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.

25 replies »

  1. Mitnaged

    “Only one faith system, Islam, permits lying.”

    This was not a helpful link for me ( when I pressed”permits”)

    I felt it was less about precise and intricate interpretations of religious writings and more indicative of a generalised stance…which is a distrust and dislike of Islam. I am not criticising the stance …but to use this link at such a critical time when Israel is being assaulted on all sides…maybe suggesting they are all liars is not the way. Is it me?

    “Thus we get the list of “buzz” words mentioned in Israelinurse’s excellent article, ”

    Using Israeli nurses good name is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I do it myself! 🙂 You have taken the line that “Islam lies ” therefore the incident on the boat can be viewed under such a caution.

    This is an ignoble and puzzling stance…..we all saw the incident and agree it was dreadful. To start throwing insults at Muslims seems unnecessary.

  2. htd/Berchmans, you’re simply a buffoon. You have your own version of political correctness which includes your frequent mention of gentle Moslems with no grounds in fact all, simply because it sounds more pleasant. You know very little or nothing about Islam and you attribute to it all that your own odd ethos considers to be good and praiseworthy. (Or else you’re just lying)

    In fact Islam does permit and encourage certain kinds of lying

    “This concept of what we [in Western Judeo-Christian culture] deem deception or lying, is rationalised in Islam for any individual under threat as speaking with the tongue deceptively while adhering true to Allah -comfortable in heart.”

    “Lying to persuade or appease a woman.” is another permitted form of lying, along with lying to gain advantage in war.

    This was the kind of behaviour that Mohammed used in promising the Jews that there was peace between them while he used the time to rearm and plan his strategy to come back and defeat them.

  3. Germolene

    “In fact Islam does permit and encourage certain kinds of lying ”

    The article attempts to pre-empt the inquiry of the boat incident by painting a background of mendacity. It is all part of the narrative..they lie..we dont. The article hides behind a curtain of religious academic inquiry but it is just another brick.

  4. htd , in the other thread you posted this

    Although it has now turned the images into a propaganda coup, Israel actually tried to delete the photographs after discovering them on the camera of one of the activists it detained on board the Mavi Marmara.
    Attracting accusations of attempting to cover up what really happened during the raid, Israeli forces confiscated video footage, audio recordings and photographs from activists and journalists it detained after the raid.

    ..IHH said it managed to restore the images thanks to “superior Turkish technology” and they were duly published by Hurriyet

    This is either they are lying ( well as always ) or just stupid .

  5. THH

    Sorry …I meant to say… it was indeed an Israeli coup. Somehow the best trained and arguably most professional elite force in the world are the victims.

    Funny old world. Makes you wonder if their bosses are cleverer than we thought originally…as if the whole thing was known…the guys would be attacked…would be hurt…would recovered ..would strike back gallantly.

    Oh no Ive become a conspiracist.

  6. Berchmans, this was not intended to be a definitive interpretation, but a pointing up of the half-truths and lies put out by CiF and the Guardian against their pet hate. I brought in Islam as a contrast to every other faith, and Muslims are enjoined to lie when they perceive themselves to be in a tight spot (whether that tight spot is of their own making or in their heads or not) and to follow their prophet’s dubious morality.

    These are facts Berchmans, whether you like them or not.

    You are in full-blown paranoia mode and your own confusion is evident. I have no influence over any enquiry the IDF may perform into the brutes on the Mavi Marmara and Israel’s woefully inadequate response to them because they did not defend themselves as Islamist thugs might. You are projecting all your fears (and paranoia as I said) onto me.

    This is the last time I shall write to you on this matter unless you show yourself willing to discuss it sensibly. Understand?

  7. Of course Islam permits lying. Look at the antics of Comical Ali.

    People, may I make a suggestion?

    At best Berchmans is a distraction from the excellent work from this blog. I know he lies and is a pest, but when other people write his posts for him he can come across as at least coherent. Therefore:

    Can we follow Mitnaged’s example when Berchmans gets stupid and refuse to engage further?

    We can then turn our energies to more important matters here.

    Berchmans’ opinions are not important. The only way to convince the mutt of that is to ignore them unless they are at least sensible and contribute something new to the discussion.

  8. Germolene


    ” We are not permitted to lie. They are.”

    Like a goalie picking the ball out of the net you have missed the issue. The article is pre empting the inquiry by suggesting that lies are an intrinsic part of Islam hence witnesses who happen to be Muslims are suspect before they even start recalling events.

    This is discriminatory. This site is by far the best at spotting anti Semitism on CIF but thats it. Any other discrimination is simply not an issue.

