Lies vs. BS: why BS is worse

The philosopher Harry Frankfort wrote that there is an important difference between lies and BS.

The liar knows what the truth it, but chooses to tell falsehoods.

The BSer doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the distinction between truth and falsehood.  The BSer is much more dangerous than the liar.

For me, the most scary thing about the totalitarian governments of the 20th century was that they destroyed the distinction between truth and lies.   As in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, truth was whatever Big Brother said it was.  But this also was a fatal weakness, because totalitarian rulers lose contact with reality.  

Reality continues to be whatever it is, whether you recognize it or not.  As the philosopher Ayn Rand once said (I paraphrase): It is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

Democracy, the free-market system and the scientific method constitute an immune system against losing touch with reality.  People won’t vote for you if you don’t serve their interests.  People won’t buy your product if it isn’t any good.  And people won’t believe your theory if your experiment doesn’t work.  All this constitutes a reality check.  But the reality check no longer seems to be working.

The disturbing thing about the George W. Bush administration is not that it was founded on lies, but that it was founded on BS.   A Bush administration official, widely believed to by Karl Rove, mocked the journalist Ron Suskind for being a member of the “reality-based community.”  The Bush administration was creating its own reality, he said.   We know how that ended.

I hoped, when I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, that there would be a return to reality, but this isn’t happening, as is shown in the three links below, the first having to do with Ukraine policy and the second two with the Obamacare fiasco.   Surrealpolitik is a good name for this.

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