The Question Of Political Discourse
Honesty May Not Be The Best Political Policy
I have some questions about current political discourse in America. For example: Why is the quality of political discourse so low? If an informed voting public is a requirement of democracy, then political discourse of high quality is also required. The problem is that the public isn’t required to be informed in order to qualify to vote. And in a free speech democracy, political discourse has almost no constraints.
How does the quality of political discourse depend on the truth and its consequence? The truth and falsehoods both have consequences. Deciding to tell the truth or not, or deciding to hear the truth or not, depends on the consequence you want to tell or hear.
The consequences political speakers and writers often want are to enhance the prejudices of their base audience and/or to entertain them. Facts and truth are not constraints. When a person says something that isn’t true, it is either an erroneous belief or it is a lie. Which is worse? The first is the result of ignorance; the second is the result of being dishonest. It seems that not knowing the facts and not telling the truth can become a political advantage when the facts and truth don’t support one’s political objective.
Is the voting public part of the problem? The voting public is an easy target for unreliable political influence. Humankind has a disposition to be gullible, a combination of suggestibility in the face of whatever is clearly and strongly presented and the will-to-believe whatever is personally or socially congenial. An informed voting public must want to know the facts and be receptive to the truth, even if it is not personally or socially congenial.
If knowing the facts, speaking the truth or hearing the truth can’t be required, should it be expected? Is that possible? Is it even plausible?