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Lying in the War on Terrorism

  • Damian Cox
  • Michael Levine
  • Saul Newman

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Political Culture Group Politics Political Pluralism Group Psychology Group Mind 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 4.
    W. H. Auden (1977) The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings, 1927 39 (ed.) E. Mendelson (New York: Random House), p. 212.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    P. Owens (2007) ‘Beyond Strauss, Lies and the War in Iraq: Hannah Arendt’s Critique of Neoconservatism’, Review of International Studies, vol. 33, pp. 265–83, p. 266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 8.
    H. Arendt (1983) Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt Brace), p. viii.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    H. A. Giroux (2006) ‘Dirty Democracy and State Terrorism: The Politics of the New Authoritarianism in the United States’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 26: 2, pp. 163–77, p. 172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 11.
    See F. Rich (2006) The Greatest Story Every Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth-The Real History of the Bush Administration (New York: Viking);Google Scholar
  6. also L. Cliffe, M. Ramsay and D. Bartlett (2000) The Politics of Lying: Implications for Democracy (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 12.
    For a discussion of various interpretations Machiavellianism as a justification for lying see M. Ramsay (2000) ‘Justifications for Lying in Politics’, in Cliffe et al., The Politics of Lying, pp. 3–26. Again one sees excellent accounts of the political lies told and an account of the scope of the problem. But the reasons given for the extraordinary lying are invariably rational. The reason for lying in politics is to knowingly (consciously) achieve some desired end. Whether this is viewed as moral or immoral or some kind of necessary political expediency that is supra moral varies. See, for example, Ramsay’s discussion of the causes of government deception (Cliffe, 2000: 44). On our account, the four kinds of reasons listed are superficial, and so inadequate, or else just false.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    S. Kierkegaard [1843] (1983) Fear and Trembling, H. Hong and E. Hong, eds and trans. (Princeton; Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    H. Arendt (1969) Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), p. 20.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    J. K. Galbraith (1992) The Culture of Contentment (New York: Houghton Mifflin).Google Scholar
  11. 33.
    Gordon Lafer (2004) Neoliberalism by Other Means, p. 15.Google Scholar

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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