Lies are an effective tool for political activists. Expect more.

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by Fabius Maximus

Summary: Previous posts described why extreme measures by Democrats are justified to keep Kavanaugh off the Court and that women sometimes make false accusations of sexual assaults (even rape). This post explains why lies are a right and useful tool for political activists to use. Expect to see more in the future.

“And there shall in no wise enter into it [Heaven] any thing that …maketh a lie.”
— Revelations 21:27 (King James Version).

Would these women lie to save America?

A history of lies

“Either the court must not be entered, or the truth must be spoken; a man who either says nothing or speaks falsely, becomes sinful. …A witness who speaks the truth in his evidence, gains {after death} the most excellent regions {of bliss} and here {on Earth} unsurpassable fame .”
— The Laws of Manu (Hindu, circa 200 BCE).

False testimony has a long history. In Bribes: The Intellectual History of a Moral Idea John Noonan observes that “when culpable miscarriages of justice are reported in the Bible they are due to false witnesses.” In I Kings 21:8-14, Naboth is stoned because of false testimony suborned by Jezebel. In Daniel 13:1-43, two lecherous elders falsely accuse Susanna. In His preliminary hearing, Matthew 26:59-62 describes how Christ was accused by false witnesses.

St. Augustine and other Church elders tell us not to lie. But they believed in a Hell of eternal suffering. Few do today. As any judge, trial attorney, or arbitrator will tell you — we swear on a bible to tell the truth (as we marry “until death do us part”). That’s true – until we find it more convenient to do otherwise.

Immanuel Kant provided a non-supernatural reason not to lie. He urged us to act as we would wish everyone to act. But few of us are philosophers, and such abstract reasoning means nothing to most people.

On the Western frontier, a man’s word was his bond. Thousands of cattle could be sold on a known man’s assurance of the herd’s size. News that he was a liar (or coward) would travel the trails after him, making it difficult for him to do deals more complex than buying a can of beans.

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Fast forward to today

“The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.”
— Joseph A. Schumpeter in History of Economic Analysis (1954).

Things are different in 21st century America. Edward Rothstein asks an important question in the August 2001 NYT: “Must people lie?

“There is a story about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert challenging their company to find a common word that is not a common thing. One guest guessed: ”Is it ‘truth’ or ‘honesty’?””

“Lies, in fact, are so common that even their motives are familiar and legion: self-aggrandizement, greed, self-protection, political ambition, erotic pleasure. Lies have been excused in the name of a higher truth. Lies have even been promulgated (to children or to the dying) out of compassion and tact. Professions are built around lies; espionage agents and locksmiths and auditors assume their prevalence.

“And they are right. Just in recent years, for example, on the public scene, Representative Gary A. Condit, Democrat of California, lied about his affair with Chandra Ann Levy (motive: self-protection). Edmund Morris, the author of the recent ‘biography’ of President Ronald Reaganlied about his participation in Reagan’s life (motive: seeking a supposed higher literary truth). The Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu lied about her life in Guatemala (motive: serving a supposedly higher political truth). The historian Joseph J. Ellis lied about his heroic service in Vietnam (motive: self-aggrandizement). And then, of course, there was President Bill Clinton {convicted of perjury, impeached but not defrocked}.”

This is natural and logical. We have vague and ungrounded feelings about what is right behavior. We know what we want, and the old rules no longer fence us in.

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We can form mobs to chase evil Senators out of restaurants (e.g, Mitch McConnellTed Cruz). There were only 173 arrests by Federal authorities for “perjury, contempt, and intimidation” in 2014 from the 86 thousand Federal criminal cases and countless Federal civil cases (of those tried for those crimes, 82% were convicted). So neither the gods nor the sheriff enforce their Laws. If we lie in the public interest, we can do so free of fear, of guilt, with a glow of self-righteousness – and look forward to possible rewards of fame and money (e.g., speaking fees, book deals).

Consider the extreme claims being made about Kavanaugh. My favorite is Paul Krugman’s hysterical: “Kavanaugh Will Kill the Constitution.“ Would you lie to save the Constitution? Would doing so be an appropriate – even heroic – act?

That does not mean that the claims made about Kavanaugh’s crimes are false. They do mean that people are wrong who say that we should uncritically believe the accusers. Uncritical acceptance of such claims will normalize use of this powerful tool. This will not end well for us.

Shaw saw this coming

“You said you’d told only two lies in your whole life. Dear young lady: isn’t that rather a short allowance? I’m quite a straightforward man myself; but it wouldn’t last me a whole morning. …When you get into that noble attitude and speak in that thrilling voice, I admire you; but I find it impossible to believe a single word you say.”

— From George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man (1894).

Posts about the Kavanaugh hearing

  1. The Kavanaugh hearings’ warning: the Court is so powerful that extreme measures are appropriate to take control of it.
  2. Hidden knowledge: false rape accusations  by women are common.
  3. Lies are a useful and appropriate tool to use for political conflicts.

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