The Political Use of Lies
03 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
First, off, as conservatives well know, the truth can be made to drown or get lost in a sea of lies or drowned out in the same lie told loudly and repeatedly enough. This is particularly true where the public lacks the faculties to discern the truth and cannot judge. This approach has been used by conservatives to destroy expertise of every kind and raise tom foolery up as wisdom and make the likes of a lying Trump into a wizard of sorts.
The right's bogus think tanks have long used this approach to acquire voice and status, many funded and egged on by Koch & Friends. These lawlessly fly under the banner of 501(c)(3) and (4) corporations, as politically neutral, apolitical organizations when in truth many have political action arms. They are frauds on the hoof in business to bury the truth in an ocean of seemingly plausible lies. They have largely been successful, with one glaring exception -- trying to sell economic "trickle down" theory to the public, but that is only because the reality of "trickle up" is too obvious to all.
A second political use of the lie is to spin true ambiguity or honest contest regard the truth into a false, absolute fixity and certainty to gain political advantage. This is done in two ways. The first is to take minor and honest contest regarding the truth (e.g., do government expenditures create new bank reserves) and spin an absolutely certain lie on the subject (e.g., no, never) and proceed with that for political ends (e.g., Therefore MMT is nonsense and not to be believed). The second way is to take minor and honest contest or ambiguity regarding the truth and use it politically to discredit all expertise, so as to muddy the water and ultimately to promote the liar's lie of choice on the topic as the truth.
The third use of the lie in politics is to promise what is highly wanted but is circumstantially and realistically undeliverable to inspire public hope and expectations and show the promising politician's heart and predispositions are in the right places. Obama did this with his platform of Hope and Change and Trump has done the same on multiple fronts from "draining the swamp that is Washington, D.C.," to "building a wall to keep out illegals," and to "making American great again." All are get-elected lies and are vacuous.
Hannah Arendt, in 1967, presciently explained the basis for this type of lie when she wrote “Since the liar is free to fashion his ‘facts’ to fit the profit and pleasure, or even the mere expectations, of his audience, the chances are that he will be more persuasive than the truth teller,” explaining why any of that is not really doable and why.
The lie has become quintessentially the politician's key tool as Trump has made clear. It is why politicians have such a low reputation for honesty, ranking well below used car salesmen. It is why scientists are in an up roar over Trump. It is why many others are too. Intelligent sensibilities are badly offended.
Politicians are pushing an ignorant and undiscerning public into what is now being called the new "post truth" era, where like Nietzsche's conception that "God is Dead," this time it is the "Truth is Dead" instead. Truth becomes whatever one loudly, authoritatively and handsomely declares it to be. It works well with a public that has "collective mush for brains" but not otherwise.