The free world been shocked to the core about the breakdown of democratic law in the United States of America. Most outside the States have joked about what a liar Trump has been, but this latest event has given us cause to stop joking and pay attention what damage constant lying can do.
Plato and Aristotle both warned us of Tyrants and demagogues, Hitler and Goebbels amplified the example of lying in extremis, and yet the American People accepted Trumps lies and more lies, even that when he won the election, he planted the lie that many millions of votes were stolen from him. He perpetuated the lie till this election, working it, working it, hoping that he would be put back in the Whitehouse, even if he lost. He failed in his attempt to overturn American Politics but only just.
Putin and Trump tell lies all the time, ‘fake news’ is a fascist description of the truth, so I worry when any Government makes promises about the future, for no one can tell the future, as my Arabian friends used to say “He who tells the future, tells lies”.
So when Boris Johnson promised the easy Brexit and post Brexit bonanza, was he deliberately lying or was he animating his belief into a character that voters could grasp. ‘X million a week extra for the NHS’ for example. Is there a degree of truthfulness, is there a scale of deliberately misleading your following, say 1-10.
In Boris Johnson ‘s case, it is true that eventually UK will not be a net contributor to EU budgets, and that there fore the UK Government will have more to spend on UK services. (scale 2) True, if economically UK isn’t worse off through declining trade (scale 5 because you can’t possibly know) etc.. So there is a grain of truth, in what is certainly in the near term, a lie. Is this lie then, in the same category of evil as Trump’s unfounded assertion that the American election system is subject to mass fraud? (Scale 10)
(I am aware that I am over- simplifying Brexit issues for illustration.)
If Boris had said, ‘It is possible, I believe on balance we’ll be better off……” Would he have won the argument? Would he have fulfilled a political ambition that he believes in? Was his exaggeration ( a lie) worthy of his goal? Is it ever permissible to use hyperbole to win an argument, and when does hyperbole became a lie?
In an ideal society we believe that everyone knows truth from fiction or lies, yet we are duped in modern times from Hitler to Trump. We can now see that Aristotle, who argued that in a democracy a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace, and Plato who notes a particular risk for tyrants is that they surround themselves with yes-men and enablers.. Both were prescient.
For the general population not to be influenced by powerful people who are liars is a vexed issue. After all, social media influencers are all the currency, and who can tell the innocent hyperbole from the outright lie? Is it a matter for democratic government or for individual belief systems. This is where there is a gap in the argument. Political dreams are surely still valid, can we judge between the dream and the reality?
Only the truth will tell!