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

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?

Protests at the Senate Kavanaugh Hearings
Protesting Kavanaugh at the office of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). AFP.

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.

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 Reagan, lied 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.

We can form mobs to chase evil Senators out of restaurants (e.g, Mitch McConnell, Ted 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).

No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims.” “Incredulity hurts victims more than it hurts wrongly-accused perps.”
— By Zerlina Maxwell at the WaPo, about the bogus Rolling Stone article about rapes at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. (How can someone wrongly accused be a “perpetrator”?)

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.
  4. The Kavanaugh hearings: lawfare used against us.
  5. The heart of the Kavanaugh hearing is our false confidence in our ability to tell lies from truth.

For More Information

See Richard H. Underwood’s fascinating paper “False Witness: A Lawyer’s History of the Law of Perjury.

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Supreme Court, about truth, about Reforming America: Steps to New Politics, and especially these…

  1. American politics is a fun parade of lies, for which we pay dearly.
  2. Important advice: Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America. About “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”.

11 thoughts on “Lies are an effective tool for political activists. Expect more.

  1. Also relevant:

    Deuteronomy 19:16-21
    ”If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days.

    The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely,then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother.

    So you shall purge the evil from your midst.And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you.

    Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

    PragerU did a video on it:

    1. Info,

      The Bible is filled with that stuff. For more Americans, it is as relevant as the Code of Hammurabi. For many Americans, the Bible is a code of a primative people – filled with evil.

    2. I agree. And it also shows how seriously people at the time took the crime of false accusation. That the penalty for crime is the same crime that the innocent is being falsely accused of.

      Such was the hatred of malicious lies that pervert the course of justice.

    3. info,

      For a perspective on this, see the Federal Dept of Justice publications about crime. Lots about rape, campus rape, crimes against the disabled, hate crimes. Some about trendy crimes, like identify theft.

      For another perspective, see “Federal Justice Statistics, 2014 – Statistical Tables“. Look for “Perjury, contempt, and intimidation.”

      • Arrests: 173
      • Trial results: 83% convicted (271 of 331).
      • Total number of Federal trials completed: 87 thousand.

      Considering the number of criminal and civil cases in Federal courts, perjury looks like a safe crime.

    4. ”Considering the number of criminal and civil cases in Federal courts, perjury looks like a safe crime.”

      Indeed. If Perjury is not such a safe crime a large decline in those cases will result.

  2. I was reviewing a few of Thomas Sowell’s favorite quotes this morning just before reading your enlightening post. I saved these two in my quotes folder-

    The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.
    —Joseph A. Schumpeter.

    Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.
    — Will and Ariel Durant.

    http://www.tsowell.com/quotes.html

    1. kakatoa,

      Thank you for the quote from Schumpeter! I’ve added it to the post.

      The Durant quote is essential to remember. We would do fewer radical experiments with our society if we understood the fragility of civilization.

  3. Investigative resources are in short supply. When these resources are squandered on false and frivolous accusations, they cannot be used to investigate genuine crimes. The public is unable to see the hidden side of the story (the people who are hurt by wasting scarce resources on lies).

    The same thing happens in all aspects of legislation, regulation, government budgeting, etc. The public only sees what the pols and the journos want them to see. What is not seen is the pain caused by wasting scarce resources for theatrical political purposes.

    As you say, the court is too powerful. But not just the court, the entire government is too massive and far more meddling in everyday life than is necessary or desirable. Iraq, Afghanistan, or main street USA, too much meddling. But billions are siphoned off as graft regularly, and for that almost anything is worth doing for most people.

  4. The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.

    —Paul Johnson2

    1. Asta,

      Thanks for posting that great quote! I’ve tried to find the source (in Johnson’ vast pool of writings), but never found it.

      A few of his many other great quotes, somewhat relevant here.

      “A Stalin functionary admitted, “Innocent people were arrested: naturally – otherwise no one would be frightened. If people, he said, were arrested only for specific misdemeanours, all the others would feel safe and so become ripe for treason.”
      Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s (1983).

      “Men are excessively ruthless and cruel not as a rule out of malice but from outraged righteousness. How much more is this true of legally constituted states, invested with all this seeming moral authority of parliaments and congresses and courts of justice! The destructive capacity of an individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and the destructive capacity necessarily expands too. Collective righteousness is far more ungovernable than any individual pursuit of revenge. That was a point well understood by Woodrow Wilson, who warned: ‘Once lead this people into war and they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.'”
      Modern Times (1983).

      “This book is dedicated to the people of America – strong, outspoken, intense in their convictions, sometimes wrong-headed but always generous and brave, with a passion for justice no nation has ever matched.”
      A History of the American People (1997). If only that were still truye.

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