Arendt traces it back to the development of the advertising industry as a major economic and rhetorical force, but before that, in 1892, Ida B. Wells was exposing "the old threadbare lie", for which she was hounded out of Memphis; and several thousand years before that, in the heart-truths of myth, Cassandra tried to save her city by speaking the truth, and was imprisoned, then brutalized and murdered, for her pains.
Considering the long sweep of history, it seems to me that the greatest enemy of the truth is not the lie but the compromised and infantile heart that longs to be lied to, that will do violence to truth-tellers in order to preserve its own comfort, that desires ignorance, that sells its freedom to the liar for the cheapest of stories. Rarely does the liar himself carry out the bulk of the violence, after all. Rather, it's accomplished by those who embrace his lies.
With such a heart, and particularly with such a gathering of hearts, the presence of a liar is sometimes not necessary; nor is the explicit expression of the lie; it is understood intuitively, as birds learn to flock, what unspeakable, unbearable damage a truth-teller might do to that shoddy blanket fort of a story that such hearts hide under, and depending on what is permitted in that society, the penalty ranges from insult and ostracism to death.
This has always been so.
And yet today there are millions seeking truth and learning to discern truth to the best of their ability; learning to be comfortable with discomfort, accepting of pain, and present, open, and curious; learning above all to listen to new stories, while putting down the poisoned narratives that each of us were given as children and taught to use against others and ourselves.
Millions. More than at any other time, though proportionately the change may be less.
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