By Dr. Nicole Morgan, CACOR Board of Directors.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS A TRANSLATION FROM FRENCH.
Politique, rhétorique et art du mensonge. Link…
The pathetic end of the pathetic cause
We should have understood. Politics is the art of lying. Politicians, kings, princes, leaders have always lied, but we do not lie in the same way. The following article is meant to be prospective. Donald Trump, since we have to talk about him, is not a regression to an ancestral primitive political behavior but, thanks to new technologies, to another way of being-in-the-world.
We do not lie as we did before …
Let’s start with what seems immutable if only to reassure us. The typology of lies and the arguments justifying their political use have hardly changed since Aristotle and Machiavelli. Today as yesterday, any seasoned politician who has understood that the end justifies certain means, apply the rules of the Rhetoric as stated by Aristotle , therefore mastering “the art of appearance, ” described by Machiavelli. The latter seems to have been be more than ever in use in 2017 in the headquarters of all electoral campaigns: “The vulgar,” he writes in The Princeal wants appearances and only judges by the event […]. Men are so simple and so weak that he who wants to deceive always finds dupes […]. The character of the people is mobile, they are easily dragged into an opinion, but it is difficult to maintain them. “ .
Let’s go to the point: Aristotle, Machiavelli and Scheherazade understood that seduction is power.
That said, even if the premises seem unchanged, the stakes and modern methods far exceed the good recipes of the art of governing offered by the author of the Prince . The manipulation and control of speech and image have become the sine qua non clause of any victory, whether electoral battlefield or real.  This is all the more true as new technologies have forever changed the human ethical landscape: in short, even in politics, we are lying more than ever, using the same tools (words and images) but in a different way.
First, we’re lying better. Opinion polls and expression techniques, whether they apply to language structures or their emotional content, have progressed so well that any political discourse is technically “constructed”  to knowingly include lies, that is “non-truth”, “falsification”, “omission”, “propaganda” or “disinformation” or the last one “alternative facts” as proposed by the White House. Better, we can now alter the images and sounds to the point that the border between the virtual and the real gradually fades into the human brain.
Then we lie large on a universal scale and in all areas. Media groups who spread the lie “now have two new characteristics: first, they take care of everything that is written, all that belongs to the image, all that is sound, and broadcast this through the most diverse channels (print, radio, terrestrial television, cable or satellite, via the Internet and all kinds of digital networks). Second characteristic: these groups are global, planetary, and not only national or local.”  They form what Ramonez called a “fifth power” .
Secondly, this multifaceted power is becoming a “global multiform single speech” controlled by planetary economic groups: “Giant companies like News Corps, Viacom, AOL Time Warner, General Electric, Microsoft, Bertelsmann, United Global Com, Disney, Telefónica, RTL Group, France Telecom, etc., now have new opportunities for expansion due to technological upheavals. The “digital revolution” has broken the boundaries that previously separated the three traditional forms of communication: sound, writing, image. ”  . Modern dictatorships have used all the resources of the image to create a “label” and a “markdown” .
Finally the strategists of the word and the image are more and more aware that 1) all totalitarianisms go through a control and a systematic manipulation of the language 2) that the genocides do not have to be bloody … It is enough to kill through the language and finally 3) why the slogan of Al Qaeda was: Give us poets.
Each of these themes deserves an article in its own right. Today let us stick to the new rhetoric as practiced in the United States for twenty years. It is rich in teaching.
… ..One more effectively
Let’s first present some examples of relatively recent but well-documented political lies. They illustrate both the new avenues open to new powers and the challenges for lawyers committed to defending legal democracies based on objective information, education and the text. The first two are factual lies, fabricated with modern means of propaganda. The third is rhetorical manipulation, less detectable at first but more dangerous as it affects deep brain structures.
The lie of propaganda, known as the state lie, is thought out and deliberated. Focusing on specific facts, it can be constructed from scratch as its authors are aware that they spread a lie whose scope and impact they have planned beforehand. The process in itself is not new and excellent syntheses on the history of propaganda abound  . The novelty comes only from the fact that specialized agents (the “Spin Doctors”  ) use the most advanced techniques of marketing for this purpose and call upon the most recent discoveries in cognitive human sciences.
A public relations marketing agency fabricated the magistral lie of killing babies in incubators in an hospital in Kuwait, in 1990 by the Iraqi armies of Saddam Hussein . A young woman made this testimony, tears in her eyes and handkerchief in hand, in front of the American Congress :”While I was there,” she sobs, “I saw the Iraqi soldiers enter the hospital with their weapons. They shot the babies from the incubators, took the incubators and let the babies die on the cold floor.” The shocking testimony was broadcast by television networks around the world. It greatly moved the international public opinion and led it to support the action of the Western powers against the armies of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War .
