What Do We Do About the Lies?
other than wait
Today, Martin Luther King Day, I am reading articles about lies. Victor Davis Hanson is writing about how the Dems and the intelligence community and the media lied about Russia, Russia, Hunter Biden’s laptop, election shenanigans. Well, you know the story.
And Jeffrey A. Tucker is writing about “To Be Ruled by Liars.” He is talking about the “limited hangout” now in progress about the mistakes and lies of the War on COVID.
The last several years have revealed something we never wanted to believe. Major swaths of the leaders of our public culture—in government, media, and industry—have been lying to us. They had their reasons and certainly believed that their lies were necessary and thus noble.
Yes, I know the old line that you can tell a politician is lying because his lips are moving.
Also, of course, I like to say that politicians lie because We the People insist upon it.
But I think the best way to understand the lies of politicians and government officials is that you cannot admit anything is wrong when you are fighting a war. That’s because you don’t want the soldiers to lose heart. And you don’t want the people back home to withhold their support.
And since, per Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt politics is all about the enemy, the fight against the enemy, you can see the problem.
Everything a politician does is framed as a fight against the enemy. Against inflation, against recession, against poverty, against climate change, against systemic racism, against COVID.
So once the rulers have decided on a war, and upon a strategy, and sent the troops off to war, they lie. They lie about the reasons for starting the war; they lie about the progress of the war; they lie about the setbacks and defeats; they lie about their mistakes; they lie about the glorious victory.
Why do they lie? Because if they admit all the whys and wherefores and mistakes and defeats they would have to resign. A political leader is a demi-god; he cannot have feet of clay. Equally, his opponent is a demi-Satan; he cannot be right, on anything.
You can see how this framework works in all politics, and particularly US presidential politics. For Democrats, Obama was a demi-god; Trump a veritable Satan. For Democrats, Trump’s stash of secret documents is an outrage; Biden’s various stashes of secret documents are just a misstep. Etcetera.
This, to me, is the argument for limited government and limited powers for politicians. There really are very few issues on which it is appropriate to consider your opponent as an enemy. And yet that is what politics is always tending to. And this intensifies when things go wrong. Because of Mircea Eliade as I quote in my “Politics and Enemies”:
[S]uffering proceeds from the magical action of an enemy, from the breaking a taboo, from entering a baneful zone, from the anger of a god -- and when all other hypotheses have proven insufficient -- from the will or the wroth of the Supreme Being. (p.97) The primitive... cannot conceive of an unprovoked suffering; it arises from a personal fault... or from his neighbor's malevolence... but there is always a fault at the bottom of it[.]
I ‘d say that this whole thing of “unprovoked suffering” and the “neighbor’s malevolence” is extremely interesting. Why are we humans programmed that way?
And I say that it is all a good reason for limited politics and limited government. Because politics and government encourage humans to invent enemies out of whole cloth.
So when the politicians start lying, big time, as Hanson and Tucker are suggesting, the tell is that things are going wrong, but the politicians can’t admit it.
And do you see how the Eliade notion that humans “cannot conceive of unprovoked suffering” and are inclined to blame the “neighbor’s malevolence” applies to our Democratic friends?
In my view, things have been going seriously wrong with the progressive project in recent decades. OK, actually, I believe that things have been going wrong from the start. But your average progressive has only really cottoned on to the problem. Most probably the reason stems from the rise of populist nationalism, the return of the Republican Party to parity in national legislative elections.
How could this have happened? It couldn’t be that the progressive belief system and the Democrats’ agenda was wrong from the start, and that, generally, government programs Make Things Worse. No. It must be the malevolence and the “hate” of the racist-sexist-homophobes. And so it goes.
Until that day in the month of Thermidor.