Weapons of mass delusion

Phillip Adams 

The Weekend Australian Magazine, February 15-16 2003 

[Australia's premier broadcaster, millionaire armchair socialist, skeptic and Holocaust believer who, in view of the 17 September 2002 Federal Court of Australia Judgment,  advised Fredrick Töben to "commit voluntary euthanasia and switch off" Adelaide Institute's website.]

"The broad mass of the nation ... would more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." — Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

"political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." — George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

"In our country, lies become not just a moral category but a pillar of State." — Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Oak and the Calf


It was dead easy for the Python boys to write the Dead Parrot sketch. Most of the similes and euphemisms (such as "ceasing to be", "expired" and "joining the Choir Invisible") came from Roget's Thesaurus, section 360.

Well, if Roget's was good enough for them, it's good enough for me. I've been thinking about the way the lies dominate our lives — most of all our political lives. So I looked up "lie" and, excluding the meanings that has to do with reclining and lying in wait, was directed to "untruth" in section 564r. And there was a verbal smorgasbord of falsehoods, fibs, whoppers and terminological inexactitudes. Among the variations on the theme were forgery, fabrication, invention, misstatement, misrepresentation, perversion, falsification, gloss and bosh; scores of words dealing with evasion, deception, deceit.


Yes, made to measure for a comedy sketch but surplus to this column's requirements. For the simplest word, the basic, no-nonsense, three-letter "lie" is the most compact and deadly. Lie. The word tells the truth about untruth. You need no other — nor help from a spin doctor — to state the bald fact that the lie, more often than not the Big Lie, is used to distort and dominate the way we conduct our most important transactions.

While it's a platitude, a truism, to say that politicians lie, the record shows that the more powerful the practitioner, the more contentious the issue, the more outrageous the lie. During the last federal election, we heard at least seven Big Lies about asylum seekers: 1) They weren't "real" refugees. 2) They were "illegals".  3) They were "queue jumpers". 4) They were terrorists. 5) They were the sort of monsters who threw their own children overboard. 6) Let a few in and, within weeks, we'd be threatened by millions. 7) They threatened our very way of life.

Not only did we listen to those lies but we chose to embrace them. We wanted them, needed them, to justify our collective cruelty. And even when, one by one the lies were revealed as lies, we clung to them as desperately as the refugees from the sinking Siev X clung to pieces of wreckage in October 2001. As, one by one, hundreds of them drowned.  

   [Isn't it amazing how here a parallel with Holocaust lies is striking —yet Adams still believes in those lies, as do many Australians.]

Yet the liars in Canberra are rank amateurs when compared to the liars in Washington. Pretending to believe in the mountain of bullshit that the Bush administration extrudes, the mob in charge of our ship of state (as ramshackle a vessel as any of those employed by people smugglers) aren't even creative liars. They echo and amplify the lies devised by the sociopaths in and around the White House. One of whom admitted that, "What we need is a new Pearl Harbour." And al-Qa'ida obliged.

Armed with that atrocity, it was easy to lie about intentions, motivations, strategy. You could lie that a war against Iraq was simply an extension of the war against al-Qa'ida, that Osama bin Laden, the religious nutter, was linked to Saddam Hussein, the secular thug. Whereas, in truth, they are political and ideological opponents.

You could lie about your plans — plans that had been hatched during the Clinton years, those years in the wilderness for Republican warmongers. The whole scenario had been mapped out, waiting to be presented as a fait accompli to the American people and the world. All you needed was a new Pearl Harbour and a readiness to lie.

[Adams will not go that extra step, and though claiming to be a skeptic it is in name only; he still believes that Pearl Harbour lie!]

You could lie about motives — in particular, branding any suggestion that oil had anything to do with it as scurrilous. You could lie about — and to — the United Nations. You could lie about preferring a diplomatic outcome while loading your bombers and fine-tuning the targets of your thousands of cruise missiles. You could lie about weapons inspections and about "weapons of mass destruction" while chortling in the corridors of power. As journalist Bob Woodward's recent book Bush at War invaluably documents.

Trouble is, the public doesn't seem to be buying the latest lies. No matter how hard the liars try, the lies are falling on deaf and disbelieving ears. Having used overwhelming public opinion as his excuse, his justification, in the appalling maltreatment of our refugees, our MP now shrugs off public opinion as irrelevant. This time, it doesn't suit him. Suddenly, to oppose public opinion signifies leadership.

Simple fact: At least as many people reject the lies around the new war as chose to believe the lies about the "refugee crisis". And there's a similar level of public opposition to the war in the US.

These are not the sort of lies people want or need. When it came to refugees, Australians demanded to be duped, needed to be gulled, were desperate to be credulous. This time around they're too scared, knowing the new lies will lead to death on an immense scale — and to the retribution of unprecedented terrorism within our borders. Moreover, not even the US president and his pair of obliging prime ministers are good enough liars.

[But all this reminds us of the Holocaust topic, which may now enjoy legally protection. What does Adams say to that — protecting something that is a lie? Ask him yourself, then remind him that our appeal is on 25 February 2003 in the Federal Court of Australia, Sydney.]

It's not as if the US and Australia haven't had quite a lot of practice in lying at this level. We heard them, loud and clear, in the Vietnam fiasco. But, unfortunately, too many people in both countries remember those lies and their catastrophic consequences. Wait for a replay of the 1960s as the Big Lie, slowly but surely, destroy the big liars. One by one, the leaders who've lied to us will topple from their political perches and, like Python's parrot, fall into the shit and shell grit.


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