Opinion

A 'moral imperative' to deceive

The belief that facts and norms don't matter has become contagious

This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

During the 2017 special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, progressive activists set up a fake Facebook page in ostensible support of Republican Roy Moore. The page, called Dry Alabama, praised Moore for proposing a complete ban on alcohol in the state — a false claim designed to depress his vote totals from moderate Republicans. Sounds like a Russian tactic, but activist Matt Osborne told The New York Times this week he had "a moral imperative to do this." Defeating Moore, an accused serial abuser of teenage girls, was so important, Osborne explained, that a bit of deception was justified. Dirty political tricks are, of course, not new, but the brazen defense of them on moral grounds is quite telling. There's a growing bipartisan conviction that virtually anything — lying, cheating, and spying — is justified because, well, the other tribe is so evil.

President Trump, of course, is the leading practitioner of the dark arts of deception, but his disdain for facts and norms is evidently infectious. When socialist superstar Rep. Alexandria ­Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) was recently questioned about her fuzzy math and exaggerated claims about Pentagon waste, she shot back, "There's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right." When newly seated Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called out Trump for divisive rhetoric, lack of "honesty and integrity," and low character, Republican colleagues chastised him for being too truthful. Evangelicals excuse Trump's serial adultery and unchristian bombast in the belief that he's serving a divine purpose by filling federal benches with anti-abortion judges. Were 4,000 Islamic terrorists really caught trying to cross the Mexican border? Will raising millionaires' taxes really pay for free everything? Who cares? When you're absolutely certain you're "morally right," facts and ethics are immaterial.

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