Victor Davis Hanson:
All presidents at one time have fudged on the truth. Most politicians pad their resumes and airbrush away their sins. But what is new about political lying is the present notion that lies are not necessarily lies anymore — a reflection of the relativism that infects our entire culture.
Postmodernism (the cultural fad “after modernism”) went well beyond questioning norms and rules. It attacked the very idea of having any rules at all. Postmodernist relativists claimed that things like “truth” were mere fictions to preserve elite privilege. Unfortunately, bad ideas like that have a habit of poisoning an entire society — and now they have.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was recently caught fabricating her own autobiography. She exaggerated her earlier ordeals, lied about the age at which she divorced and was untruthful about how she paid for her Harvard Law School education.
When caught, Davis did not apologize for lying. Instead, she lamely offered that, “My language should be tighter.” Apparently, only old fogies still believe in truth and falsehood — period. In contrast, Davis knows that promoting a progressive feminist agenda is “truth,” and she only needs to be “tighter” about her fabrications to neutralize her reactionary critics.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for years falsely claimed that she was a Native American. That fabricated ancestry proved useful in upping her career trajectory. When pressed about her racial background during her 2012 campaign, the Harvard law professor denied any deliberate misrepresentation and went on to be elected. Such progressive crusaders assume that they serve the greater truth of social change.
In the gospel of postmodern relativism, what did it matter if the president of the United States promised that Obamacare would not alter existing health-care plans when it was clear that it would? Instead, the good intentions of universal health care are the only truth that matters.
For that matter, the “law” that requires a president to enforce legislation passed by the Congress is likewise a construct. If ignoring bothersome laws — whether the individual mandate and timetable of Obamacare, or federal immigration law — serves a greater social justice, then such dereliction also becomes “truth.” Blindly enforcing legalistic details of the law that are deemed no longer in the interest of the people would be the real lie, or so the reasoning goes.
Without notions of objective truth, there can never be lies, just competing narratives and discourses. Stories that supposedly serve the noble majority are true; those that supposedly don’t become lies — the facts are irrelevant. When Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2007 heard the factual details of the successful Iraqsurge as related by Gen. David Petraeus, she said it required a “suspension of disbelief.” In her postmodern sensibility, fighting an unpopular war was a lie, but opposing it was the truth — and the actual metrics for whether the surge was working or not were simply an irrelevant narrative.
Postmodernism is a liberal invention where everyone creates their own reality and the truth is not relevant. You can see it in Obama’s speeches, Pelosi’s comments on unemployment compensation, Hillary’s comments on the deaths of the Benghazi four and many others. They do not believe they are lying.
“If we reject the principal that the end justifies the means, we can only appeal to higher, politically irrelevant moral criteria; and this…amounts to believing in God.” – Leszek Kolakowski