25 Sep 2020

Breeur (1.6) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.6, “The Involuntary Imposter”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1

The Last Judgment

 

1.6

“The Involuntary Imposter”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.6.1) (“the lie is structurally based on the ambiguity inherent in facts” (see section 1.2. The ambiguity: on the one hand, facts are things that have happened or are happening, thus they are necessary. But we also believe we can change them, and we use our imagination and freedom to dream up and act upon alternatives. Given that facts can be made alternate by means of the imagination,)  “A liar exploits this duplicity by playing with the distinction between truth and fiction” (26). (As we saw in section 1.5,) by means of the liar’s “practice, the distinction between dissimulation and simulation becomes blurred and the imagination is set adrift; it is no longer fed by anything and circles around a void” (26). Breeur now will examine how “this duplicitous exploitation of facts can inadvertently turn someone into an imposter,” along with addressing other related topics (26). (1.6.2) Normally the destruction that happens to oneself through lying happens we think as a result of their duplicitous intentions. But sometimes a person can inadvertently be turned into a swindler or imposter on account of facts developing in ways they did not foresee. (One was we see this is if political circumstances shift to change our perceptions of authorities:) “Today’s leaders are the traitors to tomorrow’s authorities” (26). Breeur will now illustrate a non-political sort of revolution like this using a gekigas (manga comic) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. (1.6.3) Tatsumi’s story is about a photographer documenting the aftermath of the bomb in Hiroshima. He encounters an imprint of human figures on a wall. It appears it is the image of a son massaging his mother’s back just as the bomb takes them both.

The photographer takes a picture of this image, and it becomes famous, symbolizing devotion, love, and peace despite the savagery of the bomb. It was even rendered into a statue, and the photographer traveled with it around the world in the “Never Again” campaign to promote peace. (1.6.4) But as it turns out, the mother’s real son is still alive. In fact, “the boy printed on the wall was his friend, whom he had asked to kill his mother. Without knowing it, the reporter had turned a murder into a symbol of devotion and love” (27). With that now being known, the photographer becomes an imposter: “His photo, the content of which grow out into a symbol for all the orphans of the atomic bomb, is ‘false’ – not in the sense of being Photoshopped or being a ‘deep fake’ but in the sense that it has led to a misinterpretation of the facts in many parts of the world”. (This news is given even before a public appearance with the statue, so the photographer knowingly presents himself to the public falsely.) Thus now the photographer has become a person who has deceived the world, and the criminal son even tries blackmailing the photographer, threatening to expose him as a fraud. (1.6.5) Thus facts, although seemingly secure things for us to ground our claims upon, in fact can “take paths ‘behind our backs’ ” that deceive or derail our good intentions” (27). Yet,  “it is precisely this ambiguity that gives meaning to facts and the truth” (perhaps because this ambiguity is what allows a fact to be either good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, on our side or against us.) This also means that “The boundary between what is true and what is not is therefore constantly shifting” (27). We try work with the changing nature of facts so that we always stay true to them, despite their unpredictable changes, and often they change values faster than we can keep up with them, “a bit like a doctor who finds a cure for his patient who has just died” (27). (1.6.6) With new media, we have lost even the idea of dissimulation. There are two ways this can be exploited: “By openly lying or by blowing up any distinction between the true and the false” (28). Putin, for instance, openly lies, which he does “in order to embarrass and openly challenge those for whom truth still has or is some value” (28). He will lie not to get power but to demonstrate his power by showing he can state an obvious falsehood and no one can stop him from acting on that untruth: “When he told the West that there were no Russians in the Ukraine, he did not want to convince us. Above all, he wanted to claim that he had the power to humiliate the Western democracies and their media” (28). His aim was also to undermined the public’s “confidence in the value of truth and sincerity” (perhaps by showing that falsehood and insincerity are signs of greatest power) (28). “Most of all, he made us feel that our truths did not have the power possessed by his lies” (28). (1.6.7)This is double-thinking, the practice of holding two contradictory beliefs in mind while accepting them both at the same time. “When double-thinking, you claim two  at the same time with the same aplomb. In other words, you don’t even bother to dissimulate one for the benefit of the other.” We see this with Orwellian Doublespeak: “Like the slogans that appear in the novel on the front of the Ministry of Truth: ‘War is peace,’ ‘freedom is slavery,’ ‘ignorance is power.’ This paralyzing juxtaposition is the biotope of so-called ‘alternative facts’” (29). (1.6.8) This juxtaposition of opposing statements, when both are stated as true, is paralyzing. In the past, the ambiguous link that the untrue kept with the true was played upon either for cheating without lying (the Jesuits) or to “condemned any form of deception as an expression of mendacity” (Jansenists) (29). Yet, truth seems no longer relevant these days. But with this all being so, we might wonder, how would it be possible for fraudsters to persuade and deceive (if truth is no longer at issue)? Breeur says that in fact, they do not even do so, because there is no longer the need to hide something true. (So when a claim and its challenge are both equally given, there is no deceit; there is only confusion or disregard about the truth.) “How can potential fraudsters still persuade and deceive? The answer is simple: They don’t! The ability to | convince someone of something false presupposes the ability to conceal something true. But now there is nothing to hide, because the true and the false are equally explicitly and simultaneously posited or ‘posted.’ So there is nothing that can call into question the interpretation of a fact, because that question itself is already circulating along with the fact itself” (29). (1.6.9) Today, we feel “deceived and cheated – by car makers, politicians, the media, etc.” But we no longer feel like in these cases the truth is being concealed from us. Rather, every version/interpretation of the facts is floating out there. (We just are losing the means to discern which one to trust). “You’ll find an explanation for everything everywhere and a version of a fact that refutes its official interpretation” (30). This is something obscene for us.

