Sunday, 4 July 2021

When crude works best

Not all are men that seem to be so. Some are sources of deceit; impregnated by chimeras they give birth to impositions. Others are like them so far that they take more pleasure in a lie, because it promises much, than in the truth, because it performs little.

Baltasar Gracian - The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

A striking feature of official dishonesty is how the crudest lies can be remarkably difficult to expose even when they are out in the open. Take the current transgender lunacy for example. We could say that the whole absurd mess is based on a crude lie, an assertion that if human beings of one gender simply claim to belong to the other gender then they do in fact change gender.

Yet a problem arises if we characterise the debate in this way. The basic assertion underpinning the transgender debate is crude biological lie but to point this out can be presented as simple bigotry. From this point it becomes possible to defend the transgender position by taking advantage of a particular problem –

If a heavily-promoted standpoint rests on a crude lie, pointing out the crudity of the lie can be made to seem even cruder, from simple naïveté to knuckle-dragging bigotry. Effectively it can be made to seem like a refusal to debate the issue properly even where there is little material for any kind of rational debate. The cruder the lie, the more difficult it can be for critics to establish its essential weakness. A crude lie may only have one real weakness - it is nonsense.  

The orthodox climate change narrative is similar in that it rests on a crude lie. This essential lie is the underpinning assertion that certain scientists can predict the trajectory of global temperatures with dependable accuracy decades into the future. Accuracy dependable enough to spend trillions on mitigation policies. This is a crude lie, yet without it there is no catastrophic climate narrative.

Here again, because the official climate narrative rests on a crude lie, pointing it out is made to seem like naïve or bigoted denial of a scientific fact. Of course it is not a fact but pointing this out can be made to seem like a crude sideswipe at scientific expertise, research, authority and achievement even where the science is not even worthy of the name.

The coronavirus debacle has been more complex in that the foundation claim about lockdown policy was not a lie and at first sight more plausible than the transgender and climate lies. Yet the supposed efficacy of lockdown policies soon weakened as costs rose and pandemic outcomes became more obviously intractable.

Here in the UK, official coronavirus mitigation soon evolved into a debacle as early policies were bolstered by crude exaggeration when became apparent that coronavirus risk was strongly age-related and only the elderly and vulnerable actually needed protection. It became obvious that it is not necessary for people below a certain age to be isolated or to take drastic precautions apart from protecting the vulnerable.

Here again, although there are caveats, complexities and uncertainties, official insistence on persisting with lockdowns, bubbles, restrictions on social groupings, all that morphed into crude exaggeration of coronavirus risk quite early in the pandemic. Most rules soon became unnecessary in that they caused more damage than they could ever prevent or alleviate. More of a crude exaggeration than a crude lie perhaps, but the distinction soon became too fine to make.

What of the future? It seems likely enough that we should anticipate more crude lies from the usual suspects. They work.


DiscoveredJoys said...

One of my favourite terms is 'Noble Lie'.

Wikipedia: In politics, a noble lie is a myth or untruth, often, but not invariably, of a religious nature, knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda. The noble lie is a concept originated by Plato as described in the Republic.

The tricky bit I find is determining how much of a specific agenda is a Noble Lie and how much is objectively true. I suspect that much of the 'gender' debate is a Noble Lie by the main proponents (although many fellow travellers may believe it to be objectively true).

The proposition that that joining the Common Market was just a trade agreement was a noble lie (even if the political agenda of ever closer union became more entrenched later).

I suspect there are some objective truths underpinning climate change and coronavirus but there are also people seizing the opportunity to progress their agenda through Noble Lies.

Sam Vega said...

The clever bit is making any criticism or scepticism look like boorish behaviour or cruelty. That's why Greta rose to prominence, and right-wingers love articulate black and working class sympathisers. If Hitler had cried when we bombed Dresden, he might have got away with it.

A K Haart said...

DJ - yes the noble lie has much to answer for. It seems to facilitate standpoints where what ought to be true is better than true. Truth does seem to be an inadequate basis for leadership and the promotion of cohesive beliefs but the big weakness is where the noble lie is ultimately a threat to social cohesion. Those who adopt the noble lie can't foresee the threat.

Sam - yes that's the clever bit. It's what the media do so well for their readers and viewers - 'look at this despicable behaviour'.