Live Not by Lies

Being human, politicians lie. Even in the best regimes. The distinguishing feature of totalitarian regimes however, is that they are built on words that the rulers know to be false, and on somehow constraining the people to speak and act as if the lies were true. Thus the people hold up the regime by partnering in its lies. Thus, when we use language that is “politically correct” – when we speak words acceptable to the regime even if unfaithful to reality – or when we don’t call out politicians who lie to our faces, we take part in degrading America.

The case in point is Television personality Bill O’Reilly who, in his pre-Super Bowl interview with Barack Obama, suffered the President to tell him – and his audience of millions – that the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups had been a minor “bonehead” mistake in the Cincinnati office, because there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” in that agency. O’ Reilly knew but did not say that both he and the President know this to be a lie, that the key official in the affair, Lois Lerner, had made sure that the IRS’s decision on how to treat the Tea Party matter would be made in Washington by writing: that the matter was “very dangerous” and that “Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.”

O’ Reilly did not call out the lie. Nor did he just remain silent. Rather, he said of Obama that: “his heart is in the right place.”

I have written in this space: “Obama’s premeditated, repeated, nationally televised lies… are integral, indeed essential, to his presidency and to the workings of the US government.” They are neither innocent opinions nor mistakes. Rather, they grab for power by daring the listener to call them what they are. Failure to do so, never mind gratuitously granting them bona fides, is redefining our regime.

Nasty, brutish – and false – as was the Progressive assault on George W. Bush: e.g. “Bush lied, people died,” Michael Moore’s “Farenheit 9/11,” etc., was very much part of a free society, in which people freely contest each other’ view of reality. Alas, the Progressive ruling class is instituting a regime in which no one may contest what it knows full well to be false without suffering consequences.

How, for example, is one to react to the White House’s explanation for the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that Obamacare will reduce the number of full-time workers in America by some 2.5 million over the next decade? CBO says the law will do this by “creating an implicit tax on additional earnings” – in other words in-kind bonus for unemployment. But the White House, echoed by the New York Times, says that this is a good thing because it will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage.

This is the sort of thing that one expects from the North Korean regime, explaining that the latest cut in food rations will free people from the tyranny of having to eat more than once a day, or as I heard on Cuban TV in 1969, that the government had cut the meat ration because its scientists had discovered that eating meat causes cancer. One can no more take such things as sincere expressions of mistaken opinions than anyone, Bill O’Reilly foremost, could legitimately take Obama’s statement that the IRS’ targeting of conservatives was a “bonehead mistake” by low level officials in Cincinnati.

Why then do we not call lies lies, and liars liars? Because there are consequences. Had O’Reilly told Obama something like “You know that this is false. You are insulting me by lying to my face. What makes you think that I, or any other American would stand for that?” he would have been ostracized by the Establishment – and lost his prized access to the White House.

For ordinary Americans, calling the regime’s lies by their name, deviating from political correctness, carries far stiffer penalties, because the regime has labeled each such deviation as an antisocial pathology: racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, “denialism,”etc., any of which mark you as an opponent of those who count. They may fire you, pass you over, or just exclude you from that to which you wish to be included.

This is new and incomplete. But only in America. It is the very routine, the very constitution, of totalitarian society. Returning our attention to the indissoluble link between truth and freedom, lies and servitude, was the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s enduring contribution to our civilization.

Aleksandr-SolzhenitsynSolzhenitsyn showed that totalitarianism works by leading people to take part in the regime’s lies, and that it does so mostly by a host of petty incentives. Then he wrote: “the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.” The lies that hold up corrupt regimes, he noted, like infections, “can exist only in a living organism.” Hence whoever will live in freedom “will immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.”

We should all do that. Even Bill O’Reilly.

Angelo M. Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and is a Senior Fellow of The Claremont Institute. He served as a U.S. Senate Staff member dealing with oversight of the intelligence services. His new book Peace Among Ourselves and With All Nations was published by Hoover Institution Press.

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  1. Devin Watkins says

    I’m not a fan of Bill O’Reilly, but I think you are being a bit hard on him. I think it was very clear to anyone listening to that interview that Bill O’Reilly didn’t believe what Obama was saying. True he didn’t come out and say that directly, but it wasn’t like he was just some cheerleader like you would have seen on MSNBC.