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.6.1

[Turning to the Imposter]

 

1.6.2

[Intentional and Unintentional Imposture]

 

1.6.3

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 1: Taking the Photo]

 

1.6.4

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 2: The Real Truth behind the Image (Involuntary Imposture)]

 

1.6.5

[The Shifting Valencies of Facts and Truth]

 

1.6.6

[New Media and Lying: Putin and Lying as Demonstrations of Power]

 

1.6.7

[Double-Thinking and Double-Speaking]

 

1.6.8

[Loss of Truth and Deception]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.6.1

[Turning to the Imposter]

 

[“the lie is structurally based on the ambiguity inherent in facts” (see section 1.2. The ambiguity: on the one hand, facts are things that have happened or are happening, thus they are necessary. But we also believe we can change them, and we use our imagination and freedom to dream up and act upon alternatives. Given that facts can be made alternate by means of the imagination,)  “A liar exploits this duplicity by playing with the distinction between truth and fiction” (26). (As we saw in section 1.5,) by means of the liar’s “practice, the distinction between dissimulation and simulation becomes blurred and the imagination is set adrift; it is no longer fed by anything and circles around a void” (26). Breeur now will examine how “this duplicitous exploitation of facts can inadvertently turn someone into an imposter,” along with addressing other related topics (26).]

 

[ditto]

Until now, I have tried to show how the lie is structurally based on the ambiguity inherent in facts. A liar exploits this duplicity by playing with the distinction between truth and fiction. But this is playing with fire. In his or her practice, the distinction between dissimulation and simulation becomes blurred and the imagination is set adrift; it is no longer fed by anything and circles around a void. In what follows, I would like to examine to what extent this duplicitous exploitation of facts can inadvertently turn someone into an imposter. The urge to control the ambiguity probably explains our love of the truth. Claiming that truth has a sense or meaning is therefore only one possible way of supervising the limit between the true and the false and of controlling or, if necessary, manipulating possible shifts. I will conclude this chapter with a suggestion for our situation today. Through new developments in the (“social”) media, the “man in action’’ has found a better way to deal with the distinction between the true and the false: Just blow it up.

