“The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world,” wrote George Orwell in a 1943 essay, Looking Back on the Spanish War. “Lies will pass into history.” A truer thing was never said about the current omnipresence of the Lie.
Of course, everybody lies. That the vast majority of politicians lie, almost as a matter of principle, is common knowledge. But I had not grasped until relatively late that the Lie—in majuscule—had become so pervasive that it could be said to constitute a public if unofficial institution. Orwell said that truth had ceased to exist in 1936, an exaggeration made for emphasis, but there is little doubt that it has practically ceased to exist in the political and cultural world we now inhabit. It may be a tenuous or metaphysical distinction to make, but I have come to feel not only that lies are everywhere in the political and cultural world we live in, but that the Lie has become that world. We now live inside the Lie; it is the very air we breathe, the food that sustains us, the verbal milieu we communicate in, the dreams that disturb our sleep, the tastes and fashions we affect, the thoughts we think in our solitary moments. We are like fish who never consider the water they swim in; to leave that element requires something like an evolutionary lung and an amphibian yearning, features that pertain to only a few. This is our current condition.
The issue became clear to me some years back when I was researching The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, a book five years in the writing. Before 9/11, I was solidly in the camp of the left. I read Chomsky with approval, harbored duly anti-American sentiments, commiserated with the Palestinians, marched in thought with Peace Now, subscribed to the appropriate dailies, and agreed with the political slant taken by our major news networks. The sources I relied on were the editorials of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Globe and Mail, the news reports of the BBC, CNN, and the CBC, the pages of The Nation and The New Republic, the popular accounts of American perfidy that crammed the shelves of the major book chains, and, most significantly, the smog of stock conceptions that were “in the air,” pervasive but insubstantial as are all airy things.
Writing the book forced me to undertake relentless scrutiny of the values and beliefs I’d accepted as gospel and to realize that I had thoughtlessly succumbed to an all-encompassing lie fostered by the media, the academy, and the political left. Intellectually speaking, I had thought I was pole-vaulting; instead, I was doing the limbo. Almost every statement I’d read about American treachery, Israeli apartheid, the “religion of peace,” feminist grievance, global warming, right-wing extremism, the ironhanded Patriarchy, oppression of minorities, and the rest was an outright lie and functioned as aspects of what Quentin Skinner in From Humanism to Hobbes called “the potentially ruinous impact of rhetorical redescription,” that is, reframing something that is not the case as emphatically and undeniably the case.
Skinner refers to the insidious operation of the rhetorical figure of paradiastole—the conversion of a vice into a virtue—which would apply to the left’s destructive policies and initiatives like those I had once endorsed. But the opposite device accompanies the trope of paradiastole, namely, that which the rhetoricians call meiosis, the reframing of a virtue as a vice. Thus the virtue of conservatism is redescribed as an analogue for the vice of fascism, a twisting of the “rules of… forensic speech.” I finally began to understand that what I’d taken for history was nothing but ideology and what I’d thought was truth was an order-of-magnitude lie. And that my political and cultural preceptors were, to a man and a woman, professional liars.
Everything I’ve learned since I began paying attention has only served to confirm my conviction that we are living in unique times, an era in which lies come so thick and fast it seems like one is dodging bullets. It makes no difference where we turn, the lie is there. And we have credulously absorbed it as indisputable fact.
A few salient examples:
Canvassing the plethora of surveys and reports regarding AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), we come across documents like the one emanating from the University of Illinois 2009, a survey claiming that 97.4% of scientists agree that mankind is responsible for global warming. This is an impressive assessment. What we don’t know is that the Illinois researchers decided that of the 10,257 respondents, the 10,180 who demurred from the so-called consensus weren’t qualified to comment on the issue. Of the remaining 77 scientists whose votes were counted, 75 agreed with the proposition that mankind was causing catastrophic changes in the climate. Since 75 is 97.4% of 77, “overwhelming consensus” was demonstrated once again. The real percentage of concurring scientists in the original survey is less than 1%.
