Oh, what a tangled we
we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott’s bad poetry? Sure. And didn’t Al Franken say it all on the subject anyhow? Probably.
But I can’t stay away from the lies.
Why does the right persist in telling lies, and retelling the lies even when they’ve been caught out. Even when they’ve admitted them? How do they justify themselves?
Kurt Vonnegut, in his Mother Night has a main character, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., who lied for a living and–according to him–lied for the allies in WWII while playing the Nazi propagandist. In his “Editor’s Note,” Vonnegut writes:
To say that he was a writer is to say that the demands of art alone were enough to make him lie, and to lie without seeing any harm in it.
The demands of art. Hmmm. The demands of the end; the demands of the result. If the result is good, there is no harm in the lie.
Maybe that’s it (I don’t really know, but I’m willing to posit that). But there’s another side to it, and that’s part and parcel of my not really knowing if that is it or not.
That is, we on the left don’t know if the end is good, don’t know if we are approaching truth or myth. Hell, we just aren’t sure of much of anything.
We on the left are relatives of Joseph Heller’s Chaplain A.T. Tappmann in Catch-22:
There was no way of really knowing anything, he knew, not even that there was no way of really knowing anything.
That makes us easily mainpulated by the Howard Campbell’s of the world (whether they are really spies or not). We’re not willing to stand up firmly for our beliefs, let alone expose the lies of others. After all, we recognize our limitations.
We are not true believers or even “false” true believers. So, no matter how egregious their lies, we cannot argue against them. We haven’t the arrogance of knowing that the end justifies the means.
Somehow, we need to find another way of getting our points across. We can’t win by continuing to argue with the right–not when lying is its stock-in-trade.
The time for that kind of talk, as they say, is ending.