(26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.2

[Intentional and Unintentional Imposture]

 

[Normally the destruction that happens to oneself through lying happens we think as a result of their duplicitous intentions. But sometimes a person can inadvertently be turned into a swindler or imposter on account of facts developing in ways they did not foresee. (One was we see this is if political circumstances shift to change our perceptions of authorities:) “Today’s leaders are the traitors to tomorrow’s authorities” (26). Breeur will now illustrate a non-political sort of revolution like this using a gekigas (manga comic) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.]

 

[ditto]

The previous discussion of the liar’s fate, namely the situation where someone is overtaken by his or her own lies and simulations and loses all contact with and feel for the facts, was based on the assumption that the liar’s intention is at the origin of the duplicity: He or she has exploited the ambiguity inherent to facts and fell under the spell of the pure possibilities at the expense of the truth. But facts can of themselves, through internal reorganizations, impose new possibilities and destroy existing interpretations. Situations are often so complex and intricate because of public or historical circumstances that, despite any and all good intentions, someone can still end up in a position that turns him into a swindler or an impostor. Political revolutions illustrate this fact. Today’s leaders are the traitors to tomorrow’s authorities. However, a good example of such a revolution in a not exclusively political sense can be found in the following example from a collection of gekigas (a gekiga is a comic strip for adults, a.k.a. a “manga”) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

(26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.3

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 1: Taking the Photo]

 

[Tatsumi’s story is about a photographer documenting the aftermath of the bomb in Hiroshima. He encounters an imprint of human figures on a wall. It appears it is the image of a son massaging his mother’s back just as the bomb takes them both.

The photographer takes a picture of this image, and it becomes famous, symbolizing devotion, love, and peace despite the savagery of the bomb. It was even rendered into a statue, and the photographer traveled with it around the world in the “Never Again” campaign to promote peace.]

 

[ditto]

During World War II, just after the explosion of the atomic bomb, a certain Sato, at that time working for the Japanese Ministry of War, was sent by his superiors to Hiroshima. He was supposed to record the damage caused by the bomb dropped on August 6, 1945. Completely upset and armed with his camera, he made his way through the rubble and painfully crossed what was left of the city. In the middle of all the debris, he discovered two shadows printed by the flash of the bomb on the wall of a house. At the very moment that the bomb exploded, a son apparently kindheartedly and graciously was massaging his mother’s shoulders. The photograph that the reporter was able to take of this scene will become famous: A symbol of devotion, love, and peace. A statue will even be produced that will travel around the world to contribute to the “Never Again’’ campaign.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.4

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 2: The Real Truth behind the Image (Involuntary Imposture)]

 

[But as it turns out, the mother’s real son is still alive. In fact, “the boy printed on the wall was his friend, whom he had asked to kill his mother. Without knowing it, the reporter had turned a murder into a symbol of devotion and love” (27). With that now being known, the photographer becomes an imposter: “His photo, the content of which grow out into a symbol for all the orphans of the atomic bomb, is ‘false’ – not in the sense of being Photoshopped or being a ‘deep fake’ but in the sense that it has led to a misinterpretation of the facts in many parts of the world”. (This news is given even before a public appearance with the statue, so the photographer knowingly presents himself to the public falsely.) Thus now the photographer has become a person who has deceived the world, and the criminal son even tries blackmailing the photographer, threatening to expose him as a fraud.]

 

[ditto]

But the story – like all the stories in Tatsumi’s book – gets darker. The next day, the grey wall section seems to have been destroyed. The real son is still alive. As it happened, the boy printed on the wall was his friend, whom he had asked to kill his mother. Without knowing it, the reporter had turned a murder into a symbol of devotion and love. Moreover, since the confession made to him by this unworthy son, he himself has been transformed into an imposter: His photo, the content of which grow out into a symbol for all the orphans of the atomic bomb, is “false” – not in the sense of being Photoshopped or being a “deep fake” but in the sense that it has led to a misinterpretation of the facts in many parts of the world. Of the true meaning of this scene projected on the wall, there is only one witness left, the son. And he’s trying to blackmail (and intimidate) the celebrated reporter.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.5

