The idea of syncophants mindlessly regurgitating irrational beliefs that don’t fit their best interests is nothing new. Its been with us for as long as mankind has been a social being. Today, its often used in the context of people supporting Trump despite stupid things he says, or the things that he does to directly harm them. It’s that cognitive dissonance between reality as witnessed by your senses, and your ideological beliefs.
“The Emperor Has No Clothes.”– This term actually has it’s roots all the way back to ancient Chinese folklore and is a story cherished for generations. There are different variations of the story, but the general story goes as follows:
The emperor was about to have a big gathering, and for such a huge event he went to the tailor. He told the tailor he wanted something special, something nobody has ever seen before. This left the tailor in a bit of a lurch– how do you make something for the most important person that nobody has ever seen before? He thought it over and labored over and over again. But when it came time to give the new clothes to the emperor he had nothing. So he improvised.
He went to the emperor with an empty box. He opened it in front of the emperor and said “Invisible clothes, sir.” He mimed pulling clothes out of the box and and draping them over the emperor.
“Wow, they’re so light.” Replied the emperor.
“Extremely light, sire. Only the finest materials.”
The emperor was utterly impressed. When the night of the big gala arrived, the tailor thought he would be found out as a fraud, but then a miraculous thing happened. The emperor came out wearing his “new clothes,” and rather than call out that the emperor was naked, all of the crowd unbelievingly gave him a standing ovation. They were enthralled with the “invisible clothes,” and a new fashion trend began. The tailor was inundated with requests for invisible clothes.
Which brings us to today. Whenever a politician says something ridiculous or stupid, and people go along with it, it is said “When will someone tell the emperor he has no clothes.” Also, whenever a fraud has failed upward, it is often said “The emperor has no clothes.”
But there are also modern day variations based on popular literature and film.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”– The Wizard of Oz
“Gaslighting” which is derived from the play “Gas light” and the movie of the same name, is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.
And then from George Orwell’s “1984”, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right… And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”
Interested in offering a political phrase, term or historical reference you would like us to comment on or explain? Please feel free to offer any thoughts in the comments.