The Scaffolding of Power

“They have always made lies their refuge, and built their designs upon the sandy foundations of rumors and fables.”

Clement Walker, Relations and Observations (London, 1648-1649)*

Clement Walker was a member of Parliament during the English Civil War and an enemy of the radical Puritan faction.  It was they, he said, who took refuge in lies and made rumors and fables the foundations of their designs.  This is likely true of ambitious politicians in every age, ambition being the hunger for power and false alarms being the means by which ambitious politicians gratify this hunger.  Walker called the ambitious politicians of his day Independents, and the junto at their head the Grandees.

“When the Grandee Independents have a desire to raise new forces, or erect new garrisons . . . they commonly usher in their design with reporting to the House [of Commons] the discovery of some new-invented conspiracy, or plot full of danger and destruction . . . and then propound their own forelaid design as a counsellable way to prevent it.”**

When ambitious politicians of today wish to trench upon the privacy and liberty of citizens, they likewise discover new-invented conspiracies and plots and they likewise propound a forelaid design of engrossed power as the wisest way to avert the danger and prevent the destruction.

“He that doth not hastily believe their informations, or doth argue against the remedies they propound . . . is presently cried out upon as a Malignant that doth not take the danger . . . to heart, and branded by the black tongues of the godly.”**

Skeptics of today are likewise defamed as “Malignants” who are in bed with the villainous (albeit imaginary) conspirators.  In Walker’s day the black-tongued godly were the myrmidon preachers of the Puritan faction.  Today they are media mouthpieces.

“When any great business is to be treated of . . . which they either desire to promote, or to obstruct, they commonly publish counterfeit news, and letters of great victories and successes gotten by their party in parts so remote that they cannot in a short time be confuted; this serves to credit and animate their Party to go on boldly with their work, and to dishearten their opponents; and though the profit and reputation of a lie is seldom long-lived, yet if it last some few days, until they have carried on their present business, they care not.”**

What Walker called “counterfeit news” we call “fake news.” The two are as alike as two dimes.  Our fake news comes from “parts so remote that it cannot in a short time be confuted” and it does its purposed work of psychological manipulation in the time between publication and retraction.  The modern hate hoax is an outstanding example of this nefarious art since the stain never leaves the lied-about and never blows back on the liar.

All these lies, rumors and fables are simply the scaffolding of power.  They may be temporary, but when they are removed the engrossed power of the ambitious politicians remains.

“Herein they imitate a skillful architect, who building an arch, supports it in the beginning with circular props, and pieces of timber, until he hath closed it, and enabled it to support itself, and then throws away the props.”**

*) Clement Walker (1595-1651), Relations and Observations, Historic and Politick, Upon the Parliament Begun A.D. 1640 (London, 1648-1649), p. 159.

**) Walker, p. 147.

2 thoughts on “The Scaffolding of Power

  1. Politicians invariably fall into one of two classes: the friends of corruption or the sowers of sedition; those who hope to profit from existing abuses and those who hope to profit from the disaffection those abuses produce.

    Politicians of both factions are kept in check by recalling Talleyrand’s observation (based on a lifetime’s experience at the heart of public life): “Governing has never been anything other than postponing by a thousand subterfuges the moment when the mob will hang you from the nearest lamp-post, and every act of government is nothing but a way of not losing control of the people.” – [« gouverner n’a jamais été autre chose que repousser par mille subterfuges le moment où la foule vous pendra à la lanterne, et tout acte de gouvernement rien qu’une façon de ne pas perdre le contrôle de la population. » (My translation)


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