Friday, September 28, 2007

Why The Truth Doesn't Matter To The Frog Movement

Several years ago, Tom, Dick and Harry started getting together once a week to discuss the one thing they had in common: their love of frogs. This was before The Frog Movement, and they were lucky to find one another.

In those days, Tom, Dick and Harry were considered a bit strange because of the way they felt about frogs -- and because they talked about frogs all the time. But that didn't stop them from holding meetings or from inviting other frog lovers.

Strangely enough, the same sort of thing was happening elsewhere. Other frog-lovers in other cities started having meetings, forming small groups that grew ever larger. Eventually the groups began to link up, and Tom, Dick and Harry found themselves at the center of a vibrant and growing Frog Movement.

As the Frog Movement coalesced around them, its leaders -- Tom, Dick, Harry, and a few others -- had to serve two masters. They tried to focus on frogs, but they also became increasingly mindful of the Frog Movement itself. They didn't see this as a problem; in fact they hardly saw it at all. As they often reminded themselves, what was good for The Frog Movement was good for the frogs, and vice versa.

This was a new way of thinking for the leaders of The Frog Movement. If one of them had suggested in the early years that what was good for Tom, Dick or Harry was good for frogs and vice versa, the other two would have fallen over laughing. But as The Frog Movement continued to grow, their thinking continued to change, and eventually their concern for the movement came to surpass their concern for the frogs. This they barely noticed. After all, what was the difference? What was good for the Frog Movement was still good for the frogs, and vice versa.

One day a fellow from the marketing department came up with a powerful idea: He suggested that they start hinting that members of the Frog Movement enjoyed more satisfying love lives than non-members. As he said at the time, "Nobody can resist a little sex. If you want to grow the Frog Movement, you have to make it sexy."

Dick and Harry and some of the others nodded in agreement. Only Tom spoke up: "But it's not true, is it?"

The marketing fellow smiled his well-honed smile and said, "I'm glad you asked, sir. No, it's not true. But nobody can disprove it, so there's no legal danger for us."

Tom was unconvinced. He said "Does it matter that nobody can disprove it, when we already know it's false?"

Dick and Harry the others agreed that as long as they were in no legal danger, the truth or falsity of their new marketing campaign was of little consequence. And, as they reminded Tom, if people believed supporting the Frog Movement was going to enhance their love lives, that would be good for the Frog Movement. And what was good for the Frog Movement was good for the frogs.

In a private meeting, Dick and Harry and a few of the others also agreed that Tom had been divisive and the incident had been embarrassing. And they determined not to let anything like that happen again, for they knew internal squabbling was bad for The Frog Movement and therefore bad for the frogs.

Some time later Tom spoke up at a meeting again. "I've been doing some research," he said, "and it appears some frogs may be poisonous."

The others were unanimous: "Don't say that!"

But Tom wouldn't let the matter drop. "I don't see the problem. This is another fascinating detail about frogs. And if we share this information, it could save lives!"

The others disagreed: "What's good for the Frog Movement is good for the frogs, and that's why we're trying to grow the Frog Movement. We won't grow the movement by scaring people with stories about frogs being poisonous -- and anyway, most frogs are harmless."

It wasn't long before they stopped inviting Tom to the meetings.


The preceding tale may be fictional, but I claim it's plausible. (You may disagree with me if you like.)

What do you think about Dick and Harry?

Did they do a good thing?

Have they exposed their movement to charges of fraud -- or worse -- by pushing a line that they know is false?

Have they weakened their movement by forcing Tom out?

I don't know. I'm pretty sure these questions are debatable.

Are they selling their integrity for a cheap lie? Yes, definitely.

Is it possible to tell a lie that benefits the Frog Movement? I think it probably is.

Does that mean one should do it? Now we're back in the realm of debate, I think.


But what if it we were talking about a different movement? What if the same sort of thing happened in the Dog Movement, or the Hog Movement, or the Log Movement? Would we feel more or less the same way about it? I think we would.

And what if the same sort of thing happened in the Fog Movement? In that case I believe we'd chuckle at the irony, or at least some of us would. It would be quite fitting if members of The Fog Movement told lies in support of their Movement, since fog, like propaganda, isolates and confuses people, and restricts their vision. Lying for The Fog Movement? That's perfect! After all, what's good for the Fog Movement is good for the Fog, and vice versa.

But what if the same sort of thing happened in the Truth Movement? What if people started thinking "It doesn't matter if we're lying, because we're doing it for the Truth Movement, and what's good for the Movement is good for the Truth"?


I submit for your consideration the thesis that such things are bound to happen in any movement, even without professional agitation. It doesn't even matter what that movement is about, because once it becomes a Movement, it's no longer about The Cause. It's all about The Movement. And even if it's a Truth Movement, its leaders will eventually come to care more about the Movement than about the Truth.

For instance, if a newcomer tells a fishy story, people might be reluctant to ask too many questions, fearing that she may be lying and that by exposing her lie, they may bring discredit upon The Movement.

In general, in my view, people may quite naturally develop plausible-sounding reasons for acting in direct opposition to Truth, even in the Truth movement. So when they act in this seemingly irrational way, this is not necessarily a sign of COINTELPRO infiltration; it may be simply a matter of Movement Dynamics, a case of people erroneously doing what they think is best for The Movement, at the expense of The Cause.

Examples are everywhere, all in the eye of the beholder.

How we use this knowledge is up to us.