Goodbye Britannia - books reviewed

NB: These books contain an exposure of contemporary nihilism at work. See also the links at the bottom of this post. DS   Boris Johnson is “an unrepentant and inveterate liar” who feels he is not subject to the same rules as others, Sylvie Bermann, the former French ambassador to the UK during the Brexit vote, says in a new book. She also claims some Brexiters are consumed with hatred for Germany and gripped by a myth that they liberated Europe on their own, describing Brexit as a triumph of emotion over reason, won by a campaign full of lies in which negative attitudes to migration were exploited by figures such as Johnson and Michael Gove.

Johnson, she says, comes from an Eton and Oxford University class that believes they are entitled to use language to provoke. Describing him as intelligent and charming, she says he uses “lies to embellish reality, as a game and as instrument of power. The ends justify the means. He has no rules.”

Asked at a Royal United Services Institute thinktank event about her description of him as an unrepentant liar, she said: “He would not object to being called that. He knows he is a liar. He has always played with that. He was fired from his first post for that reason.” In her book, Goodbye Britannia, she seeks to define the psyche that led to Brexit. She describes “the partisans of Brexit as reciting a history in which the UK is never defeated, never invaded”. She suggests a country that considers it singlehandedly won the second world war, liberating the continent and deserving of gratitude.

Referencing the more than 22 million Russians who died in the war, she says “this does not disturb the discourse of the Brexiters who peddle the myth that the UK liberated Europe alone and needs no one.” She adds that France does have a debt of gratitude to the British, but “it is right to remember that they were not alone and you cannot live with a history that stopped in June 1944”….

The Assault on Truth

Peter Oborne is a consummate receipt-keeper. His efforts to hold political elites to account go well beyond those of regular reporting, and have snowballed over the last 20 years into a one-man moral crusade against lying in public life. He tackled the issue head-on in his 2005 book The Rise of Political Lying, the same year that he presented a Channel 4 documentary Why Politicians Can’t Tell the Truth. He reveals in his new book that “by the time the Blair premiership ended in 2007, I had got into the habit of keeping a file of political lies”. The figure who has come to dominate that file during the past five years is our current prime minister.

The Assault on Truth may sound like another book about “post-truth”, “fake news” or the threat posed by French philosophers. But make no mistake: this is a book about Boris Johnson. Oborne is clinical and merciless in his account of Johnson’s mendacity, building up his case item by item, footnote by footnote….

Book review: Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev - Putinism and the oil-boom years

The Aporias of Marxism / Archaism and Modernity. By Enzo Traverso

Richard Evans: the film Denial ‘shows there is such a thing as truth’. By Harriet Swain

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: The Age of Cretinism

Alexandre Koyré The Political Function of the Modern Lie           

Farewell to reality

Andrew Calcutt: The surprising origins of ‘post-truth’ – and how it was spawned by the liberal left

Yuval Noah Harari extract: ‘Humans are a post-truth species’

Martin Lenz: Why adversarial criticism is antithetical to truth

Book review: Ian Parker on Yuval Noah Harari’s History of Everyone, Ever
The Republic of Silence – Jean-Paul Sartre on The Aftermath of War and Occupation (1944)

Sartre and Terror


A Hunger Artist - by Franz Kafka (1922)

The Almond Trees by Albert Camus

Susan Neiman - Evil in Modern Thought // Lecture: 'Hannah Arendt's Disruptive Truth Telling'
Kwame Appiah's review of Moral Clarity

Book review - Svetlana Alexievich: Second hand time // Imagine the tragedy of abandoning Communism without knowing how to live with capitalism

Noam Chomsky, The Responsibility of Intellectuals (1966) // Apoorvanand - This false dawn: Modi regime’s obsession with the ‘new’ and ‘historic’

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