Someone long ago said that politics is
the art of the possible. They should have gone on to say that politics is also
the art of the lie. 24/7 news coverage has made this a lot worse. That is not to say that there was less lying in the pre-television age, but the lies have gained a lot more power than they used have.
Partial truth is a lie. Political spin is a lie. But what is the lie for? Why do politicians lie so often and so easily? It is not good enough to merely accuse a politician of lying. We need to know what it is that he is after. Here is the generally accepted definition of politics:
a: the art or science of government b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
The short version is that politics is about power, and the lie is itself an instrument of power. This is true whether it is a senator who is lying to you, or a used car salesman.
Generally speaking, when we get in trouble because someone lied to us, we were willingly deceived. Someone told us something we wanted to hear and we bought it. We were
willingly ignorant of the lie. The political lie works because we let it work. We want it to work. And it will get us killed in the end. The lie works because it feeds a need people have. It may be in any number of areas, but if they weren’t needing the lie to be true, it wouldn’t work. So there is always a little self deception when we are hoodwinked.
The art of the lie involves pandering to people’s needs. Art of avoiding deception involves speaking truth to ourselves.
Behold, said David to God,
thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. So, if there is an art of the lie, perhaps there is an art of not believing the lie. And we may be coming to a time when it is crucial that we master that art.