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Truth tampering – a sinister political reality

By Ad astra

Australians were justifiably shocked, appalled and embarrassed by the ball tampering our test cricketers attempted last month in South Africa. Somehow, better was expected of them. After all, they were playing the gentlemen’s game – cricket – where any cheating was simply ‘not cricket’.

Why then are we not even more disgusted by the truth tampering our politicians perpetrate day after day? We ought to be! But we seem to accept it as the norm. We allow them to lie to us with scarcely a murmur of protest.

The motive behind their tampering is the same: an insatiable desire to win, win, win at any cost; to utterly defeat the enemy. 2353NM expanded on this theme in his insightful piece: A Winning Culture.

Truth tampering is ubiquitous. It occurs in all walks of life and all occupations. Political officiandos are acutely aware of truth tampering in the political domain, not just in the words and actions of politicians, but also in the words and actions of those associated with the political process: lobbyists, advisors, commentators, journalists, even social media users who tamper with the truth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, What’s App, and all the others. Sometimes they perpetrate untruths out of ignorance, but often they deliberately lie to make a political point. Sifting ‘the truth’ from the mountain of lies is a daily torment for social media users. How can we trust the political process? Simply, we can’t.

While many who tamper with the truth do so inadvertently because their source is unreliable or just plain wrong; some do so knowingly, following the Joseph Goebbels dictum that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Adolf Hitler added a rider that the message must be simple: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

Goebbels amplified his dictum: ”The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Profoundly important words.

Whether politicians are aware of the Goebbels maxim and use it knowingly, or whether they are innately aware of its clout, we may never know. But we do know they use it reflexly and often, and do so without a skerrick of remorse – it is simply part of their armamentarium.

I could fill a dozen pieces cataloguing political lies, so I’ll use just a few illustrative cases. Where do we start!

Let’s begin with the master of truth tampering: the President of the United States of America. He not only tampers with the truth every day, many times a day, he tampers with the lies he has already told. More sinisterly, he tampers with how his lies are transmitted and entrenched into people’s minds. I cannot imagine he is familiar with the work of cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff about how repeating assertions, true or false, alter the neural circuits in the brain until the assertion is entrenched and unshakable. More likely he is aware of the Goebbels dictum and its political power. But even more likely it is simply the rat cunning he has acquired from his past life that drives his truth tampering.

The culture surrounding Trump’s habitual truth tampering was exposed in a recent article in The New Daily titled Axed FBI chief James Comey’s book: Donald Trump is the mob boss in a White House of liars, which quotes from Comey’s recently released memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership:

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,”…

The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty, put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

Let me give you an example of how Trump tampers even with his messaging:

All though his election campaign he repeated the words; ”Crooked Hillary” over and again until his supporters believed it. He not only tampered with the truth, but also with how it was transmitted. He repeated it at rallies, during debates, and through the media. And to twist the knife further, he added “Lock her up”, which his followers chanted lustily. And it worked in his favour. Goebbels used the same strategy against the Jews. We know where that led!

That technique is not confined to President Trump. How many times have you heard Malcolm Turnbull say: “You can’t trust Bill Shorten”. He will say it again and again throughout the upcoming election campaign as part of his ‘Kill Bill’ strategy, and hope it works as well as ‘Crooked Hillary’. How many times have you heard him, and his Daleks Morrison and Corman, recite the anti-Shorten mantra: ‘Bill Shorten will increase taxes, rob retirees of their super (the pensioner share grab), and stifle growth’? Alan Tudge went even further on Q&A last week with this bucket load of rhetoric:

‘As we get closer to the election the people will focus on the alternative…$200 billion dollars of taxes, a tax on your home, a tax on your job, a tax on your small business, a tax on your investment, and more recently…a tax on your retirement savings’.

That must take the gold medal for truth tampering. If you can’t believe that he would use such language, the video is here.

