The power of lies

Hanna Arendt, born 1906 and died 1975, was a German-born Jewish American political theorist. In a 1974 interview she said the following regarding the power of lies:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

It’s a chilling insight into Donald Trump’s strategy of attacking the media, including his recent pronouncement via Twitter. Trump’s use of Twitter to “reach his supporters” is characteristic of Arendt’s idea of constantly changing lies.

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!


A New Yorker article expands on this theme.