Sometimes I allow myself the indulgence of thinking I know a lot. Then I realise that in the totality of things, I know little. One thing I am certain of however, is that there are known facts in the world because science proves them to be so. That is the truth of it.
I also know that humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement but it is truth that enables human progress. Can you imagine a world without truth? I cannot.
That is why I question everything. What I see, what I feel, what I hear and what I am being told until I understand the truth of it.
But the recent past election showed the power of using lying as a political tool. How destructive it can be. How damaging to a fragile multicultural pluralist society. Indeed, how easy it is to adopt the art of lying as a habit.
Central to the art of lying is that it has become so commonplace, so easy to justify.
Society, or sections of it, has so lowered the bar for the need for, truth or fact, that they require little of it.
Now, I would be less than honest if I didn’t illustrate some dishonest examples within the Coalition. The avalanche of lies started with John Howard and the now disgraced former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Climate change, according to Abbott was crap and a socialist plot. He denigrated renewable energy. His Chief of Staff Peta Credlin later confessed that it was all just a political ploy.
Conservatives were found out telling lies about the cause of climate change but it made little difference. Even the cause of the South Australian blackouts became a target for lying. They categorically stated that it was caused by the introduction of renewable energy, where as it was as simple as towers collapsing during a major storm.
Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to lie about the value of his donation to the Liberal Party. Who cared?
When did all this lying start? Well I could go back to Reagan and his decision to allow the fundamentalist churches into politics and perhaps bring it up to date with the ascension of Trump.
We have inherited it from US politics that “The press are the enemy of the people.”
Lying in Australian politics has reached an unprecedented level. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet took lying to such depths in this election that it is not disingenuous to suggest that government under Morrision no longer has a moral compass or understanding of truth.
Undoubtedly the rise of the right, imported from the United States, has been the major and most worrisome aspect in the decline of the Liberal and National Parties where once small ‘l’ Liberals had residence, but have now been purged.
Neo-liberalism/Conservatism – aided by an inheritance of lying as a political weapon from the US – infiltrated the Coalition and gave birth to extremism.
Lying has and will probably always exist but it reached its zenith during the 2012 Presidential Debates. I watched all of the debates and in the first I agreed that Obama underperformed and was underprepared.
But in the background of that first debate I had the sneaking suspicion that he was rocked by all the lies Romney was telling. He recovered in the other debates and won them easily.
In that campaign Romney told an astonishing 2000 provable lies and lying has now become part and parcel of American politics.
Whilst I would credit John Howard with modern political lying, people of my vintage could easily take it back to Robert Menzies’ “Reds under your beds.”
This scare campaign was used endlessly during his tenure of office with much success even though there was no grounding in fact but it was enough to keep him in office.
The trams and buses I frequented as a young boy had posters from one end to the other depicting the communist hordes invading our country. Our newspapers were a flood of the worst of communism. Our picture theatres carried western propaganda on there silver screens.
Using vigorous anti-communist slurs and scare campaigns the prime targets for Menzies unashamed propaganda were the powerful trade unions and Labor itself.
It went on for decade after decade.
In the modern era Tony Abbott blatantly and dishonestly sought to convince the population that we were under the threat of terrorism and through both legislation and mouth tried to corner us into believing it was the truth.
Daily he made pre planned visits to compliant businesses to spread his lies about the carbon tax.
Barnaby Joyce then in the Zenith of his oral exaggeration suggested that a Sunday roast was going to cost $100.
Pitifully, without fact evidence or reason he relentlessly attacked, the “carbon tax”.
After all it was going to wreck the Australian economy. We now know that it was all part of his plan to become Prime Minister.
When talking about terrorism he always tried to personalise it. His gutter tactics were never further than a heartbeat away.
“ISIS is coming to get us. And you personally,” he would proclaim.
Tony liked to frighten friend and foe alike. His life records his aggro. Frightening the shit out of people was bread and butter to him. He held the country on permanent alert and revelled in it.
He believed in lying and fear as legitimate political weapons and wielded it unapologetically.
Amidst all this fear he managed to create an untrue budget crisis. One where all hell was going to break loose and destroy the country, as we knew it.
Everything is Labor’s fault became the catchcry for all that ever went wrong.
When he attained the Prime Ministership there was no budget and Joe Hockey soon after was telling the country how he had saved us from disaster. It was nothing but shrill politics from Abbott’s demented mind. The 2014 budget proved it beyond doubt.
Now let us outspread our thoughts to earlier times. To a time when Philip Ruddock as Immigration Minister decided that those seeking asylum weren’t actually doing so because he classed them as “illegals”.
Never in their entire term in office have they had the courage, or the dignity to call these people seekers of asylum
Indeed, never at any time in their scare mongering did they have the dignity to treat these folk as human beings because they wanted to use them as examples.