Turnbull likes to add spice to his oratory. In answer to a question in the House, he bellowed: “There never was a union leader who tucked his knees under more billionaires tables than the leader of the Opposition; he lapped it up!” For good measure, he labeled Shorten’s behaviour as that of “a simpering sycophant” and “a parasite”. Yet he still insists that Shorten is beholden to the unions and particularly the CFMEU. So he’s a sycophant of the wealthy and a puppet of the unions at the same time. Figure that out! Only truth tampering could lead him down that twisted path. You can see and hear Turnbull in full flight in this video:

Of course, some might say this is simply an example of the exaggerated rhetoric that we have come to expect from politicians, so accustomed are we to their truth tampering. It’s not as obvious as ball tampering, but it’s just as reprehensible.

Before giving other examples of politicians tampering with the truth, let’s look at the truth tampering by a well-known organization, the Business Council of Australia. Recently, it prepared a draft of a public statement strongly supporting the proposed $65 billion of corporate tax cuts, adding that this would result in the growth of jobs and higher wages. This draft was leaked, so we know its original wording. But in finalizing the statement, the Council had a change of heart; when the definitive statement appeared there was no mention of jobs and wages, no commitment to pass on some of the tax savings to those lower down the food chain. Truth to the Council was unimportant; it tampered with it with impunity.

Indeed, the most flagrant truth tampering has arisen over the proposed corporate tax cuts. From the mouths of advocates comes the assurance that the cuts will enhance competitiveness, encourage investment, increase jobs and improve wages, the latter always with a rider: ‘in the long term’, or ‘eventually’, good old ‘trickle down’ nonsense. Balanced analysts take a more sober view. Read Jessica Irving’s well argued analysis in The Sydney Morning Herald. She quotes Monash University economist, Professor Stephen King:

As for the benefits of reducing the company tax rate: “My response would be that it depends. It depends on a whole range of things. Yes, in theory it can boost the economy, but in practice it becomes an empirical question. I suspect every economist would say in theory it would help, but in practice they really can’t say.

“Ultimately, King is also cautious about Australia joining the global race to cut corporate taxes, likening it to a global trade war, where countries impose tariffs on imported goods to protect domestic workers.

“Would a unilateral tax cut improve the Australian economy? I think that’s ambiguous. Would a global tax race of beggar thy neighbour by cutting company tax be good for Australia? The answer clearly is no. The best thing that a country like Australia could do is to try to use our influence on the international stage to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s best to stop it.”

But in such a world would Australia be advised to join the corporate tax cut war? According to King: “That’s a bit like asking the next lemming should you jump off the cliff as well.”’

The article abounds with examples of how truth tampering distorts debate on this contentious issue. By tampering with the truth one can argue in almost any direction.

Scott Morrison told Fran Kelly on the ABC’s RN Breakfast that the Abbott/Turnbull Govt had halved the deficit since coming to power. Although Walter Dixon tweeted ‘that is the biggest whopper I have ever heard’, Jacob Greber, writing in the Financial Review a recognized Coalition spear thrower, agreed with Morrison. Read his article here. Whom do you believe when analysts tamper with the truth so disconcertingly?

Last week’s Four Corners exposed the nasty machinations of the ATO. In response the Tax Office denies the accusations and accuses the Fairfax ABC investigation of gross misrepresentation. Who is truth tampering?

Political parties and their advocates tamper with the truth all the time, but here’s just a few examples of truth tampering by individuals:

Jacqui Lambie insisted that there were over a million 457 visa holders in Australia. There are less than half those numbers. Sally McManus said that one in 10 workers in Australia were on temporary work visas. That is unsubstantiated. Tony Burke asserted that the new citizenship test would demand a university-level standard of English. Coalition members ridiculed him accusing him of distorting the truth. But the RMIT ABC Fact Check showed he was correct.

Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein said that Labor’s policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs would cost around five thousands jobs. The RMIT ABC Fact Check says: ‘Wrong’. Truth tampering once more.

