Picture a snow-covered mountain in Polynesia. It rises majestically above a prosaic village, dwarfing the tiki huts and placing the mundane cares of its denizens in perspective by way of a sort of implicit pictorial reproach, so imposing are its lofty crags and cloudy pinnacles. Just so this Web page rises above cyberspace, tacitly chiding its Netizens for their want of taste in their own digital reading fare.


June 2018

Dear Lance Morrow

Against a politics of lying

A satiric rebuke of a prominent American essayist after his unconvincing attempt to philosophically justify the tyrannical tendencies of Donald Trump.

What do you make of this, Minnie?

Minnie Pipkin, ladies and gentlemen, my imaginary 17th-century chambermaid.

There's this essay in the Wall Street Journal this morning in which a certain Lance Morrow defends the politics of utilitarian lying.


B: I know, right?

MINNIE: The very idea! (DO keep your right foot still, your lordship. I'm trying to darn your sock here.)

B: That's right, Minnie: all in an attempt to defend Donald Trump and his seemingly ingrained habit (dare I say strategy) of lying.

MINNIE: The things people will write to meet a deadline. (Knit one, purl two, knit one, purl two...)

B: Lance hauls in impressive quotes from Bertrand Russell and Heraclitus to remind us that "all is change", and suggests essentially that we "go with Trump's mendacious flow" and see what happens.

MINNIE: I know you're excited, your lordship, but do keep your foot still. This argyle sock isn't going to knit itself.

B: Can you imagine? Go with the mendacious flow in the body politic? This is NOT your grandfather's democracy.

MINNIE: Nay, but do hold still.

B: Let alone the democracy of the Founding Fathers.

MINNIE: Has your lordship recently purchased an omnivorous puppy dog? Why, bless me, this sock is in tatters!

B: Besides, if Lance is going to hark back to the ancients, you'd think he'd remember that the Sophists of yore championed just such an amoral position as he's proposing here, this 'strategic lying' of his.

MINNIE: Knit one, purl two...

B: And we know how well Socrates settled THEIR philosophical hash.

MINNIE: Almost finished, your lordship.

B: And then Lance quotes Solon, the Athenian lawmaker, to suggest that we shouldn't discount Trump's mendacious M.O. until we've given him a fair chance to use it.

MINNIE: Knit one, purl two...

B: Well, pardon me, Minnie, but the Solon I know said nothing of the kind.

MINNIE: You don't say, your worship. (Knit one, purl two...)

B: No. Solon said: "Call no man happy until he's dead."

MINNIE: And done.

B: That's a far cry from: "Call no political strategy crazy until its been run into the ground by its most adamant devotee."

MINNIE: Now the other foot.

B: As if we have to play dumb and make no assessment of a tyrant's M.O. until he's cancelled our right to even talk about such things.

MINNIE: Come to Mama.

B: Besides: the strategy of utilitarian lying has already been given plenty of chances to prove itself, Minnie -- by leaders that the modern world has traditionally referred to as dictators.

MINNIE: Knit one, purl two...

B: That strategy is being used even as we speak -- by every one of America's major enemies.

MINNIE: Oh, fie on that Lance Morrow. Fie. (Knit one, purl two...)

B: The slaughter in Syria is a direct result of Putin's reliance on utilitarian lying.

MINNIE: You got that right.

B: Minnie?

MINNIE: I mean, your lordship says sooth.

B: That's more like it. Anyway, I'm sorry, Minnie, but the last thing we need is for a respected essayist such as Lance to attempt to provide a philosophical veneer to Trump's undermining of the values of Western society.

MINNIE: Knit three, purl four...

B: Yes, all leaders may lie sometimes, but that's no reason to green-light lying. Under the same logic, we may as well all start sinning 'to beat the band,' since all of us sin sometimes.

MINNIE: Oh, fie on this -- what did you call him again? -- this Lance Morrow of yours. Oh, fie.

B: Thanks, Minnie. I knew I found a winner when you replied to my advert for a 17th-century chambermaid.

MINNIE: Why, your worship!

B: Honesty, Minnie: we've got to aspire to that in public leadership, or the future is a bleak one full of cynical leaders manipulating jaded flocks into needless confrontations, based on the flawed assumption that survival is a zero-sum game.

MINNIE: Left sock: darned.

B: Left sock darned? Well, Trump be darned, when it comes to that, Minnie. Donald Trump be darned!

MINNIE: Nay, but your worship is such a kidder.

B: What would I do without you, Minnie?

MINNIE: Well, you'd probably just imagine a younger maid servant of the 21st century, with sinuous leg and ample bosom--

B: Um... that was a rhetorical question, Minnie.


B: A rhetorical question!

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Copyright 2017, Brian Quass quass@quass.com (follow on Twitter)