“Could we,” I said, “somehow contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need, of which we were just now speaking, some one noble lie to persuade, in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city? … I’ll attempt to persuade first the rulers and the soldiers, then the rest of the city, that the rearing and education we gave them were like dreams, they only thought they were undergoing all that was happening to them, while, in truth, at that time, they were under the earth within, being fashioned and reared themselves, and their arms and other tools being crafted. When the job had been completely finished, then the earth which is their mother, sent them up. And now, as though the land they are in were a mother and nurse, they must plan for and defend it, if anyone attacks, and they must think of the other citizens as brothers and born of the earth.” (Plato’s “Republic,” Allan Bloom’s translation, III/414b-e.)
“All those in the city who happen to be older than 10 they will send out to the country; and taking over their children, they will rear them. …” (Plato’s “Republic,” Ibid. VII/540a.)
“Lester, let’s finish this one. Do all of your listeners and the listeners throughout this country the service to which any journalist owes those listeners, and that is the pursuit of the noble truth. And the noble truth is that the president was born in Hawaii, a state of the United States of America.”(White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, as reported in WND’s article, “Now White House joins ‘birth hospital’ cover-up.”)
There was a time when good journalism had a standard consistent with Joe Friday’s terse instruction, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” That was the pursuit of the simple truth. When I read the phrase “the noble truth” in Robert Gibbs’ smugly evasive riposte to Les Kinsolving’s question about the president’s shifting birthplace, I couldn’t help but reflect on the difference between the two.
This brought to mind the famous passage in Plato’s “Republic” (cited above) in which Socrates describes the “noble lie” that must be told to the guardians entrusted with ruling and defending the ideal polity he and his colleagues dream up in their efforts to discover the meaning of justice. Of course, from the perspective of those for whom the lie is intended, it is rather a “noble truth” than a lie, which explains why the passage came to my mind. The difference between the simple truth and the noble truth is that the noble truth is actually a lie.
Of course, in its Platonic context the difference isn’t quite so simple. The “noble lie” is supposed to reflect the true good of the polity. Without being in fact true, it is meant to respect the truth, or at least to serve a purpose that does so. You might say that the “noble truth” is whatever you say on account of the good you aim to achieve. In this sense, it’s rather like the moral perspective that often arises in relation to it: the view that the ends justify the means.
I’m well-known for my view that the Obama faction represents a superficially updated 21st century re-visioning of 20th century communism. In light of this belief, Gibbs’ allusion to “the noble truth” (which is to say a lie that serves the cause) doesn’t surprise me. After all, this was the mindset that led to the peculiar attributes of party-line journalism characteristic of the old Soviet Union. Truth was changeable. What was “true” in the so-called news stories in Pravda had to do with the changes in strategy or tactics dictated by whoever happened to have the upper hand in the internecine power struggles of the Communist Party’s elite. People who appeared in the photographs of an event one day would be erased from them on another. Events themselves were treated in much the same way.
This is precisely the kind of propaganda choreography we are seeing in the Obama faction’s handling of the issues surrounding their failure to establish Obama’s constitutional eligibility for the presidency. I think Gibbs’ reference to “the noble truth” was his way of warning Les Kinsolving (and of course all other journalists) that they will have to get with the party line or suffer the consequences.
What consequences? We get hints of the near future in the fate of the U.S. Army reserve officer who has apparently lost his job because he felt it his sworn duty to demand the facts about Obama’s birth before accepting Obama’s authority to act as his commander in chief. (“Army warrior terminated from job after questioning Obama eligibility.”) His livelihood was vulnerable because he works for a defense contractor.
But with the government grabbing the whip hand over more and more of our economy, the day isn’t far off when everyone’s livelihood will be subject to government sanction, in one way or another. Access to work, housing and health care will be dependent on structures ultimately subject to the dictation of those who control political and bureaucratic power. And if the handling of the so-called “stimulus” money is any indication, there will be no safeguards against abuse of this control. Then we will all devote ourselves to the governing faction’s “pursuit of the noble truth,” or else.
The brainwashed American elites buying into the Obama faction’s pseudo-Platonic intellectual poison appear to have forgotten the wisdom of the American founders. The founders’ approach to government was based on truths derived from observing human experience, rather than “noble” lies forcefully imposed by dictatorial elites. Such experience warned that unchecked power would lead to brutal oppression, no matter the lofty goals and promising rhetoric of those to whom it is entrusted. Plato tacitly acknowledges this severity when he conjures up the ultimate requirement of his Republic’s “ideal” regime: the removal from society of everyone over 10 years old (i.e., anyone who refuses to submit to superior power the way very young children must). Given the massive atrocities perpetrated by the totalitarian ideologues of the 20th century, the idea of such large-scale purges is no longer a Platonic one.
I fail to see anything noble in the spectacle of a free people surrendering its constitutional liberty to a regime based upon oppressive lies. In fact, such surrender confirms that in our present merely human condition, true events can be ugly and ignoble.
Ironically, Socrates’ “noble lie” to his ruling class also had to do with pretending that the circumstances of their birth qualified them to be the rulers and guardians of the regime. True origins are important; which is, I think, why our founders recognized that the human right to constitutional government originates from a source beyond the reach of human deception, the Creator God. Whatever Gibbs says, the standard of truthful integrity arises from the same source. So does the courage to uphold it. This is why the issue of Obama’s constitutional eligibility for the presidency will keep gaining momentum until the Obama faction stops trying to enforce its “noble truth” and lets the simple facts speak for themselves.