If Escher and Dali were masters of illusion in their art, their deception had impermanence. Back and forth the image would change as one stared at one of their paintings. From fish dissolving as birds appear (Sky and Water I, 1958, M. C. Escher) to a disappearing bust of Voltaire (1941, Salvador Dali) the transformations are temporary.
Not so, unfortunately, are the consequences of political deception — Condoleeza Rice and the Iraq war come to mind. Remember when the metaphor of a smoking gun was turned into a “mushroom cloud.” It scared the daylights out of the populace and eased the way to the Iraq misadventure
Those consequences continue with a Shi’a government in Iraq tied closely to Iran and both beginning to shelter in the political ambit of Iran. Waning U.S. influence in the area in general could be linked to the gradual shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy (because of greenhouse gases and their effect on global warming).
But political deception (and bluff) are also daily currency. Putin, for example, has drawn the line at Ukraine for NATO. With an economy about the size of Italy’s, there is not much he can do in that sphere. Europe does rely on Russia for 35 percent of its natural gas but if reliability of the source is threatened by politics, it is likely to look elsewhere and modify its needs. The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter and three new terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels have been built in Houston. It would welcome Europe as a customer.
For the political deception prize, the U.S. presidential election is a strong contender. There is already talk of the next one, and given Biden’s age, the Democratic Party candidate being touted is Vice-President Kamala Harris. Now there’s a lady who can be black when she wants to be and Indian when she has to be, drawing in ethnic and black votes.
Her selection may not be a certainty, however, because, as of December 14, in a Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters, while 41 percent had a favorable opinion, as many as 52 percent viewed her unfavorably. And in comparison with past vice-presidents, she is 18.1, 53.6 and 40.6 points behind Joe Biden, Dick Cheney and Al Gore respectively at the same point in their tenures.
Of course on the question of political deception and bluff, there is a master practitioner in India, the prime minister, Narendra Modi. With an ever growing beard, his visage resembles a Hindu holy man (Sadhu) and he has in actual fact a self-professed mystic, Yogi Adityanath, as Chief Minister of India’s most populous state . The CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) sold by Modi as easing the path to citizenship does so but does not include Muslims and Jews in its provisions. Thus for the first time in the country’s history discrimination against Islam and Judaism is official policy.
The NRC (National Register of Citizens) then becomes a threat to Muslims; excluded from the CAA, they may be required to prove their citizenship. However, the poor rarely register births, and documents are meaningless to the illiterate — currently about a quarter of the population and a figure much higher among the poorest.
Political deception is often assisted by a deft management of facts and figures garnered to suit the practiced politician’s purposes and impress his/her audience. And deception itself might even be genetic. Even monkeys cache special treats away from prying eyes.