Warning: meandering political philosophy ahead…
I’ve been continuing to think about DEA head Karen Tandy’s lies as well as the constant lies of other drug warriors (mostly political officials). Again, it’s not that I’m surprised that they lie. I’m not. It’s also not particularly new. But I couldn’t stop thinking about… what it means.
Now, I understand selective truth telling in an argument. If you’re trying to promote one side of an debate, you don’t feel obligated in every case to tell everything you know that might be favorable to the other side. I also understand exaggeration and misleading simplification as argument techniques. However, the idealist in me believes that even such behavior should be extremely limited among public servants who are working for us (just as my boss would expect me to be both honest and complete with him on any issue of importance at work).
I have rarely known a drug policy reformer to lie about drug policy (at most, they’re usually guilty of hyperbole or exaggeration, as I’ve been at times), despite the fact that the “threshold of integrity” should theoretically be lower for volunteer activists than for appointed or elected officials.
However, our public servants involved in the drug war go way beyond selective truth telling, exaggeration, and misleading simplification. They even go beyond simply telling lies. They go all the way to blatant organized campaigns to push people into believing things that not only are not true, but are in fact the opposite of the truth.
As far as I can tell, there are only two possible explanations for this behavior:
- They are personally corrupt and don’t give a damn about the impact of their actions on the public.
- They think they have the answers, but don’t believe that the public will make the “right” decision if they know the truth.
Either way, the actions are antithetical to the very concept of Democracy, and are strong symptoms of Authoritarianism.
This came to mind again tonight watching John Dean on the Daily Show talking about his new book Conservatives Without Conscience in which he claims that today’s conservatism is veering dangerously close to authoritarianism. And make no mistake about it — John Dean is definitely a conservative, but he’s not part of the new authoritarian group of conservatives that have largely neutralized the libertarians and Goldwater conservatives in their midst. I don’t know how good the book is, but it seems likely that he’s on to something real.
Certainly anything that moves us from Democracy toward Authoritarianism is a serious concern. And I see the lies by Karen Tandy and John Walters, and Mark Souder, and…, as actual attacks on Democracy.
When you think of it this way, you realize that Karen Tandy isn’t just an embarrassment. She’s a threat to our nation. And every time she lies, those lies must be exposed to the public.