This testimony was fabricated from scratch. The young woman was none other than the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to Washington. The association Citizens for a Free Kuwait , supported by the Government of Kuwait in exile, had ordered this propaganda campaign public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, for $ 10 million. In addition, according to several sources, the US government has paid $14 million to the same cabinet for helping to publicize the Gulf war in a favorable light for Western intervention.
But this was a relatively, if not very, modest lie when compared to the wave of misinformation that flooded the global networks after 9/11. An information watchdog counted 935 in the two years since event. 532 times, it was claimed that Iraq, in connection with al-Qaeda  , possessed weapons of mass destruction. In 2001 and 2002, a majority of journalists, commentators, analysts, professors, experts from around the world took over the information without any verification, questioning or counter-investigation, except for some local or isolated speeches in the cybernetic space that could not question the unique discourse.
This misinformation campaign was effective since at the end of 2003, as serious doubts surfaced in some media and on the internet, half of Americans were convinced that the US government had found solid evidence about the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. According to a report published by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks at the time, a quarter of Americans said they were certain that the world’s experts sent to the field had confirmed the presence of weapons of mass destruction, in spite of the testimonies which began to abound in the opposite direction.
Even today, a fair percentage of Americans are convinced that “there is no smoke without fire”, whereas the lie was officially recognized by Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of Defense between 2001 and 2005. In an interview for Vanity Fair magazine , published on May 30, 2003, he admitted that the decision to put forward the threat of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) to justify a preventive war against Iraq had been adopted, his own words, “for bureaucratic reasons”: “We agreed on one point, he said, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the only argument that everyone could fall for”  .
We are talking here about the crystallization of beliefs, a metaphor borrowed from Stendhal and which is not without virtue. Crystallization transforms fugitive emotion into an idea fraught with an infinity of moving and dazzling diamonds . In less poetic terms, belief becomes rigid to the point where it is difficult if not impossible to modify it. What’s more, the evidence brought to demystify the lie most of the time only reinforces the belief. How to be surprised? Steven Sloman, professor at Brown University and Philip Fernbach, professor at the University of Colorado  demonstrated that adherence to an idea does not depend on the relevance of the information but on the desire to belong to a group. The more evidence is put forward to prove the lie, the more the individual defends his group, the more the belief becomes embedded in the minds of the anxious in need of belonging. We are above all the political animal, the one whose being-in-the-world passes through the group according to the famous phrase of Aristotle the scope of which is not well understood (the world political must not be taken in its modern narrow sense) .
We also do not want Pascal’s famous phrase taken out of context (The heart has its reasons that reason does not know), but it will help us reintroduce the fundamental role of the emotional, always present in all discourses, that do not belong to the pure sciences (although mathematics is not devoid of emotions). If one wants to understand politics, it is time to understand the emotional language. Politics so well defined by Lasswell as “Who gets what, when and how”  is a peaceful organization of emotions.
The metaphor, pivot of politics …
This leads us to reflect on the use of metaphor which introduce emotions into political discourses and thus becomes one of the pivots of rhetoric alias, the art of seduction.
The metaphor itself is not a lie. But if well chosen and repeated as a truth, it can contribute to the acceptance of any of sort of seven shades of falsehood . From the Greek μεταφορά , metaphorá means, in the proper sense, first “transport” or “transfer”, that is to say a transposition of meaning. It is not a question of comparison but of a short formula of association of meaning. The image triggers archetypes buried in the collective unconscious . It has been said that “the formula of metaphor accounts for condensation in the unconscious”. In this sense, it is undoubtedly one of the most powerful forms of human verbal discourse as demonstrated by the linguist George Lakoff who has devoted a book, The Political Mind,  to the new forms of language observable in political discourse. An entire chapter documents the power of metaphor associating the words “war” with “terror”, an association that has been widely exploited in the conduct of the war in Iraq since 2003.
The war against terror was not the fruit of the creative talent of the American president, like Winston Churchill, a prolific author of famous metaphors. For example, we know that the “War on Terror ” metaphor was first proposed by a political analyst (David Frum) and then carefully framed by a team of linguists who work in the shadow of the agencies of institutional communication and public relations. They have “tested” several formulas, but this one has prevailed, its emotional charge having been judged adequate to respond to the trauma caused by September 11, 2001, events conducive to impose strong images: “The synapses of the brain change from dramatically and almost instantaneously in a traumatic situation”  says George Lakoff. Indeed, “neurology teaches us that ideas are literally inscribed in the brain and that their inscription occurs at the level of synapses. These synaptic changes, known as long-term potentiation processes, occur under two conditions: trauma (when there is particularly intense activation of the neuronal activity) and then in the presence of repetitions (when the activity becomes iterative) … September 11 was a national trauma and the “war on terror” was introduced in traumatic conditions, then repeated and repeated for years. The metaphorical idea has been literally written into the brains of most Americans”  .
