December 05, 2011
A batallion of bilious breeders—furious that some boob-tube blabbermouth had forced them to tell their kids mommy and daddy had been fibbin’ to them for years—demanded that Robinson be clubbed to death with a bag of coals. The next evening, Robinson dutifully performed the public hairshirt-and-ashes Penitence Shuffle required of all mediabots who challenge our most cherished lies and then expect to still have a media career. Robinson apologized—“sincerely”—calling her previous night’s comments “careless and callous.” She then showed clips of herself out on Michigan Avenue, accosting random strangers and confessing that she’d broken children’s hearts. Two of these strangers suggested the same remedy: The parents should lie and tell their kids that Robinson was lying to them when she said there was no Santa Claus. To make things right—to keep the lie alive—one of them even encouraged everyone to simply dismiss her as if she was crazy:
Plato’s Republic argues that in order to maintain social cohesion, rulers must employ the gennaion pseudos—most often translated as the “noble lie,” but variously known as the magnificent myth, the pious fraud, the heroic delusion, and the noble dream. The concept is also framed more sinisterly as the “Big Lie.”
Plato suggested that the elites feed the hoi polloi a twin set of lies that were as patently fraudulent as the Santa Claus myth.
The first was that humans do not enter this world via human vaginas but are instead belched up from Mother Earth as if a banjo player were spitting out a watermelon seed. It was designed to render citizens willing to sacrifice their lives to defend the same shared soil that had belched them all forth.
The second myth was that humans are born with different precious metals in their souls. It was engineered so that the lower orders whose souls consisted of silver and bronze would sit at their preordained dining tables and dutifully obey their natural-born, golden-souled rulers.
Plato did not believe either myth, but he was certain the peasants would swallow them like sun-ripened olives. And it was for their own good, anyway. If someone were ever foolish enough to give them power, they’d smash it all to pieces. The poor chimps don’t know any better and can’t be taught. So it’s better to tell them lies in the service of a larger truth—that only the elites are fit to rule.
Neocon idol Leo Strauss loved Plato’s noble-lie concept so much, he would have French-kissed it if he could. His rabid adherents have been called “Leo-cons,” and his disciple Irving Kristol—known as the “godfather of neoconservativism”—has said things such as “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people.…The notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.” Speaking of different sets of truths, a tall tale about WMDs served the greater cause of spreading “democracy” wherever it has supposedly been spread, all those stinking peasant corpses ground to hamburger in its path be damned.
Turning leftward, one sees an elaborate latticework of mutually dependent noble lies. We’re all equal. Race doesn’t exist. Diversity unites rather than divides. Women never lie. Rape has nothing to do with sex. Wealth and poverty have nothing to do with intelligence. Addiction is a disease rather than a character flaw. It all sounds so chirpingly sweet, so beauteously noble, yet it’s all so obviously fraudulent that to keep the lie alive, the lying can only get louder. But who cares if they’re lies so long as they serve a higher cause? And who cares if we can’t even define the higher cause so long as it makes us feel good?
I’d like nothing better than to live in a society where people don’t throw rocks at you for telling the truth. But I doubt I could drum up much support for that platform. On the whole, people are more willing to die for lies than they are for the truth. Rational minds never get quite so worked-up, so fanatically unreasonable. This puts those who hate the very idea of “noble lies” at a severe tactical disadvantage. It’s also why societies tend to be built around lies rather than the truth—people cling to their lies more fiercely.
Honesty can be a colossal pain in the ass, but it’s still probably the best policy. There are a lot of deadly truths about life and people that I wish weren’t true, but I’ve vowed never to lie to my three-year-old son about them. The noblest thing I can do is coat the pill in a little bit of sugar and feed it all to him in very small doses. And I’ll definitely tell him that mommy and daddy bought him all those Christmas presents. In our house, Santa gets zero credit.
If TV reporter Robin Robinson was guilty of anything, it was tactlessness. She probably should have left it up to the kids’ parents—those lying bastards—to tell them that Santa doesn’t exist.