Overseas, our TV screens expose the evidence of a chemical weapon attack in Douma in Syria: children gasping, others being hosed down to cleanse them of what is suspected as chlorine gas contamination, yet the Russian Ambassador to the UN denies any such attack occurred, and the Syrians insist it was “fake news to cover up terrorists”. Even the use of nerve gases is suspected. Make up your own mind by playing the video in this article from The Independent and ask yourself who is tampering with the truth.

I’m beginning to wonder why I ever started this piece about truth tampering. It’s like writing about individual mice in a mouse plague. I could give you hundreds of examples and bore you to distraction. So let’s wind up this piece by reasserting that truth tampering is rampant. We are in the midst of an unbridled pan-epidemic of truth tampering, a pestilence that has ravaged rational political discourse for eons, and will continue to do so forever. What can we ordinary folk, who look for truth, reason and fairness from our political leaders, do to immunise ourselves?

Here’s a therapeutic suggestion. Be aware of Goebbels dictum. Remember George Lakoff’s contention that untruths, as much as truths, repeated endlessly, alter the neural networks in our brain until they are utterly entrenched and irremovable. Be sceptical about any assertion a politician makes because they tamper with the truth habitually. Nothing they assert ought to be taken at face value. Read Fact Check sites for a sober analysis of the veracity of any statement. Call out through blog sites and social media any truth tampering you find. Don’t let politicians lure you into the trap of believing their truth tampering.

Welcome to the uncomfortable world of doubt, uncertainty, untruths, and confusion.

Sadly, that’s politics, now, and for eternity!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. economicreform

    All governments (without exception) habitually and routinely lie to their own citizens, and also to the rest of the world – if they think they can get away with it with impunity. The UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson obviously thought he could get away with the porkie that he recently told to the world – to the effect that Porton Down defence scientists had informed him that the chemical agent implicated in the Skripal poisoning incident definitely came from Russia. Only to be later contradicted by a senior official from the Porton Down establishment who took pains to make clear that they had no means of locating the chemical’s origin.

  2. win jeavons

    Lies should elicit unpleasant responses, or no one will trust any one. In politicians it should , if repeated, be grounds for dismissal.

  3. ace Jones

    When leaders tell the truth they give up the power to control people around them

    Porcine Morrison goes to Church on Sundays only to tell lies Monday-Saturday
    Such a fantastic contradiction

  4. Oliver

    We should get all politicians and public figures/commentators to sign the pro truth pledge….we would then have good reason to call them on their lies and spin…and hold them to a higher ideal…

  5. Graeme Henchel

    Welcome to AustraLIAR
    a land where lies abound
    and truth is such a rarity
    it’s seldom to be found

    You wonder how it’s come to this
    a land once young and free
    is now a place of fraud and fear
    and stark dishonesty

    Our useless lying “leaders”
    are the best that can be bought
    by multinational billionaires
    whose ethics count for nought

    Welcome to AustraLIAR
    unless you are the needy
    our common wealth is not to share
    except amongst the greedy

    We’re now the land of double speak
    of broken trust and failure
    While honest folk just shake their heads
    lamenting lost Australia

    Yet still the polls belie the fact
    the country’s in a mess
    The proles it seems believe the lies
    they read in Murdoch press

    Welcome to AustraLIAR
    a land that once was proud
    We’ve now become a global joke
    our innocence deflowered

    There’s those who say they’re all the same
    all parties show bad form
    but never in our history
    has lying been the norm

    So what to do to stop the rot
    and turn the ship about
    For fairness and integrity
    we must kick these liars out.

  6. Shutterbug

    ace Jones.
    It’s comments like yours that make wish for an ‘Up vote’ button.

    You speak my thoughts exactly re Morriscum.

  7. Matters Not


    the uncomfortable world of doubt, uncertainty, untruths, and confusion.

    If only, all the voters were so attuned – and had their metaphorical crap detectors turned on – always.