This is only one of a myriad such “studies” exemplifying the customary practice of systemic deception, as catalogued in my Global Warning: Trials of an Unsettled Science. The recent report concerning 11,000 scientists declaring global climate crisis is another, put to the lie by a meticulous examination of the list of signatories. The number of imaginary characters, ordinary people with no knowledge of the issue, professionals from other walks of life having nothing to do with climate, and complete outliers reduces the report to the level of farce, a piece of warming propaganda. Is Mickey Mouse a climate scientist? How about the Advocate for Snake Preservation? Are Sociology and Gynaecology climate disciplines? The sampling makes clear that most of the signatories work in completely unrelated fields.
The Australian bushfire coverage furnishes the most recent instance of a faux study. ABC’s misleading satellite image shows one-third of the continent burning—media mendacity at its finest, obviously intended to bolster the left’s global warming narrative. The map actually depicts areas that heat up in direct sunlight. There is no doubt about the catastrophic extent of the fires—an area somewhat larger than the state of West Virginia—but bad as this may be, it is nowhere remotely near one-third of the continent. As it turns out, climate change had little or nothing to do with the disaster, but 183 arsonists apparently did.
Similarly, most everything the feminist soviet claims about patriarchal domination, female under-representation, a yawning wage-gap, the calamitous prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and endemic male violence is based upon reams of false statistics, unscrupulous surveys, and anecdotal recollections.
Most recently, for example, in the midst of the national crisis in Australia, a feminist activist named Sherele Moody announced at a news conference that men returning from fighting fires were known to abuse their female partners, a claim based on a 2013 study published in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management dealing with the 2009 Black Saturday disaster. The paper is by Debra Parkinson, an Adjunct Research Fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, and is called “The hidden disaster: Violence in the aftermath of natural disaster.” Parkinson acknowledges in the article that “no reliable statistics were available to document the effect of the disaster on domestic violence occurrences.” Instead, in the complete absence of data, she relies on memories and anecdotes amongst a shockingly small interview group. On the basis of no reliable evidence, the men sacrificing their health and lives in the bushfires were publicly slandered. That is how the feminist methodology works.
Other strategies may be employed. One favored technique is what I call “the pounce,” that is, to take a previous lying or unsubstantiated report and cite it in a subsequent article as proof of authenticity. This recently happened to controversial pro-MAGA author Mike Cernovich who, according to the New York Post for January 30, 2018, argued that there is no such thing as rape. Not a shred of evidence, not a single source for the factoid is provided. The obloquy is then repeated in the NYP for January 2, 2020 using the earlier article as validation of its pronouncement.
A similar fate befell my wife Janice Fiamengo, creator of the anti-feminist The Fiamengo File video series. The Guardian newspaper stated, without an iota of evidence or backing, that she “promoted a conspiracy theory that the Notre Dame fire was started by Muslims, has tweeted support for white nationalists, and is a contributor to the Council of European Canadians website.” The calumny was then picked up by the Huffington Post, citing the uncorroborated Guardian article as evidence. Janice’s crimes, we are guessing since no data is given, were tweeting an article by Bruce Bawer, one of our finest conservative writers, and supporting Tommy Robinson, by any true account an honorable and long-suffering British patriot. She is not a contributor to the Council of European Canadians, not that there is anything wrong with the site.
We need not go into the standard practice of the politically-motivated Legacy Press; Donald Trump has done that for us. Nearly all the political news we get is Fake News, disseminated by a media conglomerate that constitutes the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party in the U.S. and the Liberal Party in my own country. The media are proof positive that the political and cultural left has completed its long march through the institutions. It has built a democratic tyranny. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, “Under the absolute government of a single man, despotism, in order to reach the soul, crudely strikes at the body, and the soul, escaping these blows, rises gloriously above it, but in the democratic republics, tyranny does not proceed in this way; it leaves the body alone and goes straight to the soul.” Indeed, the leftist microbe has burrowed deep into the soul of the nation, into every nook and cranny of the culture.
