Repeating Lies


I was reading the Reynolds Pamphlet this morning and came across this quote:

Lies often detected and refuted are still revived and repeated, in the hope that the refutation may have been forgotten or that the frequency and boldness of accusation may supply the place of truth and proof.  – Alexander Hamilton

It occured to me how relevant this is 226 years later. Regardless of your political beliefs, it seems politicians and news media from all sides continue this pattern. Elections, climate change, corruption – we hear false and incomplete narratives over and over. The problem is people should be able to make up our mind fairly, based on full and complete facts. People of good faith should be able to look at evidence from all sides, and we should trust that while their solutions might be different, we are operating from the same knowledge of the problem.  This is one of the reasons I love the motto of Caltech – “The truth shall make you free” from John 8:32.

I do my best to be completely honest in both my business and personal life, both because it is the right thing to do, but because it has real advantages. Hamilton was motivated to write his defense, because he was hiding a previous lie to his wife which subsequently got him into trouble. No lies to start with, no need to hide his bribe to Reynolds, no need to destroy his life with a tell all writeup.

This pattern of “lies revived and repeated” was also known by some of the biggest madmen of our century.

A lie told often enough becomes the truth. –Vladamir Lenin

By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell, heaven…the greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed. – Adolf Hitler

They certainly knew the power of repeating lies and used it to their advantage, to the end result of millions of deaths. I wonder what advantage is being gained by the politicians and media today. Power? Wealth? Control? We should be vigilant in trying to understand both who benefits from lies and how they benefit.



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