A Kingdom of Lies

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

People don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Ask virtually any person on the street if they like being lied to, and they will invariably tell you no. Of course – what other answer would you ever expect?

But the truth is that people quite obviously do like to be lied to. Just not consciously. I have already broached the subject here. No need to cover old ground once again.

Needless to say, this is a very ugly reality for anyone interested in liberty. After all, we have come to realize that libertarianism is the sole socio-economic philosophy that wholly embraces that which separates us from mere beasts: Our ability to reason, through and through. Our ability to make use of logic.

People are emotional creatures, however. First and foremost before deductive reasoning ever enters the picture, something feels right or wrong, and this will more often than not dictate a person’s belief system (to the extent that the hodge-podge of the average human brain ever really constructs any coherent philosophy that could be called a consistent “system;” libertarianism comes about as close as anything is likely to ever get, given the substandard and fallible foundation that we have no choice but to work with). We can be thankful that scientists and inventors do not act thusly, at least while pursuing their stock-in-trade. Were that so we’d all still be living in caves, rubbing sticks together.

Tyrants, despots and dictators of every stripe throughout human history have knowingly used emotional appeal in order to consolidate their power, and foster blind obedience to their dictums. Adolf Hitler openly stated in Mein Kampf that, “The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses.”

This seems to be, like it or not, key to the success of any socio-political movement (true, libertarianism may correctly be called an anti-political movement, but the same principles apply). And I do not personally believe, as some in the libertarian movement might suggest, that utilizing similar methods in the advancement of a truly free voluntary society is the equivalent of attempting to use the One Ring in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Again, like it or not, an average member of society cannot be swayed entirely on the basis of objective evidence alone. They must first be appealed to – all the evidence in turn shows – on an emotional basis.

For indeed, this is how they have come to their present statist, government-apologist standpoint: Government protects me. The police are there when I need them. What if my house is burning down? What about the poor? How can the “country” be defended from invaders and terrorists? We need government to build roads and bridges. Government should provide health care. What about crazy people on drugs or with guns? The rich should have to contribute their “fair share.” Without government, corporations will run the world. And a thousand and one other anxiety-ridden, underinformed, prejudicial, and insecure viewpoints that will not stand up to the test of objective reasoning and demonstrable fact – we know – but that the average John or Jane Doe insists adamantly on believing anyway.

None of that would matter if somehow the statists would simply leave us be – tax collectors, police, and soldiers, mostly. However, thus far, sacrosanct to their statism is an insistence that so long as we are among them geographically, they intend to make us part of their collective – by any measure of force necessary. We, on the other hand, by and large refuse to yield to their aggression by relocating to a deserted Pacific island, some frozen Canadian tundra, or Antarctica. We, after all, are not the initiators of such violence, and have every right to exist in a physical environment meteorologically conducive to our physical survival.

Where does this leave us? Facts and evidence, though they by all rights should turn the necessary keys and unlock the necessary doors, will obviously not suffice – certainly not with the vast majority of the hoi polloi populace.

And that’s who we have to work with. Like it or not. Further, we better like it: Unless we are going to suggest that a voluntary society is only workable among some intellectually elite remnant, we can indeed otherwise forget about ever achieving a full-scale voluntary society. In which case, see you on that Canadian tundra real soon.

No: The paradigm of liberty, I for one remain convinced, can most certainly replace that of coercion and statism. Just as the paradigms of a flat earth, black slavery, female inferiority, poison tomatoes, the “impossibility” of aviation, etc., have all long since been shelved by humanity. But whereas these things have all gone by the boards as a result of evidentiary experience and expanding knowledge, none such has yet occurred on any mass scale with regard to statism. That does not mean that it will not or cannot, only that so far, it has not.

It would appear that appeal to people’s emotions is the card that has not yet been played to its fullest: Do you like being told what do do? Do you really enjoy paying taxes? Do you enjoy seeing bureaucrats get away with things you or I would end up in prison for? Do you like financing the deaths of people, both here in America, and overseas? Do you like the NSA spying on you, the IRS taking your money, being sexually molested at airports? Would you like it if you went to prison for marijuana? Do you really believe voting changes anything, or gives you freedom? These are just a few examples of things that might trigger an emotional – rather than a strictly logical – reaction in the uninitiated. I’m sure you can think of several others. And I think that both human psychology and historical precedent show unequivocally that the odds are far more in favor of the former than the latter. However that, the latter may soon follow the former, and if so, then the battle is being won.

There is before us the task of dismantling this kingdom of lies America – and most of the world -- has become. It is perhaps an unenviable one, if noble in its aspirations. But apparently truth is not doing the job – either rapidly or thoroughly enough. We must shift our focus, I would suggest, to that which has been proven to produce results.

And that is not by attempting to dispel lies, before we change hearts.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 113

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.

Comments

Serenity's picture

Well written. Love your articles.

 I have marveled at the ideas people have. A number of people claim'we cannot survive without a ruler'. but yet they never ask how the ruler manages the feat? no one rules the ruler. Those who govern us at the point of a gun do not have that gun pointed back to themselves. They do as they please. Laws that affect us have no force with them or are written to exempt the masters from it.   yet people still can make the claim that society would collapse without that violence and force. Amazing the illusion and lies people will accept.

Mark Davis's picture

Good advice Alex.  As much as I would enjoy living on my own tropical island, I can't afford one.  Most people are cowards that want somebody else to take care of them, feed them and protect them while they waste their time being entertained.  Alas, it may be the case "that a voluntary society is only workable among some intellectually elite remnant".  The intellectual power required for self-reflection, much less for overcoming the power of self-delusion reinforced by a lifetime of being brainwashed, may not be available to people with below average or even average intelligence.  That includes most of the population making democracy a death sentence for mankind.

Glock27's picture

Mark Davies: I've not read the article yet but the idea that "Some people are cowards that want somebody else to take care of the etc" is, for me a grand remark. I am not convinced they are cowards--they are just lazy, do nothings. I have observed this particular attitude a lot. I think in a lot of cases many people are just frustrated when the Fed keeps pushing and pushing and pushing because they realize that eventually they will give up. Essentially everyone and I mean everyone has a self interest in protecting the "self". Ergo the emotions play a vital role in the helplessness inculcated into the American people. Nice remark anyway. Thanks for saying it.

Paul's picture

I don't see anything wrong with appealing to emotion. It's not appealing to emotion per se that is wrong; it is appealing to emotion when logic and reason do not back that appeal up, that's wrong.

I agree, at least in areas dealing with worldview, that logic does not move a lot of people.

Your examples of such an appeal work for me; however to add humor or ridicule often is even more effective, e.g. "Thank heaven my tax dollars are being used to kill Arab babies!"

Jim Davies's picture

Yet another superb one, Alex, well done.
 
Emotional appeals, such as those you mention, are great for getting attention. Emotion however can reverse itself on a dime; IMHO it should not be trusted to take people very far. A long-term, fixed commitment to liberty requires systematic, reason-based learning.
 
Germans are admirable people; clear-thinking and hard-working. Could they have been so horribly hornswaggled by Hitler if he had followed up his highly skilled appeals to their emotion by a course in racial superiority, Aryan destiny, the virtues of military conquest etc?  - rational analysis of such ideas in the cold light of day suggest to me a negative answer.
 
 

Glock27's picture

Alex. That was a very nice point. The past six years I have set upon the cusp of rage. How is it possible that so many people can be so fuqing ignorant and stupid at the very same instant. I guess the King realized if he lied long enough and kept promising the moon he would have enough peons who would re-elect him. I have to stop because just thinking about it gets my heart to skipping too many beats. Nicely devised piece.