In a controversial passage from Plato’s “Republic”, Socrates introduced the idea of the “noble lie” (“gennaios pseudos”). Majestic fiction, he says, could sometimes serve society by persuading uninformed citizens of something good for them.
Since then, many prevaricators have used the excuse that they lied for the common good.
Take Dr Anthony Fauci, our referent on the COVID-19 epidemic. Fauci has misled the country about wearing masks during the pandemic saying they are of little use. But he argued that he lied so that the public did not rush out on the masks, exhaust the supply and thus deprive healthcare professionals of protective equipment.
Fauci also told “noble” lies about the likely percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated to gain herd immunity. He kept raising the bar – from 60 to 70% to 75 to 80%, to 85%.
Apparently, Fauci feared that a lower number, even if accurate, could rock people into complacency about getting the vaccine.
Fauci also rigged his own role in channeling US aid money to subsidize gain-of-function viral research at the Wuhan virology lab – the likely birthplace of COVID-19.
Either Fauci was hiding his own guilt, or he thought the American people might not be able to fully accept that some of their own health officials were promoting the type of research that was partly responsible for over 700,000. American deaths.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has lied serially about the number of undocumented immigrants who have entered the United States. He falsely claimed that officers on horseback were whipping migrants. He lied about the alleged lack of federal data on arrests, detentions and deportations. His claim that the border is secure was a joke.
Apparently, Mayorkas believes the public would turn ballistic, or his own administration would be outright despised if it spoke the bitter truth about the border: intentionally, the Biden administration apparently deliberately left it wide open. And that will likely allow 2 million undocumented immigrants to enter the country in the current fiscal year.
Many other unelected federal officials have lied over the past five years by claiming or implying that harming the Trump administration was in the public interest.
Former FBI Directors Andrew McCabe and James Comey have likely misled the nation. McCabe admittedly lied when he said he did not disclose FBI information to the media.
James Comey has lied under oath on several occasions during Congressional cross-examinations and claimed that he did not know or could not remember the basic facts about his own role in promoting the Russian collusion hoax.
Apparently, Comey and McCabe believed that by being less than truthful they could emasculate Trump better. And this result would be beneficial for America.
Our former intelligence chiefs were perhaps the bravest liars. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress about the NSA surveillance program, although he denied it.
Once caught in the lie, Clapper reverted to the noble lie that he gave the least false answer, apparently on the pretext that he did not want to damage the reputation of a major intelligence agency.
Ditto John Brennan, the former head of the CIA. He has twice lied under oath about the agency’s surveillance of computers of Senate employees and the deaths of civilians caused by US drone assassination missions along the Afghan border.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley lied for days about details of an accidental drone strike that killed innocent women and children in Afghanistan.
Either Milley is now lying when he says he warned Biden of upcoming disasters in Afghanistan, or Biden is lying when he denies hearing such advice.
Many details of Milley’s conversations with authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, as reported in their recent book muckraking, have been bluntly denied by Milley.
The list of these lies could be significantly expanded.
IRS official Lois Lerner has never told the whole truth about the militarization of the IRS.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch told an implausible story that she accidentally ran into Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix and never discussed the then-ongoing FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has sworn in a whopper, claiming to know nothing about the Steele case and the Fusion GPS misadventures. The two were the two catalysts that sparked his entire “collusion” investigation in the first place.
In some of these cases, when caught and exposed, liars will cover themselves up by claiming temporary amnesia. Sometimes they admit to lying, but suggest they did so for higher purposes such as national security.
In truth, in most cases, there was nothing noble about their lie. They are simply spreading untruths to protect their own endangered careers by masking their own misdeeds or passing them on to others.
In other words, “noble lies” are rarely invented for interests other than those of the liars themselves.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classic and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and the author of “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won,” from Basic Books. Contact at [email protected]