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The lies we normalize, the lies we accept

Mark Hemingway | It’s time to speak the truth despite the costs


President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports at the White House on March 8. Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Harnik

The lies we normalize, the lies we accept

With a war in Europe pushing gas prices in the United States to an all-time high of $4.17 a gallon on March 8, President Joe Biden went in front of the press and announced, “It’s simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production.” Then Biden repeated for emphasis, “It’s simply not true.”

Well, the facts say otherwise. In 2020, the United States was a net petroleum exporter and gas averaged $2.37 a gallon. When Biden became president in January 2021, that same month he signed an executive order forbidding new leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands—that’s a ban on oil exploration on 28 percent of U.S. land. The ban on drilling was a campaign promise, made to placate the party’s environmental activists. Within a year, the United States reverted to being a net petroleum importer.

Biden’s claim that his policies are not holding back energy production isn’t just a politician stretching the truth, it’s dishonest gaslighting. There’s a simple reason why Biden will stand before the American people and lie to their faces. Ordinary Americans aren’t confused about whether Biden’s policies are responsible for higher gas prices (and in fact, many on the left openly say higher prices are necessary to combat warming). At this point, the goal isn’t to mislead, it’s to force acceptance and submission to those who are in power.

The Soviets called this “hyperrealism.” The goal is simply to get as many people complicit in repeating talking points that they know to be completely false out of fear that the consequences of telling the truth are worse than the lie. This, of course, has a profound psychological effect on those complicit in the lie. They feel humiliated, so they try and get others to participate, thinking that if others are willing to swallow the lie, they can somehow manufacture a new reality or at least not be confronted with the guilt-inducing truth. Pretty soon, large numbers of people, not just our political leaders, are personally invested in sustaining the lie.

Social media can make it pretty easy to see this in action. Within hours, major left-wing Twitter accounts were parroting Biden’s line on energy production: “President Biden isn’t to blame for the price of gas. Vladimir Putin is.” Gas was $3.53 a gallon the day before Russia invaded Ukraine and had been rising steadily during Biden’s entire presidency. It seems unlikely that every one of the nearly 14,000 people who liked that tweet is unaware gas prices were way up months ago before anyone had any inkling Putin would invade Ukraine.

The goal is simply to get as many people complicit in repeating talking points that they know to be completely false out of fear that the consequences of telling the truth are worse than the lie.

It’s more likely they don’t want to accept any personal responsibility for voting for a man whose energy policies have been very costly for Americans and have made our national security vulnerable in a perilous time. Biden still hasn’t lifted the ban on U.S. oil exploration, even as his administration solicits oil from the dangerous and repressive regime in Venezuela.

And, of course, the regular media play a significant role in this process, as well.

Florida recently passed House Bill 1557, formally titled the “Parental Rights in Education” legislation, but the media has almost exclusively referred to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. To be clear, never at any point did the legislation prohibit teachers from saying the word “gay.”

The fact that the mass media openly adopted the “Don’t Say Gay” label, which is untrue and just invented by the legislation’s political opponents, is revealing. First, it’s yet more evidence the U.S. media exists to serve American elites, not the working class or the cause of truth.

At best, elite liberal opinion in the United States is dominated by left-wing radicalism. Liberals don’t want to tell ordinary citizens what they actually support. At least some want to force people to think that teaching kindergartners about questionable and aberrant sexuality is perfectly normal.

It’s important right now to speak up, even if it has costs. Otherwise, through a series of small abdications, we will all become complicit in denying the truth—and the consequences of living in a contaminated moral environment quickly become personal as well as political. “We feel morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought,” said Václav Havel, a man who knew a thing or two about fighting propaganda. “Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension.”

It’s getting harder to speak the truth these days, but without a willingness to do so, we run the risk of sacrificing every other virtue on the altar of cowardice. Whatever consequences you fear, in the end, the truth will set you free.


Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.

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