    • kent says

      To sit there while the President spews lie after lie and not call him on it is to insult the American people. Angelo Codevilla nailed it. O’Reilly acted to give cover to the lies. Period. Until American start acting like adults and stop tolerating pathological liars we will continue our race into the sewer. Mr. Watkins, you have extremely low expectations. Your comment tells us all why the country is in the mess it is in.

    • mary says

      Oreilly said his heart is in the right place! Do you really believe that?
      That makes me angrier at Oreilly than Obama. Oreilly has also flipped on amnesty…because his boss Rupert Murdoch is all for it. Oreilly cares only about his own ‘ coup’. That of getting the interview.Obama knows what he is doing to the country…he is working to destroy it.

      • marie white says

        He should have said “So that’s what you want us to believe?” and left it at that. Saying his heart is in the right place is just another lie. Obama cannot tell lie after lie after lie and have his heart in the right place!

    • Bill says

      O’Reilly folded like a cheap camera…he bullies his own people but when it came to “putting it to” Obama, the destroyer of America, he buckled..I will never watch O’Reilly again…he and Jeraldo Rivera are the same…self-centered and egocentric.

    • Luis says

      Codevilla is absolutely correct. It is time to call lies, lies and liars, liars. Obama´s hear is not in the right place and to make matterse worse, Obama is an incompetent. When we clear thinking, brave folks unite in doing this, we will put the regime on the defensive for however long Obama survives, and the sooner we get rid of him, the better. Then we will disinfect the White House, clean up Obama´s messes without hindrance from the humiliated libs/lefties, and go back to being the greatest nation in the history of man.

    • WalkingHorse says

      I hasten to disagree. There is no distinction in conferring the patina of legitimacy upon a leader who has become objectively illegitimate. Oreilly has made himself part of the problem.

  2. Scott Amorian says

    Around the time of Obama’s second term I had a blog dedicated to documenting the many proper causes for impeaching Obama. Google searches on the phrase “impeach obama” would bring up my blog on page one.

    I eventually realized that Congress would not impeach him, and that got me wondering. What is going on? How is it that can we have such a horribly dishonest, corrupt, Constitution hating, incompetent thug, and Congress would do nothing about him?

    After much reading and writing and examination I came to realize that the structure of the Constitution is flawed, and that is in need of correction. The remedy of Solzhenitsyn does not work. You cannot effect change by simply walking out and turning your back on an abuser. That only gives them space to work in without confrontation.

    Until enough people organize around deep government reforms the abuses will continue. For reform to happen there must be a credible, clear and focused agenda, and a plan of action surrounding that agenda.

    What is that agenda? What is the plan of action? Without those, complaining is simply the whining that comes from one side after it loses. The sound of the victim’s complaining is music to the ears of the tyrant.

    The sound of clear, focused planning for reform is comes across very differently to the tyrant. After all, that’s why they sent to IRS after the Tea Party folks.

    • Devin Watkins says

      It requires a two-thirds majority to convict for impeachment, do you really expect any democrats to impeach Obama? I sure don’t. So we really shouldn’t blame the republicans in the house for not impeaching Obama, it wouldn’t do anything in the senate anyway. I wish there was a way so that if a majority of both houses of congress impeach, that a new election is held (and require the 2/3 super majority to remove the president immediately).

      • says

        Of course the 2/3 is impossible. Forget the Senate. But the House should threaten Obama that if he does So Many (let us say, 2) more of X-type illegal or unconstitutional actions (let us say refusal to enforce provisions of duly enacted laws), they will initiate impeachments proceedings against him, calculating that going down in history as one of only three presidents ever to be impeached by the House could serve as a deterrent. Moreover, such an action would stand as a witness to future presidents.

        And yes, the House should withhold all but basic-enforcement funding for the IRS until it starts cooperating with the investigations.

        • kent says

          You are right, we should all just sit around and do nothing while Obama puts the chains around us. Of course you will oblige Obama when he announces he has decided to forego the next several elections. You will say, “well what are we to do?”

          I must say, you are really a waste of a human being.

    • hrh says

      Your argument that Obama won’t be impeached because the constitution is flawed is ludicrous. Congress is not doing its duty in following the Constitution, which is why Obama won’t be impeached.

