Lying in the War on Terrorism

  • Damian Cox
  • Michael Levine
  • Saul Newman


This chapter deals with an issue not much dealt with in the literature on terror — that of lying. It may at first seem a background or preliminary problem. It proves, however, to be very much at the centre of what has happened to politics as it responds to terrorism. It underpins a subversion of discourses on terror, tolerance and democracy, as well as means/ends thinking and a distortion of moral judgment. Lying and other forms of mendacity undermine freedom and democratic politics.1 More than violence and terrorism itself (though deception and lying are directly related to these) it threatens the future viability of liberal democracy — not just as a polity but also as a way of thinking. It raises the question of whether so-called Western democracies, formally or substantively considered, can properly be regarded as democracies at all.2 The overly insistent idea — used like some school motto — that it is terrorism and violence that threaten Western democracies rather than lies and deceit, is best seen as a subterfuge and projective form of defence. This kind of lying, like excessive self-deception and hypocrisy, is self-propagating and proliferate. Here on a local level at least, Kant’s notion that the practice of lying as a matter of course is self-defeating in that it undermines the possibility of any meaningful discourse whatsoever seems to hold.


Political Culture Group Politics Political Pluralism Group Psychology Group Mind 
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Copyright information

© Damian Cox, Michael Levine and Saul Newman 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damian Cox
    • 1
  • Michael Levine
    • 2
  • Saul Newman
    • 3
  1. 1.Bond UniversityAustralia
  2. 2.University of Western AustraliaAustralia
  3. 3.Goldsmiths — University of LondonUK

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