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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Speaking truth to….what?

One of the more annoying liberal phrases is "speaking truth to power." The reason it provokes that reaction -- at least from me -- is that it is so inaccurate. Look at Barack Obama. All he did was lie to get into power. He told his constituency what they want to hear, or what he wanted them to believe, much of which was the opposite of the truth. He told us that the Jeremiah Wright we heard was not the man he knew. He told us that he would have the most open and transparent administration in history. He told us that he would be the post-partisan President. He told us that raising the debt ceiling was unpatriotic. I could go on, but this paragraph is too long already.

The point is, Obama spoke lies to power.

So what would be a more accurate phrase?

"Speaking truth to unemployment." (Just ask James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix.)

"Speaking truth to mockery and scorn." (As Darwin and Galileo found out.)

"Speaking truth to offense." How often have you heard people react to a truthful statement they can't really argue with by saying that they're really offended?

"Speaking truth to isolation." (Politically correct types usually give me the cold shoulder after reading this honest-to-a-fault blog.)

"Speaking truth to not getting laid." (As I have also found from hard experience.)

The truth is, "speaking truth to power" usually translates as, "I want what I say to be true, even though it's not, and by using this ridiculously stilted and pretentious phrase I want to appear noble as well."

Addendum, two hours later: Turns out, as per commenter Steven, that I've been misinterpreting this phrase, as explained in the comments. 


Steven said...

This sounds like it means speaking the truth to the powerful, rather than speaking the truth to get power...

Anonymous said...

John--People seem to speak the "truth" when it's convenient. Honestly. What I have noticed is that the word "honestly" is used in virtually every other sentence especially by the younger generation. It's as if they are doing the listener a favor by, for once, being honest. Then they can go back to being their old dishonest self after they take a moment of honesty. In the unlikely event that you haven't noticed how often this word is abused both publicly and privately you might want to key into it. If I hear the word one more time (unless it's called for) I'm going to jump off a cliff. This is not exactly the same but it's similar to your post about bending truth for personal gain. Thanks for letting me rant. I honestly feel better now. Brian

John Craig said...

Steven --
You're absolutely right. I just looked it up, it is a phrase coined the the Quakers in the 1950's; here is the link:

The relevant excerpt:

"We speak to power in three senses:

To those who hold high places in our national life and bear the terrible responsibility of making decisions for war or peace.
To the American people who are the final reservoir of power in this country and whose values and expectations set the limits for those who exercise authority.
To the idea of Power itself, and its impact on Twentieth Century life."

All this time I've had it backwards, I had assumed it meant that if you spoke the truth, it would lead to power.

I'm tempted to take the post down, but doing so would be sort of dishonest, papering over my mistake.

John Craig said...

Brian --
My impression is that a lot of people, not just young people, overuse the word "honestly." You're right though, the implication is that the rest of the time, they're not speaking honestly.

I don't find it as annoying as you do, but I'm glad you feel better. Anytime I can help….

Steven said...

Nah I wouldn't say so John. Its only a trivial mistake- not core to your thinking- and there's no shame in taking it down if its wrong. I would! if you want a moral justification, its better than misleading people and putting misinformation out.

Maybe it shows integrity tho to feel obliged to leave it up!

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you; I may take it down later, or I may just leave it up for its humor value. In any case, I just put an addendum into the post itself, that will suffice for now. Thanks for pointing this out.