      It’s the same argument for comprehensive immigration reform. Its proponents insist we must do that because the “system is flawed.” No, it isn’t. It is not being followed by anyone in this Administration.

      You don’t fix unfollowed laws by making new laws. Those won’t be followed either.

      You fix unfollowed laws by forcing elected, sworn-in officials to follow them.

      • Bill says

        He won’t be impeached because he is black…let’s face facts..the PC movement in this country has destroyed the fabric of our society and has put us into a tail spin…Enough with this guilt thing above slavery we gave up too much to satisfy other peoples’ guilt..Go back to the STANDARDS that this country was founded upon…giving minorities too much has returned them to slavery…GOT IT? I Obama really an American? I feel badly for the military people that have to salute him.

    • gabe says

      “The remedy of Solzhenitsyn does not work. You cannot effect change by simply walking out and turning your back on an abuser.”

      I am not so sure about this assertion.
      Recall that during the pre-Solidarity Crisis in Poland, almost the entire urban populations would simply walk out of their homes and parade around in the streets during the Polish Evening News hour.
      Did this stop the B.S in news, no? did it cause the government to turn to a republican form of government, no! However, it can be reasonably argued that it led to an evergrowing willingness on the part of the Polish people to take on their government; to no longer be complicit in their own subjagation, and no doubt contributed to the swelling ranks of Solidarity.

      Perhaps, it is time that we in America do the same. I, for one, do not patronize Hollywood, watch the news (I do it the old fashion way, I work to find it), or any of the silly TV sitcoms etc that introduce / reinforce the elites version of what an American family / polity should be.

      Abandon them! boycott them! let ’em stew in their own stale ideological juices.
      As for me, i will watch football and read books!

  3. gabe says

    Glad to see that “the folks” are finally shedding light on this overpaid, over ego-endowed blowhard.
    Prof codevilla is absolutely right about O’Reilly wanting to be part of “the scene.”

    And Billy Boy, I ain’t one of “the folks” that you have appointed yourself to protect.

  4. Janice from Amherst says

    I’ve been trying to tell the truth about Obama for years on You Tube as Granny Jan and formerly as Granny Jan and Jihad Kitty (deleted by me after the election). In retrospect it’s lucky I don’t itemize deductions because I was the one who did the original video of Obama’s 60 Minutes interview where I said he called himself the fourth greatest president. It caught on and received 300, 000 hits and was used by more important outlets then mine. I suspect they found out who I was although I rarely had any trouble from Google/ You Tube. It’s easy for me from my safe, anonymous position to “tell the truth” as I see it.

    I just did a parody of the CBO report using clips, a spin on famous quotes, and even Groucho Marx.
    ObamaCare: Less Work is Good …funemployment-spoofing the already absurd

  5. section9 says

    Thanks for this. It’s important to note how important participation by the “broad masses” in the lies of any totalitarian state are. Recalling Solzhenitsyn’s wisdom helps.

  6. Ron Johnson says

    We act as if we are missing the link to the White House, which of course would raise it from a local “bonehead act” to a federal crime. I’ve never understood this. President Obama called for just such scrutiny of his political opponents while campaigning for President. Is it criminal to make such a demand in private, but not in public?

  7. sancho panza says

    The remedy of Solzhenitsyn does work. People in America vote with their feet. The migration is already happening from New York to Florida and Texas. And the other migration is even worse. US citizens are giving up their citizenship and leaving.

    The second migration of people giving up their citizenship is worse because money travels with them. These are very rich people who flee because of taxation and the desire to hide their money offshore.

    People are already making decisions, they just haven’t told the Administration as of yet.

  8. Mike Mahoney says

    Government has coerced us, usually and initially in times of war, that a certain level of implicit is required for it to go its tasks. It demanded we carry that trust into regions of government actions that do not, under any circumstances require it. Hence, O’Reilly, not unlike any of us, usually, is expected to bring, as a first manner of order, an implicit trust that the President, of all people, wouldn’t lie, straight to his face.
    Reading the founders on the matter, trust is the last thing they held towards government. They inherently distrusted the men of it and the institutions. I think this is where we have to unhook ourselves and thus retrain our servants as well as ourselves that they are not deserving of one ounce of trust.
    The legitimate functions of government do not require it. To build the road to connect the towns and build the bridge to connect the regions and build the docks to connect the nations, to deliver the mail, to arrest the suspect to be delivered to US for trial by jury. And so on.

