardly anyone openly admitted that they ever supporting Presidents Johnston or Nixon’s decisions to prosecute that pointless war.

I make no apology for using 3 examples associated with war or national emergency situations. What is it but an emergency when a narcissistic American President who colluded with the Russians to win power threatens nuclear war one day, supports Nazi’s and the KKK the next and then threatens to close down the US government if they don’t fund his ridiculous wall with Mexico. In the UK The effects of Brexit may not yet be felt but once the reality of any hard Brexit kicks in the nation may come close to a similarly ruinous almost bankrupt state that it found itself in 1945 after the war that may make the struggling Greeks seem as rich as the Swiss, compared to many of the Brits.

Sunset over winding river
Photo care of By Cowins

So when the sun finally rises on that day when plausible deniability has become the default reaction of most people to distance themselves from the reality that their vote once helped facilitate either Trump or Brexit it will give me no satisfaction to say I Told You So… I would much rather America woke up before it’s too late and junked a ridiculous president who brings shame on the office. And if Brexit could be greatly softened or even cancelled that would make me even happier. If both things happened, who knows It might actually help some of the people who made these self inflicted disasters possible shed some guilt and sleep a little more soundly at night.

All that said – I expect there will need to be a few more observations like this one before any positive changes finally come. So go on raise your own voices or simply re-tweet this as your contribution to getting our normal world back again. And if some of you who do rise to my challenge plausibly deny that you ever read this piece or even claim that my idea for this blog post was actually stolen from you… I really won’t mind at all.

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Beware Life’s Time Thieves

Pursuit of pleasant sensations is in fact the very root of suffering. – Buddha

Our world is becoming increasingly filled with distraction. Information moves faster, brighter, and noisier than ever before. Social media, entertainment, and product marketing have never been so prevalent all begging for our attention and focus. However, in doing so our minds are diverted from more important things, more immediate things until we become mesmerised or obsessed with chasing what tomorrow might bring. Then we wake up one day and realise that half of our life has passed by simply because we ignored the now in favour of looking forward to what might be just over the horizon.

Smile in a sea of frowns
Photo care of nikosrentas.com

We seem obsessed less with what makes us happy now but more with what new things might make us happy in the future. But these sensations are often such ephemeral and meaningless vibrations that when we finally experience them, we don’t react to them with the contentment we expected; rather we just crave for more and more.

Advertisers and big business know this more than anyone. Most companies searching for what we the consumer wants have a longstanding belief that happiness can only ever be delivered through pleasure. With the side effect that with each passing year our tolerance for unpleasant sensations decreases, and our craving for pleasant sensations increases. Therefore it is no surprise that both scientific research and economic activity are geared to that end, each year producing better painkillers, new flavours for ice cream, more comfortable cars and mattresses, and more addictive games for our devices, so that now most of us need not suffer a single boring moment alone in a coffee shop or while waiting at a bus stop.

Science, educators and increasingly concerned parents have noticed the decline in our attention spans at the same time as research has shown that such constant distractions have increased violence and incidence of depression among pleasure chasers and those of us who are rarely off-line. The fact that we seem to know these things aren’t good for us rarely helps as most people will freely admit that they spend too much time checking e-mail, watching television, or playing games on their phones or worse still feeling guilty for giving a 2 year old their device to play games on just to grab a few moments to themselves.

Two generations of children playing
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These are all relatively new time-thieving distractions so we perhaps hear more about them. But there are other more established, subtle distractions that steal our time, which can be just as detrimental if not worse. These are not announced with blinking lights or device beeping sounds. In fact, they have become so commonplace and ever-present, we hardly notice their existence anymore. But once these distractions take up residence in our heads they can wreak havoc simply by keeping us from living our lives to their greatest potential.

Here’s a few time thieving distraction that may have quietly taken up residence in your head or in your heart. How many do you recognise in yourself?

Regrets from your Past.  To live is to experience regret. Nobody escapes this one life unscathed. We regret decisions, our actions, and our bad motivations. But no amount of regret will ever change your past and only those who recognize that and truly admit their imperfections will move beyond them. If you made a mistake admit it to yourself, learn from it and if necessary offer an apology and then move on.

The Empty Promise of Tomorrow. Joshua.G.Clark once said: “We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life.” It isn’t totally foolish to look towards the future and plan accordingly. However, when we endure our todays only for the sake of tomorrow (the weekend, the holiday or your retirement), we risk missing out on the full beauty and potential of the present.

The Pursuit of Perfection. Pursuing excellence and pride in things we do is not a bad thing. But doing your best and doggedly pursuing perfection are not the same thing. When perfection becomes the goal, it also becomes the enemy of progress because it too often distracts us from taking that essential risk of moving forward.

The Accumulation of Possessions. The things we own require our time, our energy, our attention and our money. Every new possession adds increased stress into our lives. Most of us continue to accumulate or actively pursue more and more. But more things are never the answer and far too often they become just one more distraction.

The Desire for Wealth.  Those who crave riches have misplaced their greatest potential. Our lives were designed for contribution so we might provide a positive impact on society for ourselves, our families, and those who live around us. Sometimes, our contribution and hard work provides financial excess. Other times, it does not. But when our contribution to society becomes chiefly motivated through a selfish desire to accumulate more wealth, it becomes self defeating because by investing more and more time chasing riches we always run the risk of losing our ability to live life to the fullest.

Abraham Lincoln Quote

The Allure of Pleasure.  Most of us work hard so what is wrong with a little pleasure? I know I enjoy it. But here’s the problem, pleasure is a terrible teacher. The most significant lessons we learn in life are rarely received during times of pleasure. Instead, they are often born out of pain. I am really not suggesting that we should seek pain in our lives. But what I will say is that a life lived chiefly for the pursuit of pleasure, will usually end up looking for ot it in all the wrong places.

Active Indifference.  Our chaotic world offers many opportunities to make a positive contribution to the lives of others not because we feel we have to but because we really want to. Those who choose to live life as a victim will always miss their opportunity to give. Additionally, those who choose to adopt an indifference to the world around them will always miss out on their greatest potential. But those who recognize need and seek to do something about it through a sense of compassion and a willingness to make a difference will experience a joy and fulfilment that can never be discovered anywhere else.

The Need for Fame or Notoriety.  Today’s media is populated by a legion of A-Z list celebrities many of whom seem to be famous simply because they are… famous. In today’s fast moving world of social media and throwaway TV the popular idea of some people achieving their 15 minutes of fame seems to have been boiled down to little more than 15 seconds for most of them. The life you live is the life you live regardless if anybody notices or not. Those whose shallow lives focus on their need to be recognized are usually the ones who take shortcuts to get there anyway. Instead, find significance in the eyes of those who know you best because, as any lonely and faded celebrity of yesterday will tell you, in the end, that is all that really matters.

Our world is full of distractions and the most dangerous are those we do not even recognize. But you’ll never reach your full potential unless you can spot the ones that have become a negative part of your life story.

Life Quote

Love your life so much you want to write about it and take a thousand pictures. Tell people you love them and get out of your comfort zone by sometimes talking to complete strangers and do other things that may scare you at first. Don’t do it for affect for approval or fame do it all for yourself – because in the end so many of us will die with no one remembering a single thing we did let alone how many facebook or twitter followers we once had. So cut out those life sapping distractions and make your one life the best story that ever was… don’t waste another minute.

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