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Как использовать истину, чтобы солгать / How to Use the Truth to Tell a Lie / Леви Брайант

Как использовать истину, чтобы солгать / How to Use the Truth to Tell a Lie / Леви Брайант

by Евгений Волков -
Number of replies: 0

Замечательный пост из блога прекрасно мыслящего Леви Брайанта: Как использовать истину, чтобы солгать / How to Use the Truth to Tell a Lie | Larval Subjects

Perhaps it’s something of a cliche to speak of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.  “Yes, yes, we’ve all heard of the Allegory of the Cave!  We all learned about the Allegory of the Cave in our Intro to Philosophy courses!”  That’s true.  I’m sorry to speak of it again.  I can’t help it.  I think the Allegory of the Cave is a good myth.  What’s a good myth?  A good myth is a time machine.  By that, I don’t mean that it takes us back to the past like the Delorean in Back to the Future.  No, a good myth is a myth that is able to exceed its historical horizon, explode the context in which it’s inscribed, and travel into the future.  A good myth is a myth that is open to endless interpretation; which is to say that a good myth is a myth that is able to speak across history.  A good myth is slippery and without a determinate signified.  For that reason, it can take on many signifieds.  What did Plato think?  I don’t care.  He wrote a good myth and therefore wrote a myth capable of going beyond Plato.

We know the story.  The prisoners have been in the cave since birth.  They don’t know they’re prisoners.  Behind them the guards walk back and forth in front of a fire with different shapes of things on long poles.  The shapes cast shadows on the cave wall.  The prisoners think the shadows are reality.  After all, they’ve never seen anything else, right?  Clearly there is only one possible interpretation of the Allegory of the Cave.  The fire is obviously capitalism.  The guards are most certainly the journalists, pundits, editors, and politicians.  And the shadows on the cave wall are television news, newspapers, social media, and the political blogs.  The shadows are images and images are copies of something else.  Plato was most definitely diagnosing the times in which we live.  As a careful reader of Niklas Luhmann– especially Luhmann’s Reality of the Mass Media –and other media theorists, he knew very well that it is the mass is our primary access to reality and constructs our sense of reality.  Think about it.  How do you know that North Korea exists?  Have you been there?  Probably not.  You saw it on a map or a globe (an image).  You read about it (an image).  You heard someone who says they’ve seen it talk about it (an image).  You saw a photograph or film footage (an image).  You watched a documentary on the forgotten war (images again).  The vast majority of your beliefs about the world are through images.  That’s your reality.  That’s my reality.

read on!


What’s Plato’s problem with images, anyway?  He’s so cranky and probably an essentialist to boot!  Hiss!  It gets worse!  Let’s look at Plato’s Analogy of the Divided Line.  What determines the different levels of reality on the divided line?  The Principle of Identity (A = A) and the Principle of Non-Contradiction (~(A & -A)).  Plato is committed to the thesis that reality is rational and that it must therefore obey the root principles of rationality.  The Excluded Middle is in there somewhere too.  The more identical something is to itself, the more real it is.  In Platonese, that’s a fancy way of saying that the more eternal and unchanging something is, the more real it is.  Likewise with the Principle of Non-Contradiction.  If “visible things” are lower than mathematical objects on the Line, then this is because they’re contradictory.  The rose is red now, sure.  Sadly, next week, it will be brown.  It contradicts its identity.  It lacks eternity.  It’s not outside of time.  Fucking logocentrist!

So what’s the problem with images?  Without exception, images distortwhat they depict.  My photograph of my dog is not my dog.  It doesn’t wake me by licking my face in the morning.  It doesn’t play ball.  I don’t have to feed it.  And all the rest.  The equation for images is I =/= R, where “I” denotes “image” and “R” denotes reality.  That’s not very interesting, though.  It’s trivial, even if it’s true.  Things get more interesting when we cross the line between the world of appearances or the visible world and the world of “true reality”.  Notice that Plato doesn’t treat mathematical objects as the highest reality.  Why?  He says– if my memory serves me right, which is another image –because mathematics relies on diagrams and writing.  Now we’ve fallen into logocentrism.  I draw a triangle to try and think about the essence of triangles.  What’s wrong with that?  No matter how hard I try to draw triangleness, I can only draw a triangle.  It’s always going to be scalene or right or isosceles or equilateral.  It will never be triangleness.  Every image is more narrow than what it strives to depict and therefore excludes members of the kind that fall under the class (Plato had also read Mouffe and Laclau on hegemony).  The danger, then, is that the image we use to help us think gets confused with realityleading us to overlook other variations of the type.

Saying that images are always too narrow is another way of saying that every image is framed.  We forget that every image is an interpretation, even written images.  How can a photograph or film footage be an interpretation?  Because they’re framed.  What does it mean to say that they’re framed?  It means that there is an inside and an outside.  We see this on Facebook.  Everyone posts pictures of themselves and reports stories about their lives that present them in the light they would like to be seen.  What we don’t see is what is outside of the frame.  Their images are true in the sense that they depict what has taken place, but they tell a lie in that they leave the rest out.  A letter to the editor, which is an image of someone’s thought, is true in the sense that someone actually wrote that letter, but it is a lie in the sense that the editor still selected that letter from dozens or hundreds of letters to portray the story about popular sentiment they wanted to portray.  That is how the truth can be told to tell a lie.  All truth are framed and, like any window, only allow us to see a portion of the world.  We should remember that when we watch the news.  The events and issues we see depicted on the news are indeed real events that are taking place and real matters of concern (to use Latour’s language).  Yet why are these the issues and events that are being depicted and who is selecting those particular stories as the ones worth telling?  How can something true lead me astray?  If I watched my local news I’d be a basket case.  I’d think there’s nothing but murder and robbery in my area, despite the fact that these events are statistically rare and unlikely.  What happens when I watch Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity?  What are they making seem common and foregrounded and pushing into the background?  The prisoners are prisoners of the images that captivate them.  There’s nothing we can do today but live in a world of images, but we can be aware of how those images hypnotize us.

