(PJ Media) — In several previous articles, I addressed what I believe to be the crucial issue of our time, namely, the institutionalization of the lie in culture and politics.
The situation shows no sign of abating and indeed grows more alarming with every passing day. The integrity of the information we receive about domestic and world affairs has been degraded almost beyond recognition. Reality has been denatured. For the Lie has become a systemic and indelible part of public and institutional life. The dilemma we now confront, as D. Stephen Long points out in an important book dealing with the relation between relativism and authoritarianism, is speaking truth in a post-truth world.
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But the problem goes further than relativism; rather, it involves a substitution of absolutes, of an assumed truth for a genuine truth, replacing objective fact and data with a new paradigm of subterfuge, fable, and casuistry under the rubric of “truth.” When lying acquires something like constitutional status, it becomes a phenomenon so deep it can be described, adopting the popular saying, as “turtles all the way down,” now the title of an indispensable new book on vaccine science and myth, which reveals “how ineffectively and dishonestly the COVID pandemic was handled.”
In fact, a climate of fraud and deception is now omnipresent in all walks of life and endeavor, personal and professional. As Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben writes in The Mystery of Evil, power and institutions are delegitimated today “because the powers have lost all awareness of their legitimacy,” which is why “illegality is so diffuse and generalized.” In other words, lying has assumed the authority of law.
The “People of the Lie,” in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s telling phrase, are now everywhere to be found, inhabiting what we might call the “moral infrastructure” of our era. They comprise not only the elite or parasite class in the corridors of both elected and non-elected officialdom, the federal agencies, the administrative bureaucracies, the corporate world, academia, the medical and pseudo-scientific professions, the suborned media, the diverse nonprofits and aspiring Technates like the World Economic Forum, the radical feminist sorority, “Global Warming” propagandists, much of the judiciary that labors to pervert and annul prosecutorial ethics and legal obligations in our courts, but also the vast body of ordinary citizens whose lives and everyday practices have been infected by the virus of the Lie.
Our ubiquitous society of liars can be divided for expository purposes into three categories:
- The credulous and misinformed who guilelessly or foolishly believe that the (political or medical) Lie they accept is not a lie.
- The insecure and apprehensive who feel they must believe the Lie they have assimilated because they cannot tolerate truth — for example, that an eagerly taken cure may have adverse consequences, putting them at risk. Disturbing recognitions need to be resisted.
- Those in positions of authority who do not believe the Lie but know they must act as if it were true for reasons of “party loyalty,” self-preservation, self-promotion, mere profit, or their hold on power. It is a strange paradox. They know they are lying, and yet lying has become endemic to their very being, almost as if they believe what they do not believe, a psychic mobius strip that Dostoevsky in The Idiot famously called the “double thought.”
The first two categories are at least ideally if implausibly remediable. The issue regarding the third category of official liars, I suspect, is that they would experience a debilitating sense of anomie or emptiness should they find themselves living outside the Lie, which is the very air they breathe. The truth shall not set them free but, quite the contrary, render them captive in a psychological bubble of fear, self-alienation, and utter confusion.
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Deprived of the Lie in which they work and prosper, they would be wholly lost. Lying is an absolute necessity for such people. What begins as expedience or opportunism morphs into essence, into the very structure of the self. It is their “truth,” their comfort zone, and the root of their identity. That is why they are immune to argument and reason. That is why they will go to any length, however counterintuitive or frankly ridiculous, to maintain their seat within the symposium of the Lie. Thus, to cite just a few instances of such proprioceptive mendacity:
- Russia blew up its own pipeline.
- Vaccine hesitancy is the cause of the profusion of adverse events and post-vaccine deaths; that is, anxiety caused by anti-vaxxers is the source of harm and not the shots themselves.
- The 2020 presidential election was problem-free and secure.
- COVID-19 relapses would have been far worse minus double jabs and several boosters — the Clinton Protocol. (The first and second categories of liars may believe, or struggle to believe, this canard. The third category does not, knowing it to be false but necessary to maintain the fiction they propagate.)
- The January 6 “riot” at the Capitol was an “insurrection.”
- There are more than two genders.
- Twitter, pre-Musk, was a bastion of free speech. Now that it is open, it is a source of disinformation.
And so it goes. Such people have no option but to take refuge in spreading delusion, in public clamor, and in what amounts to pure burlesque. “Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is,” writes the Christian conservative Rod Dreher in Live Not By Lies; they are compelled “to seek to rewrite history and reinvent language.”
The remit of the new totalitarians, Dreher continues, precisely as George Orwell, Hannah Arendt and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn warned, is “nothing less than defining and controlling reality.” Should they be exposed, they would cease to exist both as public figures and intact personalities. Whether or not they are “evil,” as M. Scott Peck asserts, “sacrificing others to preserve their self-image,” there is no doubt that they are despicable as well as completely risible in the absurdities they traffic for all the power they wield and the devastations they justify.
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The depressing fact is that they cannot be reached despite rational discourse and countervailing evidence, no matter how dispositive. They will never make the Nordic Walk toward truth, being too deeply invested in pursuing the Lie for their own purposes. “It has been crushing to realize,” writes Jeffrey Tucker in an essay titled “A Culture of Lies and the Healing Power of Truth,” “the full extent of the corruption of our society’s commanding heights.”
The more we realize this, the less exasperated energy we will waste in trying to reason with the nomenklatura. For the Lie has dug so far down it can almost never be disinterred. The third category is a lost cause. The only hope resides in the possible accessibility of the first two categories, whose residents suffer from a kind of psychic petrifaction and a profound reluctance to break the stone. Yet, from time to time, cracks do appear “where the light gets in.” That is why, as Frederick Douglass strongly implied, we continue to engage. But the denizens of the third category, the occupants of the “commanding heights,” are precisely those who put the stone in place and erect bulwarks against the truth.
This is the condition in which we now find ourselves as we maneuver in a “culture of lies,” and what the upshot will be remains problematic.
This article was originally published by PJ Media and is reprinted with permission from the author.