The Art of Lying

October 26, 2017

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If lying were an art, it would be subject to interpretation, and reality would be a matter of perception. Every opinion could be molded into a fact, weaponized for manipulation, personal gain and mass consumption. The price paid is not to be understated. The true democratic nature of the political process comes into question, when fabricated facts decide elections at the expense of the truth. Votes cast for false promises never lead to true public policy, disregarding the will and wellbeing of the people. Elections, plebiscites and referendums decided at the expense of facts transform voting into a meaningless pantomime, negating the democratic legitimacy of the result. A final tally of lies can never amount to the truth.

 

This explains my despondency with the current political climate, not to mention the existential crisis of true democratic representation. Lying has become an art form. Some have passively accepted that we now live in a post-truth world; where what I state as fact, you may consider an opinion, and there is no objective way of settling the dispute. The ensuing social polarization undermines the transformative power of free democratic discourse, because the primary prerequisite of a democratic republic is the peaceful settlement of disputes through free dialogue. If every fruit picked from the tree of knowledge is a fabricated fact, there is no point in discussing personal preferences anymore. The truth has become a packaged commodity sold for personal consumption, customized according to demographic tastes, at the expense of objective, verifiable facts. The meaningful debate of ideas then degenerates into name-calling, leading to a glacial silence that freezes personal opinions untested by meaningful discourse. It may also lead to violence. When words are silenced, because they no longer carry any meaning, force settles disputes at the expense of the rule of law.

 

Democracy then comes into question. What was conceived as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, becomes a government against the truth, and therefore, against the people. In developing nations, where institutional systems of checks and balances are still in formation, the result is endemic, predatory and systemic corruption, which entirely negates the will of the people, exacerbating social problems instead of effectively addressing them. This comes at an unbearable cost to the most vulnerable segments of society, struggling for survival without the assistance of the very government that purports to represent them. In developed nations, the existential crisis of democratic legitimacy negates consensus building, halting the government to a standstill on important issues, or further polarizing society through policies aimed only at specific segments of the population. Whichever the case may be, democracy has seen better days.

 

Some might object that politicians have been compared to harlots since time immemorial, not in a favorable manner. The problem is that never before has the dissemination of false information been so pervasive. When fabricated facts are industrialized, only careful analysis reveals the truth. This requires both time and companionship. Reverse engineering a fabricated fact into the truth requires the assistance of others. No one can grasp the entire gamut of human knowledge, and never before in history have human beings been bombarded with so much information in so little time. Deciding where to place your faith is a religious matter, deciding where to place your trust should not be. Unfortunately, the industrialization of fabricated facts has transformed political groups into quasi-religious sects, undermining the possibility of meaningful dialogue. When words loose meaning, force gains power. It is by no means a coincidence that authoritarianism is currently ascendant.

 

Though democratically obliged to account for my personal view, prescribing a solution was never a task placed on my shoulders. This silence is broken only by sharing my personal opinion: every democratic citizen must be a miner of the truth, a soldier of democracy. True journalism is a democratic service not to be relegated solely to a select few. This implies that every citizen should obtain information from varied, reputable sources, always checking facts presented, while being mindful of ideological preferences. Doing so allows one to parse through political discourse, make decisions accordingly, and hold public officials accountable.

 

More importantly, the same technology that vastly facilitated the dissemination of false information can also reverse this process. Today, an ordinary citizen can access ample information, voice his opinion, and engage in democratic discourse, unbound by space and time constraints. The Information Age has industrialized fabricated facts, digitizing and disseminating lies at the speed of light. But it has also spread the truth. The internet remains a digital, binary, Boolean universe primarily based on two numbers: 1 and 0, true or false. Let him who hath understanding know the number of the Beast, for it is a human number.         

 

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©2017 by Andre Lamartin