In her classic work Crisis of the Republic, conspicuous philosopher, theologian and German philologist Hannah Arendt, who was first exiled in Paris in 1933 and then in the United States from 1941, where she developed her successful career and died in the year of 1975, explains that it was the methodical, deliberate and systematic use of lies by the U.S. Government to hide the truth about the Vietnam war which caused the country to ruminate on the dark side of politics.
In this regard she says:
That concealment, falsehood, and the role of the deliberate lie became the chief issues of the Pentagon papers, rather than illusion, error, miscalculation, and the like, is mainly due to the strange fact that the mistaken decisions and lying statements consistently violated the astoundingly accurate factual reports of the intelligence community. (Arendt, 1999, p. 22)
If those words had not been written referring to the Vietnam war, the reader could easily think that they referred to what happened nearly a half century later in the Iraq war, launched by the United States in 2003.
The relation, or, rather, non-relation, between facts and decision, between the intelligence community and the civilian and military services, is perhaps the most momentous, and certainly the best-guarded, secret that the Pentagon papers revealed. (Arendt, 1999, p. 28)
It is as if one is listening to criticisms made months after starting the Iraq war by the US Congress to the intelligence services and the Government, of an the alleged “lack of coordination” between the two, having shown that the first was, since before the start of the war, in full knowledge that Iraq did not have nor had ever possessed weapons of mass destruction, precisely the argument used by the U.S. Government over and over again to convince national and international public opinion of the need to perpetrate such a war.
Taken to the extreme, Arendt’s arguments about falsehood and deception in politics, making one think seriously about the possibility of the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, was there previous knowledge that it was going to happen by the U.S. Government, given the intensive use that was given to this criminal occurrence to convince public opinion of the need to unleash the so-called war on terror and invade Afghanistan.
This possibility is more plausible if one takes into account the historical fact, proven and recognized by the Government of the United States, that there was knowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1943 at least three days before it happen, a fact that was used then to convince public opinion that United States should enter World War II.
The divergence between facts-established by the intelligence services, sometimes by the decision-makers themselves (as notably in the case of McNamara), and often available to the informed public—and the premises, theories, and hypotheses according to which decisions were finally made is total.” (Arendt, 1999, p. 32).
But the most serious problem of political deception is later expressed by the referred author in the following terms:
The more successful a liar is, the more people he has convinced, the more likely it is that he will end by believing his own lies…The internal world of government, with its bureaucracy on one hand, its social life on the other, made self-deception relatively easy…In the realm of politics, where secrecy and deliberate deception have always played a significant role, self-deception is the danger par excellence; the self-deceived deceiver loses all contact with not only his audience, but also the real world” (Arendt, 1999, p. 42-44).
The author in reference further deepens her argument noting that deception and self-delusion in politics, especially the latter, can occur by the distancing of the politician from reality and their ignorance or refusal to make use of scientific methods to inform their decision making, i.e., to corroborate their hypothesis of action with the facts or the reality where these scenarios whence put into practice will have their impact.
To be sure, this failure to distinguish between a plausible hypothesis and the fact that must confirm it, that is, this dealing with hypotheses and mere “theories” as though they were established facts, which became endemic in the psychological and social sciences during the period in question, lacks all the rigor of the methods used by the game theorists and systems analysts. But the source of both—namely, the inability or unwillingness to consult experience and to learn from reality—is the same. (Arendt, 1999, p. 50).
The corollary of this last point of view is that the politician tricks and self-deceives due to their inability to learn from experience; However, today the masks have already fallen off so many times that it is difficult to believe that this action is not deliberate.
Hannah Arendt, who was one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, in vertically consistent way with her line of thinking called for political decisions to be taken in consensual forms of direct democracy, in the same way that lie and deception are laid bare as foundations of contemporary political practice:
Deception, the deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as legitimate means to achieve political ends, have been with us since the beginning of recorded history. (Arendt, 1999, p.) 12).
Is truth the first victim of the (economic) war?
Ever more frequently and with greater concern I observe that, the fallacious nature of politics is resurfacing in the exercise of the [current] Bolivarian Government.
And I say resurfacing because we all know the liars which were the governments of the Fourth Republic (1). We suffered first hand from the consequences of that terrible perversion. This is why the advent to power of of the unscathed Hugo Chávez was a breath of fresh air in Venezuelan politics. This further explains the immense moral strength which follows the mandate of the Eternal Commander.
There can be no democracy or freedom if there is no factual information, if there is no transparency in accountability to the whole nation, nor if there is not enough public dissemination of that information. Nobody defends that which they do not know… and no one opposes it either.
The unknown is as if it does not exist. If you don’t know what happens, people are literally out of reality, living in a cloud or a hell, depending on the case, without knowing why. Crawling insects have no sense of sight, do not know what light is, despite living immersed in it everyday. Information is the light of a nation.
