Truth, Lies, and Authenticity in Politics
Citation (APA): Birzer, T. K. P. S. S. T. B. J. (2016). Truth, Lies, and Authenticity in Politics [Kindle Android version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
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Truth, Lies, and Authenticity in Politics Timur Kuran Paul Starr Sean Trende Bradley J. Birzer
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The Authenticity Deficit in Modern Politics by Timur Kuran
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Democratic politics requires not only compromise, but some degree of incoherence. Politicians naturally strive to create winning coalitions, but sometimes that can mean promising the impossible or simply just the mutually incompatible.
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DEMO: PROMETTERE L IMPOSSIBILE
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Timur Kuran argues, ultimately, that those who are willing to compromise need not be any less authentic than those who promise that they never will.
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Spare Us from Authenticity by Paul Starr
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Every social interaction demands a sort of public performance. If we take performance and authenticity to be antithetical, then all of social life is inauthentic.
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Modern politics, though, puts the business of image management front and center, with speechwriters, consultants, strategists, and the like all discussing publicly exactly how a candidate should manage his or her image.
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LA MODERNITÀ ESAGERA
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The Perils and Promise of Authenticity by Sean Trende
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Sean Trende compares the measured, thoughtful political speeches of the mid-twentieth century to those of our own era. He finds that politicians like Everett Dirksen, or even Franklin Roosevelt, would fare badly today simply because of their highbrow rhetoric, which is no longer politically acceptable. An affected folksiness is almost a necessity nowadays.
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RETORICA PASSATA E IL PAPALE PAPALE DI OGGI
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And this we call authenticity. In the Internet era, candidates must connect not only with elites, who formerly channeled both funds and votes, but also with non-elites, who are increasingly an essential donor class.
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INTERNET E LA PANCIA
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Authenticity and Ancient Virtue by Bradley J. Birzer
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Bradley J. Birzer looks at some key figures from the history of liberty: What did they think of authenticity?
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He concludes on a pessimistic note:
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PESSIMISMO: IL POTERE CORROMPE
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Authentic or not, politics is concerned with grabbing ever more power, and it’s quite uninterested in anything else.
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CORROTTI D UFFICIO
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March 2016 ABOUT THIS ISSUE
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There can be a fine line between compromise and lying.
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Building coalitions in a diverse electorate means emphasizing different aspects of one’s program, and sometimes those aspects will not be entirely compatible.
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At times outsider candidates promise to break down politics as usual, and to speak and act with greater authenticity.
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Professor Timur Kuran argues that we aren’t necessarily worse off from inauthenticity in politics per se. But to make politics permanently better, those who pose as exceptionally authentic - and who commonly take extreme positions on vairous issues - need to acknowledge that compromise does not indicate deception; it is, rather, an inherent part of the political process
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The Authenticity Deficit in Modern Politics By Timur Kuran
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In many democracies, established parties have been losing ground to populist, anti-establishment movements on the right or the left. Greece, France, and Austria offer a few examples.
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Syriza in Greece, the National Front in France, and Austria’s Freedom Party, rests partly on their claims to authenticity.
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Their positions are their own, not those of lobbies bankrolling their campaigns.
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If random individuals were asked to describe the typical politician, they would speak of an elected official who is smooth with words, knows how to please disparate audiences,
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Succesful politicians manage to give people hope through agendas that they know they cannot achieve.
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They can disarm skeptics by speaking endlessly without answering questions.
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Having multiple narratives in favor of a given program serves to make coalition members
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Consider a bill to improve the schools in low-income neighborhoods. It will appeal to some people out of a sense of fairness, to others because the labor force will become more productive, or to still others because crime will fall.
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In switching colors depending on the audience, the politician effectively achieves compromises essential
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Politicians epitomize deceit because they can put their own interests above those of their constituents while appearing to be motivated only by lofty principles and the common good.
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High on all politicians’ agendas is electability.
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Individual voters cannot always separate truth from fiction, or sincere advocacy from contrived pleading.
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But they understand the role that money plays in campaigning, the pressures that induce politicians to falsify their knowledge
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The frustrations rooted in the dishonesty of politics have fueled the popularity of outsiders
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In unprecedented numbers voters have embraced candidates who refuse to play by the established rules of American politics. Insisting that they will not be “bought,” Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have eschewed donations from corporate lobbies.
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Trump voices anti-immigrant sentiments directly and unapologetically.
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He uses vulgar language, both to distinguish himself from career politicians and to shock the political establishment.
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For his part, Sanders blames “Wall Street” for the stagnation of middle-class incomes, vows to break up big banks, and refuses to take contributions from the financial sector.
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They take positions that their party leaders consider harmful to electability, which makes them appear refreshingly honest.
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triumph of authenticity over politics as usual,
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Demonizing immigrants, Muslims, Wall Street, the trade partners of the United States, pharmaceutical companies, or the top one percent serves to oversimplify realities and to make intricate problems involving many complex constituencies appear to have easy and widely acceptable solutions.
