Institutional lying

  • Noble lies


“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic, and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for The State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of The State”. Joseph Goebbels (Goebbels Principle, previously described by Plato as “The Noble Lie”)

Confidence in public officials and in professionals has been seriously eroded. Incidences like Watergate, the covert American bombing of Cambodia, France's Greenpeace Affair, and numerous other political scandals have served to undermine public confidence, thereby affecting governments' images in the world, perhaps fostering further deception and cover-up.


  1. Lies can only persist as long as they are shielded from critical scrutiny that would result from the free flow of ideas and people. Therefore for their survival, lies require barriers to such free flow, usually achieved through the introduction of censorship and travelling restrictions. Such restrictions promote differences in the information available to different people and generate differing views of the world. These differences in perception breed prejudice and lead to the emergence of dogmas which stand in the way of mutual understanding between groups. All these trends reinforce the emergence and persistence of lies and half-truths. If the spread of ideas, people or products is too rapid for existing institutions to adjust to them, these institutions will try to put up barriers to preserve themselves.

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