“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
― Theodore Dalrymple
I’ve often wondered if it were possible to devise a metric for the measure of madness in a society’s ruling class. We know that the people ruling Canada, for example, are much further from reality than the people running Poland right now. You can tell that by the things they say. Justin Trudeau says things that suggest he is a schizophrenic, while the ruler of Poland says sensible things about the troubles facing Europe. The former ruler of North Korea often made announcements so outlandishly crazy, it’s hard to believe they were intentional.
If you could create a scale measuring the distance between the things the rulers say in public and reality, you could then compare one regime to another on the crazy scale. North Korea would probably be the gold standard of crazy so the “nork” could be the measure of ruling class lunacy. Turkmenistan would be seven “norks”, while France would be three “norks.” It’s an impossible thing and maybe a bit batty, but if I ever have the time, maybe I’ll try to work it out just for fun.
There’s little doubt, however, that the Dalrymple quote relies on the observation that authoritarian regimes rely heavily on spouting nonsense at their citizens and having the citizenry repeat it. Every society has “pretty lies” that help grease the wheels, but authoritarian societies almost always jump into that other category, where clearly false things are declared official truths. It’s not a matter of degree. It is a category difference.
I was thinking about this yesterday listening to the coverage of the Orlando shooting. The facts are familiar at this point. A second generation Muslim goes bonkers and kills people in the name of Jihad. In this case, the killer had a deep hatred of homosexuals and blacks so he shot up what is usually a gay club, but on this night it was Latin night so it just looked like a gay club. This is now becoming a familiar pattern and we all know the general reason for it. The contours of Islam are now familiar to everyone.
That’s the reality of this event. Barak Obama, on the other hand, blames it on Magic Shape Theory™. He claim this man was exposed to metal and plastic formed into mystical shapes that imbued them with the power to take over the mind of this one guy, turning him into a murderer. Therefore he is calling on his chief sorcerer to cast a level three wishing spell to prevent this particular shape from forming again. That way, no one will ever be possessed by this shape and turned into a killer.
OK, he did not mention a sorcerer, but calls for gun control are about as honest and fact based as calling for the Court Wizard of the kingdom to cast a healing spell. It’s utter nonsense. Obama knows it is nonsense and everyone in the media repeating it knows it is nonsense. The proof of that is they refuse to even talk about the obvious issue in this case. When that’s mentioned, Obama declares it immoral to even discuss it and the press is directed to spend their time talking about how Trump is firing up Christian bigots.
Lying used to be something that damaged reputations, even with politicians, but we have reached a point where lying in public is so common, it is considered part of the normal. Everyone knows Hillary Clinton is lying about the pay-for-play scam she was running from the State Department. We have video proof of her lying repeatedly, but no one in the press bothers to press her on it. After all, lying is just the new normal and only weirdos care about the truth when it comes to politics or anything else for that matter.
That’s part of what the ruling class finds so horrifying about Trump. He exaggerates for effect, but he does not say things that anyone can see as outright lies. You may disagree with his opinion on the Orlando shooter, but he’s not out there blaming it on Christian bakers or Magic Shape Theory™. It’s why they call him a bully. He’s not playing by the rules. We have reached the point that Orwell called the time of universal deceit. Trump is a radical merely for stating the obvious in public.
As a geezer, I’m old enough to remember a time when things were different. In my youth, homosexuals were still kept on lavender farms in the South and Muslims were kept over in their territories, so things like Orlando were impossible. I also remember when Trump’s plain speaking was not uncommon. Politicians exaggerated, for sure, but they were not competing with one another for who could tell the most outlandish whoppers in public. A folksy candor was a popular way for politicians to distinguish themselves from the crowd.
I’m going long here, but maybe this is a byproduct of mass media. The only way to break through the noise is to be outrageous and what is more outrageous than telling outlandish lies that everyone knows are lies? The foundation of Western civilization is social trust. The ultimate affront, the ultimate outrage is to be thoroughly and complete untrustworthy. To point out the obvious, to acknowledge the real means getting lost in the noise. Instead, the only way our rulers can get our attention is by embracing a culture lies.