On Lying and Politics
In the medical drama House, the main character played by Hugh Laurie got to the truth of a given case in Sherlock Holmes-like fashion by ferreting out the hidden secrets and carefully prepared lies of his patients. For the misanthropic Dr. House “Everybody lies”! became the sine qua non to any successful diagnosis. I suppose it is just a truism that we all lie from time to time for good and bad reasons—even more so in politics! Of course, one might make the case (as Plato did) that the ‘noble lie’ can be mixed with the truth to realize a good end. Unfortunately, that is not often what happens. There is zero nobility in the lies that justified slavery, brought Americans to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis, or justified the decision to go to war in Vietnam and Iraq.
The problem however is not so much the pervasiveness of lying in politics, but rather the human proclivity for preferring the shallow opinion, sensationalist deception and the attractive falsehood over the hard-won or inconvenient truth.
Take the recent Mueller report. After 20 months of investigation and with help from an extensive team of FBI agents and prosecutors Mueller concluded in unambiguous and clear terms that neither Trump, his family or his aides conspired, collaborated or colluded with the Russians to interfere in the American presidential elections. I predicted this outcome 2 years ago not because I was certain Donald Trump was incapable of a treasonous or criminal act, but because from the beginning the Clinton campaign and the media supporting them were obsessed with finding a reason why Americans chose a complete miscreant, the most embarrassing excuse for a leader that ever ran in a Presidential election, over their own Democratic candidate.
Orthodox establishment Democrats could not (and still cannot) abide the fact that millions of angry American’s might be so fed up with the Democratic Party’s false rhetoric and hypocrisy that they would rather choose a person who promised to commit the entire system to the flames than vote for Hillary Clinton. This led desperate liberal talking heads (such as Bill Maher) and the journalist class (including The NYT, The Atlantic, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN) to vest all of their credibility into what turned out to be a complete and total fraud.
For three years, night after night Rachel Maddow fed Americans incredible conspiracy theories, drew reckless conclusions and told outright lies about how Russia via Donald Trump was ‘taking over America.’ It was the kind salacious and pernicious tabloid journalism one might expect from the National Enquirer, not from a savvy PhD journalist who initially made her mark as a critically informed regular guest on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. As Matt Taibbi has accurately concluded, the Rachel Maddow Show is now "an exercise of conspiratorial mass hysteria." Good for business, good for establishment democrats, toxic and dangerous for America.
The most troubling consequence of the Mueller report is not just that mainstream media now has zero credibility. From a public interest perspective, it is more to the point that what was lost was an opportunity to continuously expose the genuine lies of the Trump administration, to reveal the real corruption of his government and uncover the devastating impact of his geopolitical decisions, not to mention the human impact of his immigration, environmental, social, health and economic decisions.
All those critical questions that might and should have been asked of the Trump administration were drowned out or set aside in order to continue a mindless, asinine conspiracy theory about Trump and Putin—a theory that flies in the face of the reality of Trumps belligerence towards Russia and the fact that US and Russian diplomatic relations are presently at such a detrimental point the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are contemplating whether they should be moving the Doomsday clock up to one minute before midnight.
Trump won’t need much help winning in 2020. By investing in and ramping up a Russia conspiracy theory that has now been thoroughly debunked by Bob Mueller, establishment democrats, mainstream media figures like Rachel Maddow and Russia-phobes like Bill Maher have ensured Trump’s victory.