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Trump conceals that expelling 11 million immigrants would harm a subset of his followers who depend on immigrant labor,
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Sanders disguises that making college free for everyone would transfer huge resources to the upper middle class, whose children attend college disproportionately.
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They speak as though the United States has the power to reset the rules of international engagement unilaterally,
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it appears unlikely that either Sanders or Trump will become President. But if one of them does make it to the White House, many of his campaign promises will come to nought. He will undoubtedly attribute any implementation failures to vested interests.
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How could Sanders have escaped the corrosiveness of Washington politics in over a quarter-century of service in Congress? How could his legislative service have been free of the sorts of compromises
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Trump is a showman whose trademark has been bluster, exaggeration, and egocentrism. Besides, he has already demonstrated a lack of political principles by making campaign donations to candidates all across the American political spectrum.
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politicians operate within a society that discourages truthfulness. They are surrounded by innumerable lobbies, each prepared to pulverize any candidate who strays from its orthodoxy.
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Americans have long believed in freedom of organization and freedom of speech. By the same token, wide majorities will make exceptions when faced with a clear and present danger. Thus, during the Cold War most Americans were ready to deny suspected communists the right to teach; and today most favor the surveillance, if not the incarceration or expulsion, of Islamists.
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Consider any one of the many controversies that divide Americans: abortion, gay marriage, Israel and the Palestinians, social security, taxation, guns, racial inequality, or immigration, to name a few. On each of these issues, there are activists who consider their opponents illegitimate.
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To avoid being harassed, treated as immoral or ignorant, and denied opportunities, people with opinions that fall between clashing extremes falsify their preferences, or else stay silent and hope that no one asks.
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In essence, they give up personal authenticity for the sake of accommodating social pressures. A consequence is that public discourses cease to reflect what people want and know.
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members of society collectively destroy their ability to live together harmoniously,
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The politicians of a society composed of inauthentic individuals are certain to be as inauthentic. They cannot reach the pinnacles of power by being themselves, by sharing freely their reservations about established orthodoxies,
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The authenticity deficit in American politics is very real. But it is not a product of politicians alone. It is a social ill whose perpetrators are also its victims, and vice versa. People astonished at why Sanders and Trump have resonated with huge blocs should look in the mirror
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You Can’t Keep a Lid on Discontent Forever By Timur Kuran
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KURAN. I NUOVI POPULISMI: LA RIVOLUZIONE REPENTINA DELL AUTENTICITÀ
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Preference falsification is “not necessarily a bad thing,” observes Paul Starr.
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STARR: W LA PRIVACY ABBASSO LA POLITICA
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Bradley Birzer reinforces the point in noting that most of us want to be left alone in many contexts and to be free to decide for ourselves without interference.
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Yet if nothing were politicized, there would be no civilization.
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Examples include national defense, controlling epidemics, and traffic rules. On such matters, finding the best balance among many tradeoffs requires everyone to be open about their knowledge, aspirations, apprehensions, and expectations.
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DIFESS EPIDEMIE STRADE. SENSO CIVICO
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Consider jobs, government subsidies, or wealth redistribution. On such matters, preferences are far more resilient, and disappointments are felt far more deeply than on those involving ancestral customs. Because perceived indignities and injustices are relived repeatedly, excluding them from public discourse breeds sustained anger,
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BARCAMENARSI SU CERTE MATERIE È RISCHIOSO
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Conspiracy theories that demonize some conception of the “establishment” start to circulate more or less clandestinely, usually through media that the politically connected scorn as backward, reactionary, and misinformed.
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COMPLOTTISMO È ACCUSA DI IPOOCRISIA
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When that explosion occurs, the elites accustomed to ignoring the masses will be unprepared to counter the populist leaders who emerge to fill the void.
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ELITES E POP
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As Sean Trende notes, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not the first American presidential candidates to champion outsider causes. If they have been far more successful than their predecessors, this is partly because they have gone much farther in dissociating themselves from the establishment.
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TRUMP E SANDERS I SINCERI
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As I pointed out in my lead essay, there is a difference between legitimizing existing grievances and solving them.
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LEGITTIMARE E RISOLVERE
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“Why now?” asks Trende. The honest answer is that we will never know exactly why it happened in 2016 rather than 2012 or 2020. Major shifts in public discourse are inherently unpredictable because they involve incentive changes that feed on themselves through processes discussed here, here, and here.
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The relatively bloodless fall of several communist regimes in quick succession in late 1989 stunned the communist establishments, the participants in the demonstrations that brought them down, the distinguished scholars of Eastern Europe, the CIA, and the KGB. It surprised even East European dissenters who had predicted that some day the Soviet Empire would fall like a house of cards because it was sustained by endemic lying. The revolts known as the “Arab Spring” offer another example.
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These East European and Arab examples reveal that the outcomes of authenticity-promoting revolts are not foreordained.
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L AUTENTICITÀ ESPLODE