No Comment, Quotation — January 24, 2008, 12:00 am

Adorno – When Questions of Truth Become Questions of Power

Pseudomenos. — Die magnetische Gewalt, welche die Ideologien über die Menschen ausüben, während sie ihnen bereits ganz fadenscheinig geworden sind, erklärt sich jenseits der Psychologie aus dem objektiv bestimmten Verfall der logischen Evidenz als solcher. Es ist dahin gekommen, daß Lüge wie Wahrheit klingt, Wahrheit wie Lüge. Jede Aussage, jede Nachricht, jeder Gedanke ist präformiert durch die Zentren der Kulturindustrie. Was nicht die vertraute Spur solcher Präformation trägt, ist vorweg unglaubwürdig, um so mehr, als die Institutionen der öffentlichen Meinung dem, was sie aus sich entlassen, tausend faktische Belege und alle Beweiskraft mitgeben, deren die totale Verfügung habhaft werden kann. Die Wahrheit, die dagegen anmöchte, trägt nicht bloß den Charakter des Unwahrscheinlichen, sondern ist überdies zu arm, um in Konkurrenz mit dem hochkonzentrierten Verbreitungsapparat durchzudringen. . . Nur die absolute Lüge hat noch die Freiheit, irgend die Wahrheit zu sagen. In der Vertauschung von Wahrheit und Lüge, die es fast ausschließt, die Differenz zu bewahren, und die das Festhalten der einfachsten Erkenntnis zur Sisyphusarbeit macht, kündet der Sieg des Prinzips in der logischen Organisation sich an, das militärisch am Boden liegt. Lügen haben lange Beine: sie sind der Zeit voraus. Die Umsetzung aller Fragen der Wahrheit in solche der Macht, der Wahrheit selber nicht sich entziehen kann, wenn sie nicht von der Macht vernichtet werden will, unterdrückt sie nicht bloß, wie in früheren Despotien, sondern hat bis ins Innerste die Disjunktion von Wahr und Falsch ergriffen, an deren Abschaffung die Söldlinge der Logik ohnehin emsig mitwirken.

Pseudomenos. – the liar – The magnetic power exerted by patently threadbare ideologies is to be explained, beyond psychology, by the objectively determined decay of logical evidence as such. Things have come to a pass where lying sounds like truth, truth like lying. Each statement, each piece of news, each thought has been pre-formed by the centers of the culture industry. Whatever lacks the familiar trace of such pre-formation lacks credibility, the more so because the institutions of public opinion accompany what they send forth by a thousand factual proofs and all the plausibility that total power can lay hands on. Truth that opposes these pressures not only appears improbable, but is in addition too feeble to make any headway in competition with their highly-concentrated machinery of dissemination. . . Only the absolute lie now has any freedom to speak the truth. The confounding of truth and lies, making it almost impossible to maintain a distinction, and a labor of Sisyphus to hold on to the simplest piece of knowledge, marks the victory in the field of logical organization that lies crushed on that of battle. Lies have long legs, they are ahead of their time. The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power not only suppresses truth as with earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings were in any case diligently working to abolish.

Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben, pt I, § 71 (1946, 1951)(E.F.N. Jephcott transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Memoir
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A paean 2 Prince
"And one thinks, Looking into Prince's eyes must be like looking at the world."
Photo ©© PeterTea
Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As wacky as it sometimes appears on the surface, American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it."
Article
Plexiglass·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Age at death last March of the sturgeon Nikita, Khrushchev’s gift to Norway, after an accidental immersion in salt water:

38

There were new reports of cannibalism in North Korea.

The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today