[The Shifting Valencies of Facts and Truth]

 

[Thus facts, although seemingly secure things for us to ground our claims upon, in fact can “take paths ‘behind our backs’ ” that deceive or derail our good intentions” (27). Yet,  “it is precisely this ambiguity that gives meaning to facts and the truth” (perhaps because this ambiguity is what allows a fact to be either good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, on our side or against us.) This also means that “The boundary between what is true and what is not is therefore constantly shifting” (27). We try work with the changing nature of facts so that we always stay true to them, despite their unpredictable changes, and often they change values faster than we can keep up with them, “a bit like a doctor who finds a cure for his patient who has just died” (27).]

 

[ditto]

What is specific about “facts” is that they can take paths “behind our backs” that deceive or derail our good intentions. But at the same time, it is precisely this ambiguity that gives meaning to facts and the truth. The boundary between what is true and what is not is therefore constantly shifting. Hence our frantic efforts to get this shift under control. We then claim | the truth, often with a lot of fuss, but it is too late – a bit like a doctor who finds a cure for his patient who has just died.

(27-28)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.6

[New Media and Lying: Putin and Lying as Demonstrations of Power]

 

[With new media, we have lost even the idea of dissimulation. There are two ways this can be exploited: “By openly lying or by blowing up any distinction between the true and the false” (28). Putin, for instance, openly lies, which he does “in order to embarrass and openly challenge those for whom truth still has or is some value” (28). He will lie not to get power but to demonstrate his power by showing he can state an obvious falsehood and no one can stop him from acting on that untruth: “When he told the West that there were no Russians in the Ukraine, he did not want to convince us. Above all, he wanted to claim that he had the power to humiliate the Western democracies and their media” (28). His aim was also to undermined the public’s “confidence in the value of truth and sincerity” (perhaps by showing that falsehood and insincerity are signs of greatest power) (28). “Most of all, he made us feel that our truths did not have the power possessed by his lies” (28).]

 

[ditto]

Lies, I said, derive their power from the ambiguities present in the facts. Today, the nature of this ambiguity itself has changed considerably under the influence of the new media. Through these media, the very idea of dissimulation seems to disappear (everything is present at the same time). And this can be exploited in two ways: By openly lying or by blowing up any distinction between the true and the false. Putin’s political practice is a good example of the first. He lies in order to embarrass and openly challenge those for whom truth still has or is some value. Machiavelli thought that lies were justified in order to gain power, but for Putin, the possession of power is his justification for lying. When he told the West that there were no Russians in the Ukraine, he did not want to convince us. Above all, he wanted to claim that he had the power to humiliate the Western democracies and their media. The public display of his lies was not intended to be believed, but to undermine people’s confidence in the value of truth and sincerity, for he was well aware that we knew that what he was saying were lies. Most of all, he made us feel that our truths did not have the power possessed by his lies.24

(28)

21 Europe has still not been convinced to intervene. See Timothy Snyder, The Road to Uefreedom: Russia, Europe, America (London: The Bodley Head 2018), p. 159 sq.

(28)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.7

[Double-Thinking and Double-Speaking]

 

[This is double-thinking, the practice of holding two contradictory beliefs in mind while accepting them both at the same time. “When double-thinking, you claim two  at the same time with the same aplomb. In other words, you don’t even bother to dissimulate one for the benefit of the other.” We see this with Orwellian Doublespeak: “Like the slogans that appear in the novel on the front of the Ministry of Truth: ‘War is peace,’ ‘freedom is slavery,’ ‘ignorance is power.’ This paralyzing juxtaposition is the biotope of so-called ‘alternative facts’” (29).]

 

[ditto]

Isn’t this the practice of double-thinking to which Orwell refers in his now, again, so popular novel 1984? Myriam Revault d’Allones concludes her book on La faiblesse du vrai (“the weakness of truth’’) with the following striking description: “Pourvoir du ‘doublepenser’ – pouvoir garder simultanément a l’esprit simultanément deux énoncés contradictoires et les accepter tous les deux” (“Double-thinking – being able to keep two contradictory statements in mind simultaneously and accept them both’’).25 When double-thinking, you claim two  at the same time with the same aplomb. In other words, you don’t even bother to dissimulate one for the benefit of the other. Like the slogans that appear in the novel on the front of the Ministry of Truth: “War is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” “ignorance is power.” This paralyzing juxtaposition is the biotope of so-called “alternative facts.”

