Pontius Pilate wasn’t being inquisitive with his now-infamous retort.
No, as his innocent prisoner stood before him, he balked, “what is truth?” In other words, “who really knows what the heck truth is, anyway—and who are you to say you know?”
Italian political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli once wrote in “The Prince” (emphasis mine):
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.
For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it.”
Translation? For many, the ends justify the means.
[sharequote align="center"]Our political process is rife with people who will say or do anything to advance a narrative[/sharequote]
So let’s get back to the idea of truth for a second (and to the politics and culture of the 21st century).
Comedian Sarah Silverman recently got caught in a nice juicy whopper. She claimed to have been once paid less money than a male for the exact same job. The problem, of course, is that that was blatantly, categorically, provably untrue.
And she was sorry … but only because she was so careless in actually naming the former employer, which of course led to the discovery that it was a complete farce:
“My regret is that I mentioned Al by name- it should have been a nameless, faceless anecdote.”
In other words—“Crap. If I hadn’t used his name, I could have totally gotten away with it.”
So why’d she do it?
Because that kind of a story furthers the narrative that we’ve got a serious male/female wage gap issue.
How very Machiavellian, no?
It didn’t matter that the story wasn’t true—it only mattered that it had the potential to further a narrative.
Consider also the words of Sen. Harry Reid, when in 2012 he baselessly claimed that presidential candidate Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes:
"So the word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn't."
Not unlike the Silverman fib, this too was blatantly, categorically, provably untrue. When asked about it this year, Reid’s answer was incredibly candid.
"They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn't win did he?"
So in the end—Reid got exactly what he wanted. And it didn’t matter that he used his elected office to defame someone’s character.
Let’s look at a few more examples:
Actress and liberal activist Lena Dunham got paid a lot of money for penning her (often vulgar) thoughts in her book.
(Image Source: National Review/Time)
Among other anecdotes, Dunham used the book to reveal a story of a violent college rape at the hands of what she describes as the “campus's resident conservative.”
The only problem is that there’s little to no evidence to actually back that up.
As John Nolte of Breitbart.com rightly noted in their investigation, it’s not that it’s impossible that Dunham could have been raped. The problem is that her description of who supposedly raped her and what his political leanings were has been rendered baseless.
What if they hadn’t? Dunham would have been free to use the story to further the left-wing narrative that Republicans are sexist, bigoted pigs. After all, Dunham’s publisher clearly didn’t care prior to the reports’ investigative work, and as Nolte reported in his findings, at least one person on the college campus “told us outright that it didn’t matter if Dunham was telling the truth.”
See? The truth doesn’t matter. So long as you can get away with the lie.
“Empire” actress Taraji Henson had a situation on her hands.
Glendale police officer Jose Gutierrez pulled Henson’s son over for a simple traffic violation. There was also weed in the car (purportedly for medical reasons).
In the thick of the debate over race and law enforcement, Ms. Henson—an African American—decided to jump on the bandwagon. She quickly claimed her son was racially profiled, and that his car was illegally searched.
And that narrative would have flown … until the dashcam video came out. And Henson’s story couldn’t have been further from the truth.
To her credit, she apologized. But only after light was shed on her careless statement.
From claiming she was named after the first man to climb Mount Everest (she wasn’t), to saying that she once dodged sniper fire in Bosnia (she didn’t), Hillary Clinton is no stranger to fibs to further or protect her status as a public figure.
She’s done everything from tell stories about how her daughter was dangerously near the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, to stating that all of her grandparents were immigrants.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Getty Images)
Some of her fibs are decidedly bigger than others, in particular the lies that surrounded the deadly attacks on our embassy in Benghazi. But, as she herself once angrily claimed, “what difference, at this point, does it make?”
Whether the lies further a socio-political narrative, or the personal career of the liar him/herself, the motive is the same: the ends justify the means. And to heck with the truth—so long as you get your way.
Why do I dredge all of this up? Because we’re entering into yet another election season. And while I focused on only one politician in this piece, our political process is rife with Machiavellian princes who will say or do anything to advance a narrative or suppress an opponent.
So here’s your challenge (should you choose to accept it): rise above the fray and think critically. Don't be taken by the sly words and slick rhetoric. See a person for who he or she is. Seek truth.
I challenge you to free yourself from (as Machiavelli put it) “the vulgar,” who are “always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it.”
Imagine how different our country might be.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
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