Smooth and Deceptive Language


This is a guest post by Mitnaged
In his Mishnah Torah, the Rambam (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204) issues the following injunction:

“Jews are forbidden to accustom themselves to use smooth and deceptive language. Do not say one thing when you mean another, but let your inner thoughts be in accord with the impression you give; say what you really think. Even one word of smooth talk or misrepresentation is forbidden; you should, rather, have the truth on your lips, and a heart free of trickery and deceit.”


Although the instruction above is ostensibly aimed at Jews, it undoubtedly forms the basis of all civilised behaviour which underpins social intercourse.  If we cannot trust what a person says then we cannot trust what he/she is. Judaism and Christianity and most of the other faiths recognise this and hold truth-telling as bedrock.  It forms the basis of our western judicial system and the ancient Eastern religions hold truth telling and the fair dealing which stems from it as central to their faith systems.  Only one faith system, Islam, permits lying.
Why then, does the Guardian and CiF believe that they can depart from this central tenet with impunity?   What collective abandonment of reason makes it possible for them to publish the lies they have over the past years?
Perhaps Linda Grant’s egregious article, was an honest reflection of her thoughts, but it is difficult to say.   She was writing for CiF in the Guardian, which long ago lost contact with honest reporting.  It has been established, and proven time and time again, that the raison d’etre of CiF is predicated upon half-truths, deceit and often outright lies about Israel’s actions and motives.   It seems equally likely, therefore, that Grant was playing to the audience and feeding the anti-Israel beast what she thought it needed.
The Rambam talks specifically about speech. Early research argued that speech both reflects and influences thought and later research, notably by the behavioural theorists, highlighted how both in turn influence behaviour and reaction.   It is a cycle.   Psychotherapeutic interventions, cognitive behavioural interventions in particular, are based on research which has evidenced time and time again that if we can change the way in which we describe to ourselves negative events in our lives, we can change the way in which we think about them and ultimately change the way we react to them.  Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) calls this negative self-talk “catastrophising” or “awfulising” and once the patient learns how to describe things differently and more positively, but nonetheless honestly and realistically, there is often an improvement in mood.
Linda Grant’s article is replete with the phraseology so beloved of the Guardian World View about Israel, which reflects its profound and repetitive negativity and one-sidedness.   She does not use words carefully, much less incisively, and she is not required to do so by the CiF Editors so long as the general impression created is negative towards Israel.
Thus we get the list of “buzz” words mentioned in Israelinurse’s excellent article, so useful in swaying the crowd, an approach beloved of every dictator since time immemorial.   They undoubtedly fall on fertile ground, otherwise the responses to them would not be so emphatic, but why does Grant resort to them if she is convinced of her point of view?  Is this merely laziness on her part?  Is she merely following the herd of ill-informed Israel-haters (which cannot be ruled out, and we definitely should not accord Grant the status of the intelligent dictator who can use deliberately-thought-out language to sway the crowd) or is it malice?
Grant tries to give her spin a spurious validity by referring to history, but only the history she believes supports her case. The history of the region and of the birth of Israel is far more complicated than she, much less her readership, can probably grasp.  Thus she uses the “smooth and deceptive speech” enjoined against by the Rambam – and she seems very accustomed to it – to bed in more deeply still the hatred of Israel by the unreconstituted and benighted below the line on CiF.
Grant probably senses, for example, that most of the CiF regulars cannot read without pictures and so she paints the emotive picture of the Jews on board the “Exodus” in a totally flawed attempt to compare the Mavi Marmara to it.   She mercilessly takes advantage of the lack of historical knowledge (and probably the low intelligence and complete lack of curiosity actually to find out for themselves) of her designated audience.
I agree with Israelinurse that Grant is attempting to whip up the readership into an emotional state – which is not difficult given the lack of self-control of most of them – but Grant is herself writing from her own raw emotions which she cannot control and she has let herself become carried away by them.   If that is the case, then she has illustrated the main pitfall of accustoming herself to smoothness and deception – she has become mired up in her own rhetoric.   She is all emotion, and emotion and reason are mutually exclusive.
I believe that the key words in the Rambam’s teaching are “do not accustom yourself…..”, ie do not be deceitful, do not tell lies, etc routinely. The danger of doing so was apparent to the Rambam: that once having lied, one has to tell other lies to conceal the first lie, but a greater danger, to my mind, is what we see so clearly in the Arab/Muslim world and on CiF, where lying is so routine and commonplace and, in the case of Islam, approved of and even required in dealings with kufar, that eventually people lose the capability to distinguish fact from fiction and to reality test what they are being told, and they believe their own lies as Linda Grant and other Guardian/CiF writers have illustrated.

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