I understand that due to the economic emergency it has been suitable, according to the best Republican interests, to not publish certain information of a macroeconomic nature, taking into account the impact that such information has on the behavior of the agents in question, and with the noble purpose therefore of not making the situation worse.
However, this unusually long information blackout has not only been for some macroeconomic indicators which should be obligatorily published by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), but it has been extended to almost all of the governmental information.
Nobody publishes anything anymore, accounts or anything. It is impossible to get hold of any government statistics, not just those of the BCV, but of all ministries, institutions, organizations and agencies of the public administration, at all territorial levels. The once fat and meaty statistical Yearbook of Venezuela published the National Institute of Statistics is just a sad reminder of a happy past.
Databases which were public in some government web portals, like the famous database of [the subsidised currency scheme] CADIVI, were erased from the map and what you now find makes you want to cry. 2013 foreign exchange allocation statistics are still the best kept secret of the 21st century. If it were not for the La Tabla blog, which boldly leaked them, those of 2014-2015 would also be so. From 2016 onwards, it is as if the country has ceased to exist, as light for crawling insects is absolutely non-existent and unfathomable.
The Constitution of the Republic obliges every public official of any level or hierarchy to give an account of their performance to the public (that is why they are public officials). Furthermore, they are not permitted to make excuses regarding prohibitions or orders from their superiors contrary to that provision. The reality is quite different. An official offering statements on their official actions, without permission from their superiors, is dismissed or punished or is the victim of some kind of retaliation.
The only source of public information is statements of high officials on official state media or social media, whose contradictions and inaccuracies have exceeded such an order of magnitude that it makes you want to hit the TV screen with a baseball bat. For example: gasoline sales “represents US $18 billion annually for the country”, “represents US $14 billion annually”, “represents at least US $10 billion a year”… It is like the scene in the movie where the girl is asked: And for how long have you been married? And while she says “Eight years”, the guy beside her says: “Ten”; and the boy immediately rectifies and says “Eight”, but the girl at the same time says: “Ten”. They exchange glances, and respond in unison: “Many years”.
This is very serious. Not only is this in relation to statistical information, but all records and certificates that guarantee the minimum requirements to exercise the most basic citizens rights. Any request is received orally and no evidence is given to the applicant. If it is a claim or complaint, even less so.
Recently, some friends told me that in the Agricultural Bank of Venezuela you go in with the documentation and then an official puts the data in “the system” and they tell you to wait until notified. No receipt, no record, no case number. If the loan request is rejected or is never processed, the citizen is left defenseless because they cannot go to the judiciary to demand their rights should they consider that there was negligence or discrimination by the bank, for example. We do not live in a state of law, much less one of justice, because there is no worst injustice than denial, deliberate or not, of the possibility of demanding one’s rights (be they correct or erroneous).
All institutions have become amazingly irresponsible. To this precisely dark and opaque lack of information we must add the absence of records, anything that leaves any evidence that can be taken as proof. The very concept of received correspondence has become the sack of oblivion of exotic ideas. It is a historical tragedy that will finally end our republic, I have not the slightest doubt. What is happening with the issue of procedures for passports, for example, not only makes you want to grab the baseball bat, but also a machine gun and go to the mountain to follow in the footsteps of Che, Fidel, or [Venezuelan guerrilla leader and communist] Fabricio Ojeda…
And so it is with everything: “I don’t know”, “The system is down”, “Go to another office”, “You must wait”, “The boss has been changed”, “I don’t know when”, “I don’t know where”, “We are out of those right now”, “No kid, forget about that”, “Bring the project in”, “Let me have it and I’ll sort it”, “Count on that”, “If you want, pay me and I’ll find it”, “That costs this”, “But we have a homeland…” One can’t block out the sun with a single finger, only the rich and powerful get everything done and quickly.
Is this why we consecrate our lives for the Bolivarian Revolution, to look back 20 years later and see the same gruesome picture of the bureaucracy and corruption we saw in the Fourth Republic?
The reader will have to forgive my outburst, but Venezuelans have no stomach to continue putting up with this abuse and barbarism. I am a Chavista. I am and I will be until the death of this side of the battle, because of my convictions and because I owe everything to Hugo Chávez, who gave his life for all of us. Are there any currently in the exercise of power who are willing to do the same? Hopefully. At this point I do not know if anything remains of “our side”, because the practices inherent from the Fourth Republic are those that prevail everywhere.
(1) The Fourth Republic took place in Venezuela from 1958 to 1999. In an electoral pact, the conservative COPEI party and the social democratic Accion Democratica alternated in government. The parties, both at the time and following the end of the pact, have been shown to have covered up a series of human rights, electoral, and other crimes including the systematic persecution, torture, and murder of left wingers, and electoral fraud.
Translated and edited by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.