This is the blueprint for syndical victory. The left will deploy an armamentarium of outright lies, dodgy statistics, and obscurantist dogma to advance its inflammatory. Of course, when any leftist spokesman is caught in a flagrant lie, the default position is to claim that the lie tells a greater truth. How often have we heard this canard? For the left, the lie has become a vestibule to the truth—its truth.
And its truth encompasses the destruction of genuine liberal democracy and free-market societies across the Western world. This is the millennium project of the left, in tune with the U.N.’s Agenda 21 aiming at one-world governance under the sway of a self-elected elite intent on creating a new World Order predicated on zero economic growth and so-called sustainability, as the Democrat Party’s Green New Deal envisages. In the words of Tom DeWeese at the American Policy Center, it is “an assault on our Constitutional rights.” It is more than that; it is, in effect, the socialist master plan evolving from Marx to Gramsci to the present. And through the agency of the systematic and all-pervasive Lie, it has already been partially accomplished.
No appeal can be made to the purveyors of the Lie since they are either committed to its diffusion or, in the best if implausible scenario, may not be fully aware that the misinformation they peddle is anything but veridical. As Eric Hoffer pointed out in his indispensable The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature of Mass Movements, the true believer of our political moment is a fanatic who is unlikely to examine his premises and assumptions. “The true believer is on the march…and is shaping the world in his own image.” And he has the power of the entire range of political, cultural and institutional authority behind him.
One is now in the position of the biblical Judge Jephthah of whom John Locke wrote in Two Treatises on Government. Locke’s point is that when no appeal is possible to challenge the divine right of kings, that is, to oppose constituted authority, then God must judge—thus, Jephthah’s “appeal to heaven”—and one must act out of conscience to fight for and establish the truth. In our terms, we would say that the authority of the media, the academy, and our collusive political masters is irredeemably spurious and corrupt. The “appeal to heaven” is an appeal to conscience and common sense to overthrow the “kings” in our own minds. We need to recognize that these “kings” have built a world of lies so massive and infusorial that we have been unwittingly conscripted into its dominion. We must somehow expose this bogus world and return to the real one, we must be wakeful rather than woke, though I’m afraid the struggle may now be Sisyphean.
Sometimes I feel that evil is a reified force, not just a figure of speech or metaphor for affliction or a word to describe human malevolence, but an existential power that is discernibly afoot in the world. I can only understand evil as something mysterious and unintelligible that may be, as Terry Eagleton writes in On Evil, “uncaused, or its own cause,” but that is implacably destructive in causing human misery through the operation of the Lie incarnate. As M. Scott Peck reminds us in People of the Lie, “the only power that Satan has is through human belief in its [Satan’s] lies,” a belief consistent with lack of empathy, the failure of introspection and the inability to distrust oneself. This leads to the further question of whether evil lives in the human spirit or is a factor in the objective world. As Peck remarks, “Perhaps it will forever be impossible to totally discern exactly where the human Shadow leaves off and the Prince of Darkness begins.”
Clearly, the tendency to lie is inherent in the human soul and there are times when a lie may be therapeutic or benevolent, as when we lie to spare someone from embarrassment or personal misery. Ambiguity is part of life. But when the Lie becomes coterminous with the very world in which we have our being—in electoral politics, in education, in the entertainment industry, in the media print and digital, in publishing, in the censoring Big Tech platforms, in mass movements sweeping the planet like feminism and “climate change” and Islamic appeasement and identity politics and renewed socialism and Globalism—and when it lays down the latitude and longitude of our thinking so that there is scarcely any place left to locate our inner coordinates, it forms, as the ancient Gnostics believed, a wholly demonic environment, a false Creation. It is no accident that the devil is called the Father of Lies.