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“A new form of lying has emerged in recent times. This is what Arendt calls “image-making,” where factual truth is dismissed if it doesn’t fit the image. The image becomes a substitute for reality. All such lies harbor an element of violence: organized lying always tends to destroy whatever it has decided to negate. The difference between the traditional political lie and the modern lie is the difference between hiding something and destroying it. We have recently seen how fabricated images can become a reality for millions of people, including the image-maker himself. We have witnessed this in the 2016 American presidential election. Despite the obvious falsity of his claims, the president insists that the crowd at his inauguration was the largest in history; despite the fact that he did not receive a majority of votes, he insists that this was because millions of fraudulent votes were cast; and despite the evidence that Russians interfered with the presidential election, the president claims that the “suggestion” that there was Russian interference is just a devious way of calling his legitimacy into question. The real danger here is that an image is created that loyal followers want to believe regardless of what is factually true. They are encouraged to dismiss anything that conflicts with the image as “fake news” or the conspiracy of elites who want to fool them. What Arendt wrote more than a half a century ago might have been written yesterday. “Contemporary history is full of instances in which tellers of factual truth were felt to be more dangerous, and even more hostile, than the real opponents” (Arendt 1977: 255). Arendt was not sanguine that tellers of factual truth would triumph over image-makers. Factual truth-telling is frequently powerless against image-making and can be defeated in a head-on clash with the powers that be. Nevertheless, she did think that ultimately factual truth has a stubborn power of its own. Image-makers know this, and that is why they seek to discredit a free press and institutions where there is a pursuit of impartial truth.”

Richard J. Bernstein, Why Read Hannah Arendt Now?
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Why Read Hannah Arendt Now? Why Read Hannah Arendt Now? by Richard J. Bernstein
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