That said, this metaphor, which, according to another metaphor, has moved mountains, participates in a mixture of genres that amounts to saying nothing. In the literal sense of the term, we can not declare war on terror, that is to say, on a common notion: “Real wars, which are not the case with metaphorical wars, make war on armies and nations. Wars have an end after an army is defeated and a peace treaty is signed”. So where does a “war on terror” begin? When does it end? Because “terror” is not a nation, an army corps, or a social group whose semantic limits are clear (we are part of an army or we are not part of it). The “terror” is a psychological state, internal to the human being, without “borders”, because the human imagination is without limits; it has no official beginning or concrete end, and no peace treaty can ever be signed with “terror.” Therefore, the “war on terror” is not meant to stop fear but to continue the work of terror, that is to say, to scare.
Fear is one the most powerful political tools . From this point of view there is nothing new under the sun. What is new is that in the past, enemies were real national or ethnic groups. Here, it is an invisible enemy who, the human imagination helping, is perceived as more dangerous than a visible enemy: we go beyond fear and enter the troubled waters of the word. We are now stepping on anxiety which, according to Lakoff, “engenders a conservative fantasy, with the demand of a powerful leader, ready to use force to offer protection and security”, to the infinite measure of the anxiety aroused. One can therefore slip, without changing the register, from the word “terror” to the word “terrorists”, which seems more real but which, under these conditions, becomes almost totalitarian since it applies to every being designated as such.
It was a practical metaphor in the sense that it made it possible to propose immediate actions, including very real war measures  without resorting to a long reflection. Leaders around the world have followed suit with enthusiasm without thinking killing….. the metaphor . A dead metaphor is a metaphor which is no longer thought.
The art of rhetoric
Let’s leave aside for a moment the computers and the new scientific research in science and go back to Aristotle who founded the research on the art of persuasion.
According to Aristotle, rhetoric, like dialectics, does not have the objective of science, namely the true objective (or interchangeability of observers), nor that of moral philosophy, namely, good. The truth is not enough to convince the majority of people, it is for the speaker to find arguments or other means to persuade them.
“… when we possess the most exact science, there are certain men whom it would not be easy for us to persuade by drawing our discourse from this sole source; the discourse according to science belongs to the teaching, and it is impossible to use it here, where the proofs and the discourses must necessarily pass by the common notions “( Translated from French, Aristotle, Rhetoric I , 1355a , , page 74 , Les Belles Lettres)
The metaphor, which plays with associations of ideas, holds a privileged place in classical rhetoric. It makes it possible to transform a complex problem into an intelligible and emotionally charged image. Aristotle even considers that the faculty of associating terms in this way is a trait of genius.
Let’s be aware that the metaphor is omnipresent. In particular, it has always been the flag of war discourses, which are used as a metaphor by the advocates of the economic war. 
Until this last year the use of metaphor was skillfully controlled in the headquarters of the political campaigns, which in this respect followed the rules of classical rhetoric which were not sophistical laws. It was not a question of saying anything in order to agitate but to justify the reasonable opinion. Machiavelli, so misunderstood, has emphasized in the Prince the importance of this principle. You lie for the good.
Aristotle like Machiavelli was suspicious of emotions and wanted to organize them. It is the essence of politics that must understand and control the pathetic, that is, what moves the soul.
Aristotle dedicates the first half of Book II of his Rhetoric to the pathetic argument. “The passions are the causes which make men vary in their judgments, and have come with pain and pleasure, as anger, pity, fear, and all the other emotions of this kind, as well as their opposites.”  (Aristotle, Rhetoric II , 1378 , , page 60, Les Belles Lettres)
Passions, Aristotle continues, must be handled with precaution by the speaker who must know which passion to provoke, how to manage and to arouse it.
“The developments relating to the passions must be divided into three types: here is what I mean: with anger, for example, in what habitus is worn; What people are usually angry about and what topics. If, in fact, we possessed only one or two of these notions, without possessing all three, it would be impossible for us to inspire anger; and so it is with other passions.”
But let us never forget that the pathetic argument is a tool at the service of the final cause that is …. good. The same applies to Machiavelli who is an idealist of Realpolitik. For a republic to work, it takes a strong man who masters the political discourse. Which passes by the persuasion of the crowds to whom it is useless to explain the strategies of survival. The crowd wants not to know but to believe and it is necessary to appear, to play, to threaten, to lie, to amuse but not too much. Not only are there limits to the games of persuasion, but the Prince must always remember that he works for the common good of the Republic ( Res publica ).
