I’ve not deliberately entered controversial corner to make trouble. Lying needs a fair hearing. At a time when post-truth is declared word of the year and Facebook faces controversy over fake news we must ask the question; have the rules of the game changed or were they always rotten? Telling the truth is admiral for sure, but is it effective?
Business as usual
Lying politicians are practically a Jungian archetype – a hardwired trope endowed to us by evolution that we might have an inbuilt defense against these eternal tricksters. Consider this blog article’s title pic, and now consider the following:
- I am not a crook
- I did not have sexual relations with that woman
- Iraq totes has WMDs
- Leaving the EU will save the NHS £350 million a week
These political lies have become part of popular culture. At first I thought, maybe my friends are young and haven’t been through enough election cycles to be jaded to it all. Perhaps the weight of the world has yet to break their spirits, and I, full of bile before my time, am hardened against these rogues. But this theme of lies, of post truth politics kept shouting at me – the game has changed.
SOMEBODY CALL THE FACT CHECKERS! AGHHHHHHHHHHHH yelled Clinton incredulous (imagine this sentence in the style of a Tim Key poem). £350 million for the NHS! AGHHHHHHHHHHH shouted remain incredulous. But were they incredulous about the lies, or that people seemingly didn’t care? Here is a BBC article from over a month before the referendum thoroughly debunking the £350 million myth. The free press (surely the best defense against lies) was fact checking its considerable feet off but people had decided that they had had quite enough of experts. Despite the vast majority of the mainstream press being on the side of Clinton, or Remain for that matter (let us not forget that Clinton far out spent Trump and remain had the full apparatus of the state at it’s disposal) all this dosh and coverage seemingly couldn’t penetrate the echo chamber of social media and a new phenomenon – that of fake news.
If you can’t fight an argument with logic what is there left? Perhaps there is one thing (uttered sotto voce). It’s in a book in the shady part of the library. Why not fight fire with fire? Why aren’t we lying more?
In Power Monkeys a satire of the Brexit campaign trail Jack Dee plays a Remain HQ MP and suggests that ‘the Brexit campaign are better at lying, why aren’t we lying more?’
When you lie, you take a risk. If you’re found out, you may pay the price at the next election. In game theory we might call this tit-for-tat. Nixon and Clinton (Bill) did fall out of favour and were punished (if not legally then reputationally). Public opinion provided a balance. As is in vogue I’m lumping Brexit and Trump together (and I’ve avoided combining the words as is also in vogue) when I ask why is this strategy (more lies) off limits to one side? Although Power Monkeys is just satire, it’s worth remembering that comedy holds a mirror to us all (Cicero I think). Did they take the calculated risk that it would not be politically expedient?
I hyperlink to Machiavelli above to remind us that the prize here is not trivial. In the case of Trump it would not be dramatic to suggest he holds the highest office in the history of humanity. He has the power to raise the temperature of our planet, and the power to flatten it. Pretty neat prize huh. That someone might resort to underhand tactics should be expected. This is not a tickling contest.
What is truth
In one of my first posts I proved that police officers were getting a pay rise and a pay cut at the same time. My point was that it’s hard to appoint an objective arbiter of the truth as all sides have a vested interest (in the case of police, the employer wants to control pay costs but unions want it to rise). Power politics has a place. This excellent blog reminds us (liberal metro elite etc) to consider the power we exert when we create the world in our image to serve our self-interest.
Now we must ask why would someone seemingly choose not to believe a story? The commentary on Trump turned from labeling his supporters as a basket of deplorables (face palm) to a bit more empathy. This post despite the bad language (you wouldn’t get that in my blog people) was novel in that it articulated an everyday experience of someone in a left behind part of America. The message from the Hillary was just too distant from their lived experience. It is not necessary to resort to fear tactics like blaming the other (or for that matter lying), to connect with an audience – but phrases like basket of deplorables suggest that such a connection is beyond some (Do you reckon Bernie could have done it?).
Oh tempora, Oh mores! (definitely Cicero)
Next week in my blog, google answers the real questions – Like why do polos have holes and why do police wear hats?