How To Lie Well: Palin Pity (Updated)


With all the Palin pity going around, especially on the conservative side, I would like to make a suggestion – Palin should not “be herself,” as some suggest, and try to wing it in the answers to the difficult questions, she should just take the whole process literally and honestly, i.e. respond what she really thinks, even if it is a simple “I dont’ know” – this way, at least according to the point that Žižek’s been emphasizing lately, she will be reacting to the system of journalistic interrogation literally, and will thus challenge the implicit rule of such an interrogation which is: Whether you know the answer or not, we want to see you try.  Now, you might ask, how exactly does this fill in the theme of “How To Lie Well” series? Let’s hear Žižek’s point first – this is from the small book on violence:

Isnt’ it how ideology works? The explicit ideological text or practice is sustainted by an unplayed series of obscene superego supplements…  One of the strategies of dissidence in the last years of socialism was therefore precisely to take the ruling ideology more seriously and literally than it took itself by way of ignoring its virtual unwritten law: “You want us to practise socialist democracy? OK, here you have it!” [172]

So it seems that the point here is to take things literally – why do we even have press conferences and interviews? The explicit message here is, well, pretty explicit: We would like to get to know the candidates, learn their positions on a number of issues, i.e. get more information about them personally.  Therefore, if someone Palin is hiding from the press, she is avoiding the masses and their probing inquiries. With all due respect to the press, this is, of course, bullshit – the implicit superego supplement here is: You must appear before the judgment of the press and pass the test, regardless of the information you provide, because information is easy to come by these days.  It is basically an initiation ritual, a thing you do when you enter the national political scene. Palin’s lies are openly condemned as lies, but implicitly they are condemned because they are awkward – she does not know how to lie well, but in this case instead of going back to her room and learning how to lie better, she should simply admit the lack of knowledge when confronted and thus undermine the very assumption that she should try and talk her way out of the tight spot.

In this case, the best lie is the open admission that you don’t know something, because not only do you go against the implicit rule of such affairs, you also play by the rules and no sensible journalist would be able to accuse you of being evasive and secretive. By openly saying: “I don’t really know, Katie. Next question?” The reaction can be, of course, something like: “How can you not know this? Are you not running for an office where you might potentially become a president? Are you not admitting that you are inexperienced?” Actually we know all these things already, the difference is, of course, that after Palin admits it, we will really know them. Thus the Palin strategy should be to take the old politician’s trick – Appear honest without being honest – and turn it on itself – Appear honest and be honest, thus confusing the media.  John McCain’s tricks are awful because they are very transparent and lame.  If Palin or her handlers could come up with better fresher tricks, the odd couple might have a chance to bounce back and entertain me a bit longer.  In other words, the best lie is to be honest all the way, Borat-style/Holy Fool honest…

Well, this might not work for Palin, it might simply be too late…

P.S. McCain campaign – You are welcome…

And something extra-special for those who read all the way to the end – Venezuela moves to the Middle East. Now if McCain actually said that intentionally and insisted on it, despite all the geographic evidence to the contrary, then, I think, we would have a race…

UPDATE: Here‘s a video of Žižek’s talk about the book cited above, here‘s an audio (.mp3) of Žižek talking some more about the issues…

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7 thoughts on “How To Lie Well: Palin Pity (Updated)

  1. “Appear honest and be honest, thus confusing the media.”

    In light of your own hypothetical, why should we expect the media to be confused? If anything, what isn’t clear is if Palin’s apparent inexperience is linked to her actual inexperience. Confused might not be the best word to describe the reaction by the media, which from what I can tell seems pretty content, which is not to say universally so, with saying “this is a bad choice for VP.”

    The confused in the media and elsewhere seem to be the one’s who want to ask, “maybe Palin has something up her sleeve, or McCain has something up his sleeve with Palin.” The confused are the ones who cannot see the obscene ideological supplement, or who do not at any rate show it, despite how obvious it is to the rest of us that Palin is inexperienced and a plainly bad choice. In this sense, I suppose admitting to her inexperience would confusing for some, but would that make them more engaged or less?

  2. I think if she came out and admitted her lack of qualifications in a series of “i don’t really know”s – precisely this movement of appearing honest and being honest would make the questions such as “does she have something up her sleeve?” a source of puzzlement. The secret is that there’s no secret, right? But if Palin comes out with “There is no secret” then suddenly everyone will think there is a secret – attention is paid, polls act the way they did when Palin was selected – people will be intrigued and will stop paying attention to the issues, which is clearly McCain’s goal now since he’s losing every time there’s an actual political issue involved.

    I think the present unconfused state in the media, that is, unconfused about Palin’s lack of qualifications is precisely the result of Palin’s playing by the rule – they ask, she tries – she’s embarrassing at this game because in order to play well, you have to know the implicit arrangement. My point was – instead of learning the rules, which is never easy in any culture, just go all the way to the other side and start saying what you really think in a way you think others explicitly want you to but knowing that such honesty disrupts the status quo…

    I guess I’m just trying to imagine what else McCain/Palin can do to keep me interested in their campaign – I can’t vote anyway, so it’s all the more important that I stay thoroughly amused…

  3. From Kung Fu Panda, I think… Everyone go see that movie! It’s actually very much what Zizek talks about all the time, I wonder if he should look into this and sue them… Then there’s that Derrida book on the secret – so it’s not really a secret that the secret that there is not secret is not really a secret…

  4. It’s this small book called Violence, I think Zizek said something like it’s the stuff left over from In Defense Of Lost Causes which I find a bit intimidating in size for now, so I decided to do Violence instead – very quick read and all. But I think I saw Zizek discuss this notion elsewhere as well (i.e. the idea that to undermine one needs to follow the rules more strictly rather than invent new rules because taking things literally – can there really be such thing as too literally? – would do the job better)…

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