Our public life is dominated by brazen liars who just go on repeating those lies even after they have been refuted, rebuked, and rebuffed. Bad faith, like bad money, pushes out the good.
And so our politics is not and cannot be about establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, or providing for the common defense. It is and can only be about those lies. Pervasive, unchecked bad faith means we are unable to disagree about policy because we’re too busy disagreeing about reality.
As long as that is the case — as long as our life together is shaped by people like Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Josh Hawley, Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Matt Gaetz, Sean Hannity, Steve Strang, Tucker Carlson, Eric Metaxas, Robert Jeffress, etc. — we will be incapable of self-governance, incapable of liberty, justice, or security.
And as long as people like that — bad-faith, brazen liars who do not care that they are lying and do not care that everyone else knows they’re lying — are treated as normal, good-faith agents, then nothing I can say or do will ever be as important or necessary as just repeating again what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about such people while sitting in a Nazi prison.
So here that is again. Pervasive bad-faith is immensely frustrating, so allow me to set the tone for this first with a Daltrey scream:
Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked and, if need be, prevented by force. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it; reasoning is no use; facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied, in fact, they can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make them aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel; we shall never again try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.
If we are to deal adequately with folly, we must understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is a moral rather than an intellectual defect. There are people who are mentally agile but foolish, and people who are mentally slow but very far from foolish — a discovery that we make to our surprise as a result of particular situations. We thus get the impression that folly is likely to be, not a congenital defect, but one that is acquired in certain circumstances where people make fools of themselves or allow others to make fools of them. We notice further that this defect is less common in the unsociable and solitary than in individuals or groups that are inclined or condemned to sociability. It seems, then, that folly is a sociological rather than a psychological problem, and that it is a special form of the operation of historical circumstances: on people, a psychological by-product of definite external factors.