Though Walter Scott wrote his famous line — “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” — more than 200 years before Washington’s “biggest ever” presidential inauguration, it is an appropriate prism through which to view anything coming from today’s American administration.
Scott’s line has been augmented by something more contemporary — “this is too good a crisis to waste”— by US interior department secretary Ryan Zinke who has suggested that the deadliest wildfires in California’s history — at least 86 dead, around 500 missing — are partly due to environmentalists’ court actions intended to stop management practices, such as forest thinning. Environmentalists say climate change and increased development of forest zones prone to wildfires caused the on-going destruction.
Distraction is a legitimate if unattractive element in debate but deliberate deception make Scott’s lines, even in this post-truth age, more relevant than ever. Or, as the Nazis expressed it: “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.”