(29)

25 Myriam Revault d’Allones, La faiblesse du vrai (Paris: Seuil, 2018), pp. 128-129.

(29)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.8

[Loss of Truth and Deception]

 

[This juxtaposition of opposing statements, when both are stated as true, is paralyzing. In the past, the ambiguous link that the untrue kept with the true was played upon either for cheating without lying (the Jesuits) or to “condemned any form of deception as an expression of mendacity” (Jansenists) (29). Yet, truth seems no longer relevant these days. But with this all being so, we might wonder, how would it be possible for fraudsters to persuade and deceive (if truth is no longer at issue)? Breeur says that in fact, they do not even do so, because there is no longer the need to hide something true. (So when a claim and its challenge are both equally given, there is no deceit; there is only confusion or disregard about the truth.) “How can potential fraudsters still persuade and deceive? The answer is simple: They don’t! The ability to | convince someone of something false presupposes the ability to conceal something true. But now there is nothing to hide, because the true and the false are equally explicitly and simultaneously posited or ‘posted.’ So there is nothing that can call into question the interpretation of a fact, because that question itself is already circulating along with the fact itself” (29).]

 

[ditto]

The subject that is submitted to such a discourse, as Revault d’Allones aptly writes, “est englué dans la juxtaposition paralysante de deux positions contraires, il est littéralement pétrifié faute de duplicité, d’équivoque, d’ambiguïté” (“is stuck in the paralyzing juxtaposition of two opposing positions, it is literally petrified for lack of duplicity, equivocation, ambiguity”).26 The Jesuits manipulated the ambiguity to cheat without lying. The Jansenists condemned any form of deception as an expression of mendacity. But both played with the link that the untrue kept with the true. Today that link itself is irrelevant. “Does the truth matter anymore?”27 But then you may ask further: How can potential fraudsters still persuade and deceive? The answer is simple: They don’t! The ability to | convince someone of something false presupposes the ability to conceal something true. But now there is nothing to hide, because the true and the false are equally explicitly and simultaneously posited or “posted.” So there is nothing that can call into question the interpretation of a fact, because that question itself is already circulating along with the fact itself.

(29-30)

26 Revault d’Allones, La faiblesse du vrai, p. 130.

27 Cf. Viner (2016).

(29)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.9

[Our Being Cheated without Deception]

 

[Today, we feel “deceived and cheated – by car makers, politicians, the media, etc.” But we no longer feel like in these cases the truth is being concealed from us. Rather, every version/interpretation of the facts is floating out there. (We just are losing the means to discern which one to trust). “You’ll find an explanation for everything everywhere and a version of a fact that refutes its official interpretation” (30). This is something obscene for us.]

 

[ditto]

I also said, faithful to Diderot’s adage (“c’est surtout lorsque tout est faux qu’on aime le vrai”, it is in circumstances where everything seems false that we love the truth)28, that our interest in the truth is primarily if not entirely a response to feeling deceived. The driving force of that interest, at least since Descartes (“malin genie”), was doubt, suspicion, and mistrust. Today, everyone feels deceived and cheated – by car makers, politicians, the media, etc. But that feeling is no longer based on the suspicion that (a/the) “truth” is being concealed. Perhaps (a/the) “truth’’ is itself false. After all, no one can really feel deceived by anything anymore because nothing is concealed or hidden anymore. You’ll find an explanation for everything everywhere and a version of a fact that refutes its official interpretation. This brutal, simultaneous omnipresence has something of the obscene. The political scene takes advantage of this obscenity, like the liars of duplicity. Ambiguity is the driving force of humor – the obscene that of sarcasm and cynicism.

(30)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

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