  9. Tim Jones says

    This, of course, is all true.

    But here’s the problem: the media. The storyline is set in stone: Democrats good, constantly in pursuit of truth, beauty, justice, etc. Republicans bad, mustache-twirling villains who want to keep you in slavery and throw grandma into the street, etc.

    And a certain percentage of Americans (possibly a majority, although I fervently hope not) still accept whatever they hear from the media as objective, unvarnished truth.

    We don’t need to overthrow the government. We need to overthrow the media. Until and unless that happens, we lose.

    The American media as we know it must be utterly destroyed. No idea how we realistically make that happen. But if it doesn’t happen, we have no chance.

    • Bill says

      Joseph Goebels, the Nazi propagandist said it best…”Tell a (big) lie and tell it often and it will be perceived as truth.” Isn’t that what is happening now and for the entire Obama regime? Unfortunately, the majority who crammed the voting boxes and got the con artist, “community organizer” elected, not only once, but twice believe his lies. The bulk of his voters apparently are stupid and refuse to listen to facts…People forget that LBJ opened the flood gates to the problems that we have today…

  10. theBuckWheat says

    What amazes me, beyond the brazen lie itself, is the mental calculation the liar makes that the burden his lie places upon its victim will be so great as to allow him to use it to grab even more power and to dream up a bigger lie next time.

  11. theBuckWheat says

    Václav Havel: The Power of the Powerless

    “The principle involved here is that the center of power is identical with the center of truth.” Havel warns that socialist regimes create and enforce their own truth to maintain power. As time goes on, this truth diverges from factual truth and it increasingly forces those who support and depend upon the power of the regime to corrupt themselves to sustain the artificial truth.

    In the end, people not only lie to each other, but they start to lie to themselves.


    • Meriadoc says

      Yes, I’m glad someone brought up Václav Havel! To Solzhenitsyn’s counsel, “Don’t live a lie,” Havel added the positive exhortation, “Live in truth.”

  12. theBuckWheat says

    “…[socialism] touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological
    gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with
    hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government;
    the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the
    complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate
    liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available;
    the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and
    the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the
    repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial
    influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free
    expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become
    the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most
    scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance.
    Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything.
    It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the
    future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent
    and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It
    pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to
    pretend nothing.

    “Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave
    as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get
    along well with those who work with them. For this reason, however, they
    must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them
    to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact,
    individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the

    Václav Havel: The Power of the Powerless

  13. Donald Campbell says

    I remind everyone of Joe Wilson’s comment at the 2009 SOTU to Obama… “You Lie!”
    I assume that the House resolution rebuking his behavior has been rescinded, now that we know that Joe Wilson was indeed telling the truth. There are way too many weasel words in English. Misspoke, Simplified, Equivocation, Prevaricate. Simple is better, and a Liar-in-Chief is what we have. It isn’t racist, it isn’t partisan, it isn’t wrong to call him that. His words and actions make it clear to us all. O’Reilly should have fallen to the floor, laughing and then asserted that “not a smidgeon of corruption” was technically correct. There is not a SMIDGEON of corruption, the whole agency is corrupt, from the lowest level operative all the way to the head in the White House. That is a profusion of corruption.
    Welcome to the Chicago Way.

  14. dan brooks says

    Sounds like Mr. Winston Smith is working overtime at the Ministry of Truth. I think he will not prevail as the citizenry is armed after all. However, “Iran was a friend of ours until President Bush listed them as part of the axis of evil.” don’t you know.

  15. MOTR says

    The masking of reality with expressions such as “he’s a good guy” even when it’s known that the individual isn’t is pervasive in our society. Therein is the cause for so much conflict between the mask individuals wear and the reality they know to be true. This tension is in part responsible for the polarization in our political discourse.

  16. Scaramouche says

    I wonder if Mr. Obama isn’t moving back and forth from “The Prince” and “Rules for Radicals.” Just finished reading Benjamin Wiker’s treatment of “The Prince” in his “Ten Books That Screwed Up the World” so it is fresh on my mind. Wasn’t it Machiavelli’s advice for the Prince to appear to be merciful, appear to be kind, appear to be honest, etc., while plotting his agenda of political domination.

    Does anybody know if one of Mr. O’Reilly’s favorite songs may be Neil Diamond’s “Done Too Soon”?

  17. JoyO says

    Personally, I think that middle class Americans are the people to will be paying taxes to fund these subsidies and the additional people added to Medicare are going to get tired of working so hard to pay taxes so other people can work less. We will quit working too. So, the big unanswered question is “What are the Progressive Democrats going to do when they run out of money to redistribute? Is that why the Government is buying tons and tons of bullets?

  18. American Kulak says

    Thank you Angelo for this piece, and especially for calling out the so-called ‘Right wing’ Bill O’Reilly for his obsequiousness to the White House and the real powers that be who’ve enabled Obama’s reign of baldfaced lies.

    We are indeed living in an era where calling lies and liars what they are will lead to consequences and retaliation from petty tyrants. For example, if you point out the obvious fact that a notorious trio of U.S. Naval War College professors have been acting as PR agents for the National Security Agency ever since the Snowden affair began, there will be consequences for your career.

    If you mention that there’s overwhelming evidence that Prof. John R. Schindler has violated Department of Defense regulations and the federal Hatch Act by tweeting out insults at members of Congress and actively lobbying against Rep. Justin Amash’s legislation from his DoD/taxpayer-funded offices, you’re dismissed as a crank by Schindler’s swarming gaggle of (paid?) supporters on social media.

    Finally, if one points out that Schindler and Tom Nichols, despite their close geographic proximity to you Prof. Codevilla, are ducking a debate with you at Boston University to which you’re both affiliated on the NSA, the response is — silence. They won’t even try to debate former NSA officer Michael Tanji, because they duck such discussions with the stubborn insistence that Snowden’s actions in exposing some NSA spying that’s not related to the domestic situation makes such debate impossible. Perhaps the real reason Schindler, Nichols and others hide from you Prof. Codevilla is that you not only have more years of Senate intelligence committee experience than they do, but also that their much vaunted appeals to ‘expertise’ would crumble like a house of cards before someone who is both physically and morally more mature than they’ll ever be with all their cheap snark on Twitter.

  19. StrangernFiction says

    when we don’t call out politicians who lie to our faces, we take part in degrading America.

    Hannity did an interview with Bill Richardson where Richardson told him that Obama was the most pro-Israeli president we’ve had in some time (or ever had, I can’t remember exactly). Hannity’s response was “that’s what I like about you.” We are going to have to have spokesmen with more fortitude than that if we are to have any chance.

  20. JT Smith says

    The worst part of the O’Reilly interview is that O’Reilly likes to believe that he is the spokes person for the opposition. What ever he deems an issue is an issue and what ever is not is not. The problem is Obama uses O’Reilly in that capacity to undermine his (Obama’s) critics. So O’Reilly has a hard hitting interview with Obama, Obama baldly lies throughout the interview, O’Reilly doesn’t call him on the lies and instead says “his heart is in the right place.” CASE CLOSED. If it is good enough for Bill O’Reilly then no one else has the standing to complain. O’Reilly ends up serving as Obama’s patsy and doesn’t even have the good sense to know it.

  21. Kevin R. Hardwick says

    It has been a few years since I tried to read systematically on this topic. But that said, the last serious effort with which I am familiar to demonstrate that the United States is *right now* actually a totalitarian regime is Sheldin Wolin’s argument about “inverted totalitarianism” and “managed democracy.” I doubt Wolin’s arguments would be especially well received on this site.

  22. Idahomie says

    Bill O proved himself a sycophant when he accused the father of the kidnapped child Elizabeth Smart of being a participant in his daughter’s abduction. This was proven to be false, yet not a single person has called out Oreilly on his vicious attack against a grieving family. Oreilly is the Nancy grace of Fox News. He is a progressive in conservative clothing.

  23. Khun Dang says

    Bill O’Reilly has never been anything other than a propaganist traitor. His job to control public discourse and get people to accept obedience and slavery to the regime. With the Obama regime, O’Reilly gets to play the part of false oppositon.

  24. Alfred says

    Bush DID lie. You destroy a great article by lying yourself. There were no WMDs and W-rong Bush KNEW it.

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