Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Another day; another TAPPED. TAPPED is, in most ways, a weblog I ought to like: in many ways ostensibly progressive, smart alecky, and skeptical. So what is it about its second use in two days of the old "Speak Truth to Power" saw that's bugging me? (Here's the first, that Wellstone entry from yesterday, and here's my comments on that.)

Maybe it's the simple little fact that being powerless has never been demonstrated, to my satisfaction at least, to be an indicator of likelihood to tell the truth. Just like some randomly selected poor person isn't necessarily more noble than a randomly selected non-poor person, a randomly selected less powerful person isn't necessarily any more truthful than a randomly selected powerful person.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption in the "speak truth to power" idea that power is necessarily correlated with untruthfulness. Sure there are ample instances of that being the case, but does anyone really take much notice of the cases where power is correlated with truthfulness? Does anyone do so to enough of an extent that it would be possible to get some handle on just how much correlation there actually is between power and lack of truthfulness?

Speaking truthfully is a pretty good policy, regardless of whether dealing with the powerful or the powerless. I don't know whether "honesty is the best policy" or not, but I do know that it's a pretty good one; it's not a bad one to take as a default unless other considerations become more pressing. So is "speaking truth to power" any more special of a directive than "just tell the friggin' truth"?

One last comment on Wellstone, described here in yesterday's TAPPED as "the outspoken progressive upon whom so much of America depends to speak truth to power." He's a United States Senator, for crying out loud. He's one of the powerful, not some oppressed powerless person without connections. He has power. So, even if he speaks truthfully about matters that are of some importance to some people who don't have power, he's speaking that truth among power, not to power.