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Noble lies, innocent lies, damn lies and liberalism

By Bruce Walker
web posted March 24, 2003

The depth of deceit within liberal orthodoxy is boundless. One conservative pundit noted recently that slavish devotion to recreational abortion seemed the only common policy of the left. While reflexive opposition to any government regulation of abortion may be the only single issue around which liberals can agree, the single theme of liberalism is a passion for dishonesty.

As America views the prospect of global war and national survival, it is easy to mentally shelve the problem of lies in politics. War, after all, is one situation in which lies may be moral. When FDR advised the press that Jimmy Doolittle's B-25 over Tokyo came from "Shangri La" that was, of course, a lie. America lied about its troop deployments before Operation Overlord, so that the good guys could have an edge over the bad guys on the beaches of Normandy.

Trickery is part of the ugly business of war. When conducted by the liberating powers against the oppressors, these lies are Noble Lies. Not only does this deception help the America to defeat Nazi Germany (or America to defeat Saddam Hussein) but also winning by deception rather than destruction saves lives and shortens wars. These are Noble Lies.

Lies are sometimes Innocent Lies told to save people's feelings. Husbands tell their fifty year old wives that they look better than when they first married thirty years ago. We compliment people in distress, even when the distress may be largely self-inflicted. We do not tell our young children everything about life, because they need time to mature and to understand. These lies are not good because they are lies, but they are innocent because the message itself is not intended to be taken seriously.

Sometimes the truth does not help. Sometimes blurting out the truth is actually a form of gloating. When the United States, for example, engages in the pretense that Cameroon or Costa Rico are on the same level in international terms as Britain, this is a fiction, but it is also a harmless fiction. The principals do not take it seriously, but rather use it as a cushion between reality and politeness.

Beyond these Innocent Lies are Damn Lies. These are lies intended to gain a personal advantage against the gullible. People who persuade the elderly to make risky investments fall into this category. Those who have illicit affairs do too. So do those corporate executives who tell faithful employees one thing and their pals at the yacht club something else.

These are the sort of nasty people who use our willingness to trust others to gain personal advantages for themselves. These Damn Lies are unpleasant and unethical. Societies have routinely and instinctively recognized these lies are wrong. But there is a purpose - personal gain - that has some inherent value.

The man who claws his way to the top through trickery and fraud of a corporation, nevertheless understands that he is a trickster and a fraud. If he does not at some point feel remorse, he at least at some point may see the merit of ethos within his corporation. He may have been a hypocrite, but he does know right from wrong. And, indeed, he may feel remorse. He may seek, through charity or some other virtuous activity to undone some of the harm done in his climb to the top.

Beyond the kind lies or the convenient lies, beyond the calculating and mercenary lies, these is another sort of lie. Called many things throughout history, it may today best be called "Liberalism." The very term itself betrays the sickness of this sort of lie. "Liberal" is a term derived from the Latin word for freedom, and yet freedom and liberty are the very antithesis of what modern liberals want - either for others or for themselves.

What liberals want instead is complete immersion in a lie, complete personal surrender to a pattern of lies, so that reason, experience, evidence and common sense evaporate into the air. The boon companion of evil, Karl Marx, created the case: any deceit, any crime, any vile deed universally recognized by thoughtful people as wrong, may be made right if in the service of the progressive movement of society toward socialism (or, if you prefer, communism).

Even here there are lies within lies. Socialism and communism were used interchangeably by Marx, and yet the deliberate nudging of modern liberals has created an imaginary crack between these terms. Socialists, we are instructed, do not believe in dictatorship; communists, by contrast, believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

And more unspoken lies: if "right" and "wrong" are subjective creations of the ruling classes, then why is it "right" to advance the cause of socialism? If there is no morality possible in human existence then there is no morality possible. Marxism and its bastard child, liberalism, have a sort of quaky utilitarianism, but it is not the sort that Bentham or Mills would recognize.

Ultimately, rejecting the worth of honesty undermines any possible moral value as well. This manifests itself most profoundly in Stalinist regimes, which created in the Vozd a Tsar more powerful than any prior Tsar and an oppression of the individual more complete than the Mongol yoke.

Why? The Tsars - and if not the Tsars, at least the Russian people - by a metaphysical system considered superior to any dynasty. Although brutal rulers like Peter the Great could, and did, try to stamp out the influence of "Old Believers" even Peter could not reject, in principle, the Russian Orthodox faith. Indeed, the power of the Tsars was largely based upon the Patriarch of that church.

The Mongols, those utterly ruthless, were also practical. They won battles and wars by a combination of cruelty and cunning. Cities that did not surrender were slaughtered to the last life, but cities that submitted without a fight were spared. The Mongols honored those rules, and they understood that such honor was critical to their success.

Liberalism, by contrast, is surrealistically awful. Kim Jong Il, for example, does not care one whit about the happiness or even the prosperity of his kingdom. The Republic of Korea, the poorer half of the peninsula in 1950, is now vastly richer than the People's Democratic Republic of Korea.

Now, as the ghastly specter of anti-Semitism raises its shadow again, as the thermonuclear genie which had been corked back in the bottle comes out again, as old and discredited empires seek a rebirth, where is that folly called "Liberalism" which is supposed to oppose these types of dangers?

It would not take much from Daschle or Pelosi or Gore or Clinton - just a whisper of fidelity, just a hint of honor, just a touch of truthfulness - that is all that most Americans are waiting for from liberals. But while we wait, liberalism ends a terminal phase. It is, apparently, a disease without a cure.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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