If we lie to our government it’s a serious crime. Why isn’t it an even more serious crime when our government lies to us? If crime is willful action that harms others, and we punish crime based on the extent of its harm, why aren’t we criminalizing and severely punishing political lies, which often result in great harm – including massive death and suffering throughout the world?
Planet earth and all but a tiny fraction of her inhabitants are being systematically raped and plundered by a corporate power structure that virtually owns the US government. If there’s an activity that can make money by destroying our planet or killing millions of our fellow human beings, you can bet the US government is actively promoting that activity. This immense, continuing crime against humanity (and nature) is being justified and sustained with big, fat political lies. If we don’t start criminalizing political lies and severely punishing our lying politicians, we’ll get more inequality; we’ll get more destruction of our natural resources; we’ll get more wars; we’ll get even more extreme human suffering that will progress until the downtrodden of the world finally revolt in desperation.
The Extreme Depravity of Political Lies
This isn’t about benign lies or compassionate lies aimed at easing suffering. This is about egregious deception unambiguously intended to further political ends with blatant disregard for the lie’s harmful consequences and with little or no accounting by our lying politicians. Unfortunately, this class of lies is the lifeblood of the US political system, a system that is inexorably destroying life on earth.
Without lies, the US political system would disintegrate. A system claiming to work for the people, but obviously working for special interests, must necessarily be based on lies. Corporations and lobbyists pay politicians big money to pass legislation that benefits them, not the American people. But since our politicians obviously can’t admit they frequently support special-interest legislation, they must lie. Our political system proudly rewards lying, with the best liars reaping the biggest rewards.
A lie is a betrayal of trust. Our personal lies might betray a spouse or a few friends, but the ramifications are usually quite limited. But when government representatives lie, for example to justify war, the betrayal could easily extend to all of humanity and even to the earth itself with severe, possibly irreversible, negative ramifications. Political lies kill big time (consider Afghanistan and Iraq). Political lies plunder. Political lies cause countless forms of extreme human suffering. Political lies are used to excuse the most heinous behavior. This class of lying, the very lifeblood of the US political system, is clearly criminal by any just definition of the term. Yet this moral abomination continues, not only unpunished, but handsomely rewarded.
Imagine if Political Lies Were Criminalized Prior to the Illegal US Invasion of Iraq
The invasion probably couldn’t have happened. Without the lies, there was no moral justification for war. Had members of the Bush administration been facing serious jail time if caught promoting political lies, those flimsy, deceptive arguments for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) wouldn’t have surfaced. If political lies were criminalized, they wouldn’t have dared to try to pass off a sleazy character called Curveball as a reliable source; they wouldn’t have tried to pass off crude rocket bodies as aluminum tubes for centrifuges; they wouldn’t have tried to pass off a flatbed truck for inflating target balloons as a mobile weapons lab; they wouldn’t have tried to pass off obviously forged documents on Niger uranium as real and Colin Powell wouldn’t have spouted out all those dramatic lies at the UN.
If he knew he faced certain jail time for lying, President Bush wouldn’t have said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” while conveniently ignoring the CIA and State Department reports questioning that story’s veracity.
But with no consequences for lying to the American people, our politicians were able to cavalierly inflict vast death and destruction on millions of innocent Iraqis while billing US taxpayers trillions. Billions in war profits poured into politically connected corporations. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. All the result of a pack of big, fat, legal political lies. Now Obama threatens to launch a sequel in Syria based (of course) on more political lies.
The Nature of Political Lies
Political lies aren’t limited to making false statements. There are political lies by omission when politicians fail to mention known facts and evidence that undermine their positions (as Bush did about African uranium). Perhaps the most harmful and ubiquitous political lie is evasion. Our politicians are almost never required to clearly explain and justify their positions. They’re free to spout out deceptive (often emotional) nonsense that many gullible Americans readily believe while they staunchly evade giving a clear explanation and justification for their positions. They staunchly evade answering cogent counterarguments. With the stakes as high as they are, this common, willful, and blatant form of intellectual dishonesty by politicians should be a very serious crime.
For example, our lying politicians are threatening war with Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but they staunchly evade explaining why they believe Iranian leaders would even think about using a nuclear weapon knowing full well their country would be utterly destroyed if they did. Our lying politicians staunchly evade discussing a much more likely reason for their dire concerns – Iran would have an effective deterrent should US politicians contemplate stealing its oil using massive military might as they tried in Iraq.
Enough Death and Destruction – Actions We Must Take to Effectively Criminalize Political Lies
The people of the world must unite to criminalize the ruthless plague that’s devouring our precious planet earth. We can’t expect our lying politicians to voluntarily stop lying to us when they profit so much from their lies. We the people must unite and emphatically demand strict intellectual honesty from our politicians by making political lies a very serious crime with very serious penalties.
But criminalizing political lies won’t be effective if our politicians can simply avoid getting caught lying. If we are to effectively prosecute our lying politicians, we need a reliable way to not only quickly detect political lies, but also an efficient way to collect incriminating evidence of deceit. Thanks to the amazing power of the Internet, we already have a way (using the exact infrastructure used by Wikipedia) that would instantly detect political lies, including evasion, and document evidence of deceit for prosecuting lying politicians.
There’s a (proposed) software tool called WikiArguments that could be used by law enforcement as a powerful political lie detector and evidence collector. WikiArguments is an Internet-based (wiki) system developed in 2008 by software engineer Carmen Yarrusso (yes, the author!) that, if adopted by Congress, would force congressional accountability and make government deception virtually impossible to hide. It would provide a secure mechanism for anonymous public (wiki) arguments to expose government deception, but, more importantly, it would also provide a simple system of forced accountability where members of Congress could no longer evade giving us clear, rational justifications for their positions. For details, see WikiArguments.
WikiArguments imposes just one requirement on our politicians: they must explain and justify their positions, in writing, transparently posted on the WikiArguments website. That’s it! Warning to politicians: any attempt at deceit would be exposed and challenged almost instantly for all the world to see.
The US political system is a deeply corrupt, criminal enterprise largely sustained by ruthless political lies. Our political system handsomely rewards liars while severely punishing truth tellers (see Drake, Manning, Snowden). In the service of political lies, the US government has flipped morality on its head.
We the people have every right to demand strict intellectual honesty from our politicians. Stop the lies, save planet earth.
Shout it from the streets, shout it from the rooftops, “Criminalize political lies, criminalize political lies, criminalize political lies…”