By Dr David Laing Dawson

I think we have always expected our politicians to lie, but usually through exaggeration, omission, avoidance, associations that suggest causation, and feigned emotion. And that’s what Katie Britt did in her rebuttal to Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

She feigned outrage and fear and sorrow in a rather burlesque fashion. She omitted dates and times and geography in her stories, and managed, in the sequence of her telling, to create false associations. But she didn’t fully confabulate, invent and deceive.

Which is where I’m going with this thought.

I don’t remember our politicians, at least those in our democracies, confabulating, plain lying, as much as they do today. And getting away with it. And maybe, like many things happening today, the cause lies within our digital technologies, our internet, our social media.

When Joseph Goebbels said that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth, he and Adolf were performing within a fascist state, with the absence of a free press and fact checkers. No one else was getting equal airtime.

But now, even within a functioning democracy, with a free press and fact checkers, his words have become prophetic. For a lie, a big outrageous lie, can be repeated endlessly, and heard by all. It can be presented with outrage, with pomp, with music, and comforting or disturbing visuals. It can be podcast, re-posted, re-tweeted, and it can even be monetized.

So now some politicians are no longer bothering with omission, exaggeration, and mere association. They simply and boldly invent, lie, and confabulate, over and over.

And though, to quote another politician, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”, Donald Trump doesn’t need all of the people, only sufficient electoral college votes to give him a win.

The only answer to this, that I can think of, is that for democracies to survive, we need our education systems to keep pace with digital technology. And I don’t mean we all need to learn about and fully understand this technology, I mean we need a larger percentage of our populations fully educated, educated in critical thinking, history, governance, geography, biology, public health, and science. Otherwise they will be misled by the fictions concocted by autocrats and tyrants, psychopaths and zealots.


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