This does not make the Prince a safe treaty because everything depends of course on the definition of the common good that the Prince will give. It is a treatise on techniques that was read as well by Churchill, De Gaulle or Hitler. We just want to say that Machiavelli is not Machiavellian in the sense that we give him (systematically do evil) any more than Thomas More was utopian, but this is another story.
Let’s go back to the present, to the lie and to Donald Trump.
The disappearance of the pathetic argument
Donald Trump probably did not read Machiavelli (reading does not seem to be his forte). But the interpreters who read it should refrain from explaining their ascent using only classical schemas.
The arrival of Donald Trump has changed the landscape if only because it appears totally incoherent. It says anything, at any time, violating (among other things) all the rules of thought starting with the sacrosanct principle of non-contradiction. In this the medium is the message since the tweet he uses without stop IS the vehicle of the opinion of the contradictory moment or not, misspellings included. Machiavelli, whose life has manifested a Trumpesque non respect for women in his life, would sigh that one should be wary of it because opinion is … like woman: la dona e mobile. Donald Trump, in this sense, would be a woman. Machiavelli would turn in his grave since, for him, it goes without saying that the leader cannot be a woman. Only the man who controls his own emotions can be a leader. Also Corneille who transformed the virtu of the Prince into a myth: I am , says Auguste, master of me as of the universe will turn in his tomb (remember that virtue comes from virility).
Trump debunks the myth: he is not master of him but wants to be master of the universe. And the worst thing is that it works. It is the first time that, apart from his opinion of women, Machiavelli is falsified.
The trumpian method works and it is necessary at this point to stop thinking, as many do, that Donald Trump’s incoherence is a hiccup of history as we want so much to be progressing towards Reason. Many want to think that the next elections will help the sovereign (the people in a democracy) to wake up from his Trumpian moment of insanity and return to constitutions and charters rights and freedoms they shelter.
Although I would like to believe in the march of history, I am not sure of it in two respects.
First Donald Trump is not an epiphenomenon but the tip of an iceberg that has amassed a substantial mass over the course of a century. I tried to document part of it in Haine Froide  which deconstructs the ideology that supports over the last one hundred years. I add that this is not a strictly American phenomenon. We are at this moment of history that sees old empires collapse. Power has passed elsewhere, namely in the private sphere, to that of the market.
Secondly, and above all, because the laws of rhetoric can no longer be applied in the digital world, which is the world of the moment and the inconsistency of the least apparent.
The truth is the authenticity …
Ironically (or dialectically) it is Trump’s incoherence that according to Jennifer Sclafani of Georgetown University, makes it appear as authentic and reliable that are the qualities sought by the electorate . The strategy, because there is one, works perfectly. It is a question of continuing to disqualify the entire public sphere (aka the final cause): policies lie, public institutions lie, thinkers are incompetent, laws are harmful. It will come out 1) that the market is not lying 2) that it obeys fair laws (the best wins) and that the political truth is the authenticity of advertising conveyed by the businessman. And the authentic is the emotional, the rain of metaphors that are perfectly conveyed every second and everywhere by the new means of communication. Trump is the chief publicist.
But that’s not all. The laws of the market use algorithms which are a fundamental mechanism of the functioning of the connected world  and therefore of the market. They are the ultimate logic of the market rid of a final cause that would not be encrypted but also potentially free of individual free will. In his latest book, ironically titled Homo Deus  , anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari describes this handing over of power to numbers as a new religion: dataism with its faith in a blind, omniscient, omniscient data process leading to human life that dictates all decisions in numbers.
Which means that all languages will become dead languages. English will probably be used but a skeletal English function. To say that it is not God who died but the man deprived of language, there is only one step.
Let’s get back to the pedestrian present and bring some perspective to a future constructed around fear. We know that advertising efforts have limits when the product does not hold water (bad metaphor. I am sorry!). Let us add that the chief publicist is mad and that extreme madness, although the Romantics want to think it is, is not creative nor productive. The danger, of course, is that the chief publicist is not solely responsible for billboards. Suddenly all my international contacts of online discussions, in general have become strangely quiet. None of us dares to mention the disasters that Donald Trump’s megalomania could unleash in the current technological context.
Let’s say I try not to remain petrified in this silence and think beyond because I want to believe that all power is accompanied by counter-powers, every death of rebirth and that the verb (in the broad sense) will be reborn in many forms including imaginary or mortal. In an upcoming text we will talk about the moral importance of ideograms. In another, we will analyze Al Qaida’s texts and explain why his motto was: Give us poets .
The story of numbers and letters is just beginning.
Ottawa, April 21, 2017.