Lying and Politcs07-25-2011
In June of this year, Americans celebrated a curious anniversary. The Pentagon Papers turned 40. For Hannah Arendt, what struck anyone who would sit down and read the 47 volumes was the "quicksand of lying statements of all sorts, deceptions as well as self-deceptions." The untruths in the Papers included factual deceptions: Phony body counts and doctored after-damage reports. But these factual lies, Arendt writes in her essay Lying in Politics, were known before they were published in the New York Times. Like the recent Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables that elicited a collective yawn from all but those who were caught with their feet in their mouths, the Pentagon Papers hardly revealed any spectacular news.
The import of the Pentagon Papers was not the sudden revelation of unknown facts, but the light they shone on the dangers of self-deception. The lesson Arendt drew was that highly intelligent problem solvers could so easily convince themselves of their technocratic ability to steer the war that, when the facts contradicted their theories and calculations, they concluded that it was the facts that must be wrong. What the Pentagon Papers showed, Arendt argued, was not the workings of cabal seeking to deceive others for some end so much as the powerful danger of lying to oneself.
In March of this year, The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College, in collaboration with the New School for Social Research, hosted Lying and Politics, A two-day conference asking:
What is the fate of politics in an age of Lying, Advertising, and Mass-Market Deception?
Speakers at the conference included:
•George Kateb,William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University
•Andreas Kalyvas, Associate Professor of Political Science, The New School
•Kirstie McClure, Associate Professor of Political Science, UCLA
•Uday Mehta, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, CUNY
•Roger Hodge, Former editor of Harpers Magazine.
Videos of the talks are available and we will be posting them over the coming days. You can watch Roger Berkowitz's Introduction to the theme of Lying and Politics here:
And you can watch George Kateb's Lecture (introduced by Jerry Kohn pictured below) "Democracy and Lying," here:
And here is the Question and Answer session for George Kateb's paper: