13 January 2014

Credibility Trap: Fatal Web of Lies

From "Bill Moyers World of Ideas" 1994 Interview with ethicist Sissela Bok:
"As a philosopher, Sissela Bok grapples with hard truths – and with hard untruths, as well. Her writings explore the psychology of lying, the consequences of deception, and the perils of keeping secrets. With advanced degrees in both psychology and philosophy, she has taught ethics at Harvard’s Medical School, the Kennedy School of Government, and philosophy at Brandeis University. Her books include Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life and A Strategy for Peace."

Moyers: Can a republic die of too many lies?

Sissela Bok: I think a republic definitely could—especially if the lies are also covered up by various methods of secrecy. If you combine lying and secrecy, and if you also bring in violence so that secrecy covers up for schemes of lying and violence, then I think a republic can die.

I don’t think it’s possible for citizens to have very much of an effect if they literally don’t know what’s going on.

A credibility trap is a condition in which the financial, political and informational functions of a society have been compromised by corruption and fraud. The leadership cannot effectively reform, or even honestly address, the problems of that system without impairing and implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure, including themselves.

The influential status quo tolerates the corruption and the fraud because they have profited, at least indirectly from it, and would like to continue to do so. Even the impulse to reform within the power structure is susceptible to various forms of soft blackmail and coercion by the system that maintains and rewards them.

And so a failed policy and its support system become self-sustaining, long after it can be seen by objective observers to have failed. In its failure it is counterproductive, and an impediment to recovery in the real economy. Admitting failure is not an option for the thought leaders who receive their power from that system.

The continuity of the structural hierarchy must therefore be maintained at all costs, even to the point of becoming a painfully obvious, 'organized hypocrisy.'

Related Reading:

JP Morgan and Madoff: Nesting Dolls of Fraud, Pam Martens

America's Gilded Capital: Losing Democracy to the Predator Class