Michael Patrick O’Leary, aka Padraig Colman, presenting an essay that did not make the top grade
To help me through these troubled times, this sordid age, I have been bingeing on the oeuvre of the Divine Plum, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse.
The Age of Aquarius has long departed. We are now living in the Age of Ukridge, a time of fact-free posturing. This is the Age of Systemic Deceit, the post-truth era. Once a lie finds a sympathetic ear, rebuttals, facts, will not persuade people that it is not true. To believe anything else would create a sense of cognitive dissonance. Memories of corrections fade rapidly, but the memory of the original lie remains. Goebbels had something to say on this subject. Media scholar Caroline Jack coined the phrase “unintentional amplification”, which in turn leads to another phenomenon which she identifies as “inadvertent legitimisation” – the act of giving credibility to “strategic lies” simply by repeating them. In Truth and Truthfulness, his last published book, philosopher Bernard Williams focused on what he identified as the “virtues” of truthfulness, Accuracy and Sincerity. We can’t get along without trust (human flourishing creates a “need for cooperation” (b) but trust requires truthfulness, and (c) truthfulness presupposes that there are (at least some) truths. For Williams, lies are pernicious for at least two reasons: (1) the liar betrays the trust of the dupe; and (2) the liar exerts power over the dupe, manipulating his or her beliefs and thus (potentially) his or her choices. Today, all citizens are taken for dupes and patsies, marks in the great political confidence trick.