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:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Article
Kandahar’s Mystery Executions·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He told me he was made to stand on an ice block for thirty minutes at a time, and would then be forced to run barefoot across the gravel while an officer cable-whipped him.”
Photograph (detail) © Victor J. Blue
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Post
Art Beyond Politics·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia

Percentage of Americans who rank the stock-market crash as the most important problem facing America today:

2

Men with diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone levels.

Comedian Joan Rivers died at age 81. “I finally found out how priests get holy water,” Rivers once said. “They boil the hell out of it.”

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today