They we so bad, so inhuman, so violent that they would deliberately throw their own children overboard if it meant saving their own lives.
They made up their own truth and left nothing for one’s imagination when describing these people.
And brutal has been the way in which they have managed asylum seekers. From Ruddock to Morrison and now Dutton they have lied, vilified and demonised asylum seekers. Morrison has even encouraged his party to be more destructive with their damnation. “Praise the Lord.” He denied the claim but members of his own party recall it.
If they murdered truth along the way, who cared?
I have every right to call them the masters of scare. The longevity of the one against asylum continues today even though many have become fine citizens.
We cannot erase from our history the fact that John Howard, together with Bush and Blair used barefaced lies and tricked the world into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
And the whole world knows the consequences of that scare campaign.
In Australia we are frequently reminded by the right about terrorists and of course Muslims. They hate them.
Anything warrants a scare.
In more recent times Liberal “anti everything backbenchers” conducted a scare campaign against the “Safe Schools” legislation.
We have been told that Labor’s negative gearing proposal would wreck the property market and during the election campaign told that a Labor/Green alliance would be one of chaos. Yes, it’s true.
In 2019 we have had Tim Wilson’s scare about franking credits. Negative gearing, death taxes, and many more.
At the very core of conservative capitalistic individualism screams the rights of the individual. Yes, at a time when what the world needs most are collective approaches to solve our problems, people they still proclaim individualism an the answer.
Truth has become a rare commodity. I am talking about a truth based on factual evidence and sound arguments.
Politicians now say that only what they say is the truth when Blind Freddy knows it isn’t. Yet many fall into the cesspool of fallacy.
Some people now factor in what they believe to be untrue. Others because of allegiance accept in blind loyalty. Yet others reject it because they know what they are being told is untrue.
However, the acceptance of lying in society generally is of great concern and shows that our standards are badly slipping.
Ministers in the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments also seemed to have carte blanche to tell as many as they like. Peter Dutton and others to this day continue to lie with monotonous regularity.
Truth is the victim. In the first instance the best way to turn the profession of politics on its head in this country and create a new democracy would be to demand that politicians and the media tell the truth.
“Honesty isn’t popular anymore. It doesn’t carry the weight of society’s approval it once did”.
In politics, truth is something that gives policy and ideology a foundation.
Something upon one can rest one’s argument. If the words you use to substantiate your argument are lined with truth then it is more difficult to argue against it.
You can still be wrong but be satisfied that truth was at the core of what you were saying.
Words of course, are the same. They also require truth otherwise they are without meaning. Without truth hey shape no discourse, no truth, and no debate.
Without truth in words the ability to communicate the seemingly endless aspects of human emotion successfully is taken from us.
That’s why I conclude that words are at their best when they are accompanied by a factual truth of what they want to convey.
As I have said in the past, the rise of the right has brought with it a new political language. One that has not yet been classified because it defies any normal understanding of whether truth has a place in it.
Just listen to Trump’s midweek rally speech and you will hear the truth of everything I have said.
But let’s pause for a moment and take a look at the broader picture and ask ourselves what is a lie in general and what constitutes political lying.
Many would say that lying is just a normal part of society’s intercourse. The lies I’m talking about, the blatant ones like when the liar intends to deceive or mislead or the liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true. We call people who use these three principles blatant liars.
Lies, when it comes to the manipulation of the population have proven to be the most advanced tool we have.
You see, one way or another we all live by belief and it can be manipulated.
I’m not talking here about white lies nor any other category except the lie constructed to deliberately hurt others or manipulate society for nefarious reasons.
When politicians collectively or individually over a long period seek lie for their own individual benefit or that of their parties then the lie only serves to denigrate the liar, and show contempt for the voter’s intelligence.
Sir Walter Scott said this about lying:
”Lying is probably one of the most common wrong acts that we carry out (one researcher has said ‘lying is an unavoidable part of human nature’), so it’s worth spending time thinking about it.
Why is lying wrong?
There are many reasons why people think lying is wrong; which ones resonate best with you will depend on the way you think about ethics.
Lying is bad because a generally truthful world is a good thing: lying diminishes trust between human beings: if people generally didn’t tell the truth, life would become very difficult, as nobody could be trusted and nothing you heard or read could be trusted – you would have to find everything out for yourself and an untrusting world is also bad for liars – lying isn’t much use if everyone is doing it.”
When it was revealed that the Coalition knew that a report would say that renewables were not the cause of the SA blackouts the conservatives had to tell lies on top of lies to justify the first one.
My thought for the day
Despite a tendency inherited biologically by all to lie. Truth in politics and society in general matters enormously.
It is not a trivial matter in any democracy.
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