Tuesday, 13 August 2013

lies and the lying liars

I have mentioned before that I read a weekly magazine called Telerama, which is a kind of upmarket Radio Times. It is a TV guide, yes, but also a cultural guide to the week, and has articles on themes which are of varying interest. This being France, it has a depressing tendency to commission articles from philosophers who tell us how we think. Anyway, this week's theme is lying, and very interesting it was. I turned the pages to do a double take when I came upon a big picture of - Chris Huhne. Of whom nobody much  has heard in France, but that story caused a small stir when reported here. This was because all he had done was acquire some speeding points (in France you start with maximum points and then they get deducted for things like speeding) and would only have had to pay a fine. Everywhere else in Europe, said Telerama, this would be a trivial matter which would bother no one. But Les Anglais cannot tolerate such a thing. Their public schools teach them the art of "la dissimulation" and understatement, so they do not have to lie. There's some truth in this, of course, but it's also true that British people tend to think that politicians lie, and in fact they mostly do not. People in politics cannot afford to lie, because of the consequences if they get caught. Myself, I found it simply easier to tell the truth, then you never have to remember to keep your story straight. Disappointingly, the article quoted the misguided John Le Carre, who has said that the important thing in British society is not to get caught. Which, of course, it is not. And then the article trotted out the "Tony Blair lied on Iraq" line as if it were true. That particular canard has never become the truth, despite the best efforts of the Guardian and others, because, er, it's not true.

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