Deceiving for Your Truth
Two recent news stories caught my eye for the same reason: both are about instances of the increasingly popular phenomenon of undercover activists deceiving their targets in order to expose some alleged truth about them.
You’ve probably heard of the first: Live Action, an anti-abortion group headed by onetime James O’Keefe partner Lila Rose (pictured), set up a sting and captured a Planned Parenthood employee purportedly encouraging a sex-selective abortion. The second story tells of a gay activist who got a British psychotherapist to lose her senior accredited status after he posed as a Christian struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
It’s not so much the merits of these alleged revelations that interest me, but rather the specific act of lying so as to expose a truth that we see in both cases. Even if such deceptions are well motivated and fruitful, they betray the deceiver’s disinterest in truth itself.
Truth matters for its own sake, but it also matters for those who would pursue it. If I may creatively borrow a distinction made by Conner P. Williams, activists who lie to expose some alleged truth reveal themselves as ideologues as opposed to people with a disposition toward the truth. I’ll go so far as to call them relativists because the truth that matters to them is the truth they would expose about their ideological enemies, and not the truth about who and what they are. Truth, if they’re honest enough to convey it, serves their ideology. Power, ultimately, is what motivates them and what they seek: power over their political and cultural opponents.