One of the supporting arguments for a free press is what I’ve seen described as the “leprosy argument”. Rulers tend to become isolated from the people they govern; there are many mechanisms promoting such isolation, but the predominant ones are the rise of “courtiers”, people who force themselves into association with the Big Guy in order to bask in the reflected glow of power, and the multiplication of bureaucrats the Big Guy appoints to implement his policies.

One of the effects of leprosy is loss of nerve endings that may result in the sufferer not even noticing damage to his or her extremities because the pain that normally accompanies such damage isn’t felt. Courtiers are by their very nature flatterers, who achieve their positions by playing on the self-image of the ruler to gain their privileged position. Bureaucrats are specifically intended to take the burden of day-to-day interaction with the populace off the boss, who doesn’t have time to deal with minutiae. In both cases the result is layers of intermediaries between ruler and ruled. Leprosy is no longer a common occurrence, so most of us instead refer to a “bubble”, analogous to the child-in-a-bubble who has to be isolated from disease organisms in order to survive and thus cannot interact freely with the world around him.

A free press bypasses all that; its expostulations can, at least in principle, help by passing pain signals from the populace to the ruler despite the insulation provided by the courtiers and bureaucrats.

Moe Lane notes:

I’m used to the President lying to me.  It’s a thing.  I’ve almost grown comfortable with it.  But Obama lying to his own base is pretty darn low-rent of him.

The blogfather quotes James Taranto:

Politicians are supposed to take sides on questions of public policy.

News reporters are not.

Reynolds then goes on to remark

The idea of an independent media has been eclipsed by crony journalism to go with the crony capitalism.

Which is precisely the case. In the terms I introduced above, the (supposed) journalists have converted themselves into courtiers, who see it as their job to both flatter Mr. Obama and to use their considerable power to see to it that anything unflattering is concealed to the extent possible. Coupled with the huge and still-growing armies of bureaucrats who are taking charge (or trying to) of every tiniest aspect of American life, and who are essentially unmanageable from the top simply from their number and the complexity of their operations, this means the President very likely has no knowledge whatever of what lower-ranking Democrats think, let alone the populace at large. The bureaucrats have no intention of bothering the Big Guy with minor details, and the soi-disant Press take it upon themselves to suppress any hint of opinion that might disturb his equanimity.

So I disagree with Moe. I don’t think President Obama is lying to anybody. It’s a matter of definitions. “Lying” requires that the liar knows the truth and suppresses it. A person who has imperfect knowledge and/or a firm belief that’s wrong, and who makes statements based on that, may be issuing and perpetuating total falsehoods, but is not a “liar” because he or she is not suppressing the truth. It’s fairly clear that Mr. Obama tends to reject data that might contradict his firmly-held convictions, but in the present case it’s highly unlikely he will ever detect any such data, because the Press will suppress it in an attempt to keep him looking good and the bureaucrats won’t tell him because it’s their job to handle such objections without jogging his elbow. The result is egregious mistakes, due to the leprosy-like inability to feel damage brought on by the layers of courtiers and bureaucrats.

Which is fine by me. I’d like to see the man turfed out of his sinecure; the more mistakes he makes the more likely that becomes; and the thicker and denser the “bubble” gets, the less likely it becomes that he’ll feel any pain from his mistakes, right up to the point where his extremities start falling off.

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