  8. Terry2

    Interesting time-line :

    Saturday 7 April : Assad accused of chlorine attacks on his own people in Douma, Syria.

    Saturday 14 April : Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors arrive in Damascus to commence inspections in Douma and elsewhere

    Saturday/Sunday 14 & 15 April : USA, France and UK rain down missile attacks on various targets in Syria.

    Monday 16 April : Theresa May accuses Russia of blocking OPCW inspectors from Douma where chlorine was alleged to have been used. Russia responds by saying that it was not safe to allow OPCW inspectors in due to missile attacks by USA/France and UK and they will be going in on Wednesday 18 April if there are no more missile attacks.

    Make of that what you will.

  9. helvityni

    Graeme Henchel, nice one; we must kick the liars out…it’s time.

  10. Kevin Moore

    Exclusive APRadio interview with removed senator Rod Culleton
    Harry Palmer speaks candidly with controversial removed Senator Rodney Culleton about his rise, fall and pending resurection in the Australian parliament. How he placed the Senate and High Court squarely behind their created hurdles thought to silence this patriot independent politician leading the charge to restore your parliament to the people. This interview is without parallel, riveting in content while exposing the backdoor Rod has opened the establishment thought locked and sealed tight…Click here to hear podcast
    Exclusive APRadio interview with sacked senator Rod Culleton

  11. Kevin Moore

    Disgusting Conflict of Interest: Theresa May’s Husband’s Investment Firm Made a “Financial Killing” from the Bombing of Syria
    It is common knowledge that Theresa May’s husband Philip essentially acts as the unofficial advisor to the Prime Minister – a fact proven by the former Conservative MP for Chichester, Andrew Tyrie, who said during a Newsnight profile of the PM’s husband that “Philip is clearly acting as, informally, an advisor to Theresa. Probably much like Denis did to Margaret Thatcher.”
    Whilst it is pretty obvious that almost all married couples act as informal advisors to each other in come capacity, Tyrie’s admission that the Prime Minister’s husband has such a great influence over his wife’s decisions is made all the more worrying by the fact that Mr May – who is a Senior Executive at a £1.4Tn investment firm – stands to benefit financially from the decisions his wife, the Prime Minister, makes.
    The fact that Philip May is both a Senior Executive of a hugely powerful investment firm, and privy to reams of insider information from the Prime Minister – knowledge which, when it becomes public, hugely affects the share prices of the companies his firm invests in – makes Mr May’s official employment a staggering conflict of interest for the husband of a sitting Prime Minister.
    However, aside from the ease at which he is able to glean insider information from his wife about potential decisions which could go on to make huge profits for his firm, there is a far darker conflict of interest that has so far gone undiscussed.
    Philip May is a Senior Executive of Capital Group, an Investment Firm who buy shares in all sorts of companies across the globe – including thousands of shares in the world’s biggest Defence Firm, Lockheed Martin.
    According to Investopedia, Philip May’s Capital Group owned around 7.09% of Lockheed Martin in March 2018 – a stake said to be worth more than £7Bn at this time. Whilst other sources say Capital Group’s shareholding of Lockheed Martin may actually be closer to 10%.
    On the 14th April 2018, the Prime Minister Theresa May sanctioned British military action on Syria in response to an apparent chemical attack on the city of Douma – air strikes that saw the debut of a new type of Cruise Missile, the JASSM, produced exclusively by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.
    The debut of this new – and incredibly expensive – weapon was exactly what US President Donald Trump was referring to when he tweeted that the weapons being fired on Syria would be “nice and new and ‘smart!’”
    Every single JASSM used in the recent bombing of Syria costs more than $1,000,000, and as a result of their widespread use during the recent bombing of Syria by Western forces, the share price of Lockheed Martin soared.
    Consequently, with the air strikes on Syria having hugely boosted Lockheed Martin’s share price when markets reopened on Monday, Philip May’s firm subsequently made a fortune from their investment in the Defence giant.
    I wonder if Turnbull profits from war?

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