Pro-capitalism politicians lie to the public.
They lie about their intent; they lie about reasons for their actions and they lie about their actions’ likely consequences; they lie about costs of public services as a ruse to cut them and they lie about the necessity of tax rises as a ruse to raise them; they lie about the need for public spending on armaments. Invention of non-existent actions is a popular lie, an extension of lying about intent.
They lie about ineluctability of “the market,” they lie about existence of government “debt,” they lie about value of government “deficit,” they lie about value of currency, they lie about necessity of interest rates, they lie about motivation for inflation, and they lie about effect of the stock exchange. Their entire presentation of how “the economy” works or how it could work is a lie.
Their biggest lie is that they claim they cannot affect how capitalism exploits or how wealth is concentrated, while doing all they can to perpetuate wealth concentration.
The daily lies include lying about where they were, who they spoke to, who gave them money, what they said to whom and what others said to them. They lie about their ownership or shareholding of private businesses. To support such lies they erase public records of ownership, shareholdings and memberships, and delete details of meetings from websites and phone records.
Erasure, omission, obfuscation and misdirection are tactics of their lying.
Lying is so ingrained, imbued at expensive private schools and then at various think-tanks, that politicians are offended if they have to tell the truth or if they are forced to avoid obfuscation.
Checks and balances?
A democratic system of governance is supposed to have, by definition, many checks and balances to ensure that disreputable, dishonest and unlawful behaviour by a government is exposed, countered and prohibited.
In UK, such checks and balances are ephemeral or, if they exist, they are not used effectively and are being removed.
Labour MP Dawn Butler was ejected from the House of Commons for observing correctly that Boris Johnson is a liar. It is against parliamentary rules for an MP to accuse another of lying. However, parliamentary rules also prohibit lies and inventions by MPs but there is no mechanism within the House of Commons for preventing lying or for demanding retractions of lies. The imposition of the rule to stop MPs accusing others of lying combined with the lack of capability to impose the rule that prevents lying allows politicians to lie relentlessly whenever they speak there.
Outside the House of Commons beyond the protection of parliamentary privilege, accusations (or observations) of lying can be met with fraudulent legal action coupled with threats of considerable financial costs. Accurate analysis and revelations of behaviour are often self-censored due to fear of very expensive consequences of legal action taken by wrongdoers. Libel law in UK enables the wealthiest and the powerful to censor criticism. There is an industry of legal firms whose main focus is “Reputation Protection.”
According to Gov.uk “The Ministerial Code sets out the standards of conduct expected of ministers and how they discharge their duties.” Pro-capitalism politicians break the code’s rules and guidelines routinely and knowingly. Lies, misrepresentation, misdirection and inventions by ministers, acts that are in breach of the code, receive little or no response within the terms of the code; there are no consequences and no prevention of repeated similar breaches of the code. Serious breaches of the code, including multi-billion pound corruption, are covered with lies. The Ministerial Code is worthless.
The current UK government stated its intent via Judicial Review Bill (JRB) to stop legal challenges against the government. Alongside the previous removal of legal aid JRB will, by design, greatly enhance politicians’ capability to lie without legal rebuttal.
Sometimes politicians remark upon other politicians’ lies but often as part of political combat and point-scoring. Butler’s intervention mentioned above was a rare occurrence.
“Opposition” pro-capitalism politicians are reluctant to highlight pro-capitalism government lies because they would do the same when in government – the same lies, and they do the same in opposition. (Keir Starmer’s campaign for leadership of Labour was full of lies.)
Politicians, in both houses of parliament and in councils, assume that lying is merely a facet of being a politician. Political combat is often a contest of crafted lying where the winner is whoever spouted the least easily debunked lie. Politicians are proud of their adeptness at lying.
Challenges from news media?
Journalists, reporters and interviewers are reluctant to directly accuse politicians of lying. BBC has a top-down policy of not calling politicians liars. This reluctance fails the public. The insistence on respectful diffidence toward politicians, particularly those in government, is a policy that is incompatible with democratic society.
Deceptive language is used by media to skirt around blatant lies of politicians. Popular words include “inaccuracy,” “mistake” and “misspoke.”
Often, a blatant lie by a politician is rebranded by a journalist as an “opinion.” This tactic succeeds readily. It allows a lie to be declared and broadcast, and any debunking of it is waved away as just a different opinion. Equal airtime and equal respect is given to lies as to statements of fact; this is called erroneously “balance.”
Part of the reason why politicians can lie in interviews and press conferences without rebuttal or correction is the lack of good preparation by journalists and reporters. Time is not aside for preparation. Also, broadcasters prefer to use non-interviewers to conduct interviews who possess neither the skills nor the work-ethic to achieve an effective interview.
Lack of democratic accountability allows politicians to dodge encounters with some newspapers or broadcasters. This encourages all newspapers and broadcasters to tread carefully in interviews.
Lies are successful
Politicians’ lies succeed due to two different strands of behaviour by the public. Both reactions exist with the knowledge that the public are being lied to.
- Public cynicism. This is an understandable response to relentless lies by politicians and repeated failures to do or not do what they said they would do or not do. People are worn down by an unremitting deluge of untruths, inventions and evasions. Eventually, it is easier to accept that lying is just how governments operate. Motivation to fight back is defeated by the relentlessness of the lies.
- Desperation to have hope. Desperation can be lessened by hope and hope can be assuaged by belief. Grinning clowns in government offering gold at the end of a rainbow, no matter how implausible and no matter how often it was shown to be false gold, can persuade people to believe in hope to banish despair. Self-blinkered and willingly conned, the need to believe is enough for political charlatans to garner support.
Lying, as a tool of political persuasion, is a much bigger tactic used by governments and by politicians in election campaigns than anything else. Political parties have moved beyond producing coherent election manifestos and presenting cohesive plans. Now, it is just a scattergun of lies accompanied by meaningless soundbites and slogans. Election campaigns are not about politics or the realities of life; they are psychological contests.
Countering the lies
Due to public connectivity via social media, exposure of lies is done swiftly and concisely by independent news outlets and assiduous individuals. There is a shadow industry of activists, including journalists and legal professionals alongside dedicated members of the public, who devote time and energy to collating, exposing and analysing politicians’ lies. Some of the contributors are listed below.
The success of anti-lie activism can be measured by the fearful response from governments. Many so-called democratic governments enacted, or stated their intent to, changes to the law to censor social media use with the single specific aim of restricting exposure of wrongdoing. There is constant rhetoric from governments, political parties and think-tanks aimed at denigrating social media as a ruse to persuade the public that censorship thereof is positive. Major social media businesses succumbed to political pressure and enforced their own censorship without the need for law changes.
The extent of governments’ commitment to silencing opponents of their lies includes jailing those who expose lies. Julian Assange and Craig Murray are both incarcerated in UK.
It is important that activism against politicians’ lies does not treat the lies as aberrations or as isolated incidents. The lies are a key intrinsic characteristic of modern political presentation by democratic pro-capitalism politicians. Lies are their preferred mode of communication.
“You’re in suspension,
You’re a liar.“
Lie n. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
Links to professional and citizen activism
Baker Street Herald
Lee Camp (Redacted Tonight)
Richard Murphy (Tax Research)
Black Lives Matter (UK)
Ten Toads 4 Truth
Good Law Project
Rad Indie Media