5 responses to “How to use the truth to tell a lie”

  1. pvcann Says:

    Nice to refresh

  2. Ludovic Says:

    I think the situation at hand is far more complex (but also not that complex at the structural propaganda/ideological level) than is presened here.

    (“The dictatorship of relativism.”–Pope Benedict XVI)

    For example, if functionaries of the security state, elected or un-, claim the U.S. is effectively under siege by a foreign state power*, and that is not the case, or nor more the case than it has previously and knowingly been (therefore not even in this scenario a pressing attack, let alone a siege), then is not the very state claiming itself under siege sieging itself and by extention the demos, the polis, the res publica, etc., with its very pressing, urgent, alarmist, and, in manifold other fashions, controlling claims?

    And when does that proverbial siege/onslaught of rhetoric escalate and intensify into a coup against rights (psychological, ontological/natural, and legal), democratic avenues and ways, indeed against the most elementary of compasses for evaluating political reality itself as reflective of actually existing structures, institutions, and interests, in short for a sufficiently accurate mirroring and mapping necessary for the discernment of actual logical and emperical possibilities, however organically improbable, of change from the position of the agency of the multitudinous democratic ground? If it is a grave distortion all the way through, and all the way down, and one of the main spines, both horizontal but above all vertical, of that distortion (an axis of it in other words), are the so-called Russian interference claims, then cannot one deduce from the same the existence of previous, still present, operative, and transfixing, similarly functioning anti-democratic embedded dictatorial spines (principally the still hauntingly corrosive Iraq weapons of mass destruction claims)?

    In short, is it not seeming ever more conceivable that the American state itself is trespassed, transversed, transfixed, and impaled by a massive vertice/axis (significant point/rotation) of dictatorial relativity, transformative of the very (actually) occurring political constitution of the same into an engineered paradox or parallax of unfixable (in the dual senses) and undemarcatable uncertainty–from which the citizenry is axiomatically (necessarily) excluded through the fortress of strata upon strata of disinformation, ontological as well as phenomenological layers and forces of warping and distorting energies of concealment and miraging under the noses of their ostensibly´free´ and unimpeded suffrage? Distortions which have always been obstructively present, no doubt, but which now threaten to occlude, repel, and exclude the few and paltry remnant signposts and frayed guide-strings (epistemological/ontological ´crumbs´) of political reality and empiricism within an ever more surrealistic and irrationalist forestland of carnival and carnage, comedy and tragedy.

    Perhaps this situation can be called the allegory of the Russian, and before that the Iraqi (but also, culturally parallelly, the transgender and the ethno-identitarian and the, still more generally, Wittgensteinian/Heisenbergian) cave?


    In brief: the point is to skewer the state through a large enough propaganda pole (cf. ´axis mundi´) and make it and–more importantly–its populace politically and electorally rotate around it, a la a carrousel of lies.

    Also, it doesn´t hurt to spin it multiply and simultaneously within a proliferating constellation of such axes of lies, in the mesmeric manner of a collection of spinning tops on a table, or–seemingly–a spinning table of tops.

    I, of course, cannot and do not make the claim that this is anywhere the case, I speak simply abstractly, hypothetically, at most, potentially.


  3. Of course. It’s a short blog post, not an exhaustive analysis.

  4. Ludovic Says:

    In a familial (i.e. not precisely coincident) sense, is this description of partial (libidinal) drives, by Zizek, not reminiscent of the plodding, anti-climactically promissory quality (if not outright essential and predetermined drive within itself) of the Mueller Russia investigation?

    “[Partial drives] are not simply happy self-enclosed circular movements which generate enjoyment; their circular movement is a repeated failure, a repeated attempt to encircle some central void. What this means is that drive is not a primordial fact, that it has to be deduced from a previous constellation: what logically precedes drive is the ontological failure—the thwarted movement towards a goal, i.e., some form of radical ontological negativity/failure—, and the basic operation of drive is to find enjoyment in the very failure to reach full enjoyment. We should thus distinguish between drives with their partial satisfactions (oral, anal, scopic), and the disruptive negativity this circular movement of drives tries to cope with.”

    The question: is this movemental circularity organic, deep-structural to the institutions in play, mimetic/reflective of something coming into being acephalously and undirectedly, genetically affine to the phenomena hypothesized anteriorly, or the ´conscious unconscious´ (psycho-techno-scientifically mimetic and manipulative) elaboration of families of formations, echoic in form and compositive of echoic constellations of such forms, in the dynamic/organized manner of a reticulation-constellation (a la the geometric mirroristic-yet-variant spiralization of iconophobic art) of “organs without bodies” (a Zizekian inversion) that have been made to colonize with the most prolific prodigality and disruptive anti-economicity the (symbolic/neuronal-mirroristic) ontology of the American body politic, increasingly ever more acephalated by a parallactic intelligence´s design?

  5. land Says:

    A link to a paper that has some bearing on what you explore here:

    As Blumenberg advises beware “the absolutism of truth!” He’s well worth considering in his unraveling of the opposition between logos and mythos —which is itself a myth.



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