‘The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage [ … ] The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.’ George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Orwell might have added that the Party also ensured that you only saw and heard the news that reinforced their lies. This is easily done with a compliant media which supports and promotes the ruling executive’s agenda. You might dismiss some of the lies as being standard for politicians or trivial – just examples of politicians’ hunger for the limelight, for glory and approbation. But all lies matter. All lies that go unchallenged and uncorrected eat away at the delicate fabric of trust and integrity that is essential for a healthy society. Yes, you can take the view that constant cynicism is the best strategy, but what happens when you really, really need to know if you are being told a truth or a lie?
This is how gaslighting works. The persistence of lies and the insistence on their veracity, despite evidence to the contrary, is designed to wear us all down so that we no longer know if black is really black or white is really white and either give up and go along with the dominant version of ‘truth’ or go mad with frustration and outrage at the torrent of unchallenged lies. And, like the boy who cried “Wolf!”, sometimes the truth will be being told, but a large cohort will be blithely deaf to the presence of the dangerous ‘wolf’ in their midst with disastrous consequences. It’s possible that it’s because we have a government of liars that we have covid-deniers.
Indeed, the government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis has been an absolutely textbook example of how not to secure the trust necessary to get mass buy-in to (short-term) unpalatable measures. Over-promising and under-delivering has been fatal – literally. Mixed messaging, a ‘do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do’ approach has been fatal, too. Literally. And now, the cack-handed communication regarding the delayed second vaccine dose and the yawning gap between vaccines promised and vaccines actually delivered also has the potential for fatal consequences. I must say that my initial reaction to the delay was ‘they screwed up’ and they are taking chances with vulnerable people’s lives. I have now read Chair of the British Medical Association’s Public Health Committee Dr Peter English’s piece and can now understand that such a delay potentially makes sound – and life-saving – sense, though the jury is still out on that. We can all be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that the government has stuffed up on procurment. (You can read Dr English’s blog here. He has grave concerns about schools opening, too, by the way. The ‘strategy’ (hollow laugh) on schools is an example of government’s cherry-picking approach where science is concerned.)
The bottom line is that we really are going to have to watch this bunch of dangerously accomplished yet simultaneously incompetent con artists like hawks as they try over and over again to get stuff by us. This is especially important in the context of the ‘Henry VIII’ powers the executive has seized under Coronavirus Act and the European Union (Future Relationship) Act legislation. In both cases, the legislation was rushed through, minimising the scrutiny that Johnson (with good reason) avoids at all cost. Both Acts give the Executive extraordinary powers to change laws without passing new ones. Such a power grab should concern citizens at the best of times, but such power in the hands of the corrupt and mendacious is truly terrifying.
Where the impact of our departure from the EU is concerned, this government of Brexit cultists has given itself quite a challenge – how to convince the populace that the promised unicorns have indeed arrived and are happily prancing about, kicking up sunbeams and little pots of gold as they go. One tactic is just to state that the unicorns are indeed there, we only need to ‘believe’ in Britain in order to see them. The other is to have had the foresight to hold back some ‘wins’ that can then be produced as proof of unicorn existence. I’m sounding flippant. I don’t mean to be, because this is deadly serious (see above). This gaslighting technique has become far too honed and far too prevalent in its use for us to be able to relax our vigilance for a second.
We’d already seen the technique used repeatedly by Liz Truss, crowing about trade deals struck on terms identical to or worse than those we enjoyed as members of the EU. Actually, the whole of Brexit is predicated on our being delighted at having a tenner filched from our pockets and a fiver handed to us with a flourish and a cheesy grin by the very same thief.
There were two perhaps seemingly harmless examples from 1 Jan (start as you mean to go on, eh?): tampon tax. Rishi Sunak declares that he is proud to honour the promise to scrap tampon tax. About time, too. It’s an horrific tax, especially at a time of growing period poverty as more and more families slip into financial difficulty. (Incidentally, if you want to help ensure girls don’t miss school because they cannot afford tampons etc, you can donate to Period Poverty.)
Steve Baker, Brexiter-extraordinaire, was quick to brag:
Poor Steve has a bad case of amnesia since he actually voted to KEEP the tampon tax back in 2015, and Bernard Jenkin, who said he has been campaigning for 20 years for it to be cut, abstained in the same vote! But the key point is the zero-rating of tampons was already EU policy, albeit with implementation set for 2022. Will the price genuinely be slashed by a whole 5 per cent or will the fact that the big brand tampons are made , allegedly, in Slovenia or Spain mean that weak sterling and Brexit import costs will make them even more expensive than they are now?
Then there was the boasting that we’d used our ‘freedom’ from the EU to ban pulse fishing. Remember, this is day one of our new ‘era’ outside the EU and already we are on big fat lie number 2.
True to form, the Brexiter press swank:
It’s great that this damaging technique is banned. But it is an outright lie that we could not have banned it sooner, while we were STILL IN THE EU. The French implemented the ban in August last year. Our government held off. Wonder why?
“So they exagerrated. Aw! Bless!”
No, no no! It matters. It really matters. It’s a lie to cover up a terrible, life-altering, economy-damaging, division-inducing lie. It cannot be allowed to stand. None of the lies can.
Finally, here’s maybe the most brazen falsehood from yesterday’s crop: Brandon Lewis:
Angry? You betcha.
Oh, and did the government rush to tell you that, as a consequence of Brexit, Gibraltar has now joined Schengen? No! Funny that…And by the way, Brexit is far from done. Very, very far.
Like a hawk, people. Like a hawk…