  9. Mitnaged, interesting article. The Rambam was an acute observer of behaviour.

    I agree with you, Mitnaged, when you say that routine lying (ie what the Rambam calls accustoming oneself to smooth and deceptive speech) causes immense problems both for those who know the liar and have found the liar out and therefore are very reluctant to believe that person in future.

    You also point up the problems routine lying cause for the liar him/herself. As you so rightly say, one lie leads to others in an attempt to cover that lie up, and it is said that liars are worse than thieves. Thieves don’t need to keep on stealing, but liars need to keep on lying to cover up that first lie. Or, as in the case of the Guardian and CiF, lie by insisting that they are not lying.

    To be able to trust people NOT to lie is essential to the building of social relationships, as you also say. There is evidence in the groundswell against Israel’s actions in respect of the flotilla of paranoid projection – these people lie as easily as they breathe, therefore they believe that Israel is capable of descending to similar depths.

    What, do you think, is the effect on children of being reared in an atmosphere of lies and half-truths? Do they grow up not realising when or if they are lying?

  10. Yo ho ho.

    Speaking about smooth language, where was Ardugan calling this a massacre?

    “It was clear that our soldiers were in danger. Consequently I stand clearly behind our commander’s decision to order the air strike. We had clear information that the Taliban had seized both fuel trucks about six kilometres away from our base in order to launch an attack against our soldiers in Kunduz,” he said.

    When the civillian suspects are 6km away they pose a threat to the Germans allowing them to butcher 70 civillians but when the Turkish civillian beating and stubbing Israeli soldiers less than a yard away it is not considered a threat to the soldiers.

    Talk about double standards!

    And less than a month before:

    Any one heard Turkey peeps?

    And a week and half prior to that:

    Again, Iran? Hizbullah?
    Why are you sooo quiet? Your Shiia bretherns are being slaughtered?

    It is more than double standards, it is vile to read.
    The lists are so long that even names are not mentioned any more.
    But when 9 activists are killed in what was obviously a tense attack it has to go to the UN emergency council urgently!

  11. Excellent article, Mitnaged. HairShirt- very astute comment regarding “paranoid projection.” Absent a clear finding that the Israelis doctored the Mavi Marmara videos/photos, anyone viewing them should conclude that the Israelis were under attack, and that it had been planned all along. So what can account for the irrational spewing at CiF?

  12. Thanks, terry malloy and I agree that Hairshirt’s comment is very apt.

    I am self-advertising now, terry molloy :~)) I believe that the irrational spewing can be explained in terms of personal construct hostility (ie hostility to reality) which I have written about before here. That it persists to the extent it does on CiF and in the Arab world is a fair index of the pathology of both. When a personal construct-hostile person’s view of reality is incapable of modification (ie the person is utterly unable to incorporate new ideas into his/her worldview in order to deal with the crises which seem to come from outside him/her, but are in reality caused by the person’s own hostility and refusal to face up to reality) they become literally hostile when faced with that reality again and again.

    CiF and the Arab world are both victims of the “big talk” syndrome and, having stated so publicly that black is white and they will overcome the evil Zionist entity (and failed singularly many times to do that) they cannot accept that reality. Therefore they try to manipulate others’ perception of it (as well as the actual reality in terms of outcomes) to give them a different result which (a) will make them look the puffed-up, overblown “heroes” they are, and (b) will cause said Zionist entity to wither away. In short they have invested far too much in an outcome which has absolutely no chance of being realised.

    The resulting shame when that does not happen is psychologically almost crippling, so they continue to try to manipulate. The abject failure of their latest unsuccessful ploy, the Flotilla of Fools, will deepen their despair, but they will still be unable to admit to themselves that their way is singularly inept and is not working, and that they should try something else, like compromise and peace.

    However compromise feels too much like outright defeat (don’t let’s forget that these are stuck at age three developmentally; they are the centre of their own universe and cannot tolerate frustration at all without throwing tantrums) so that won’t work either. They are stuck, like toddlers in a tantrum who hope that their parents will give in to their demands.

    I hope that the Israeli government will continue act like the good enough parent and not collude!

    HairShirt, such an environment is called an “invalidating environment” by Marsha Linehan, who has conducted extensive research into and has formulated a successful treatment for borderline personality disorder. This means that the child’s perception of its reality is continually invalidated and often it grows up with only a shadowy sense of self and finds it very difficult to reality-test.

    The adults reared in such an environment may either feel utterly empty or have a hair-trigger emotional arousal and often find it difficult to get calm after having been in a rage. They are often open to being manipulated because they have such little sense of self and what is going on inside them – they may be abused sexually and emotionally and have such low self-esteem and are prone to severe depression.

  13. SilverTrees

    “Can we follow Mitnaged’s example when Berchmans gets stupid and refuse to engage further?”

    This is more than generous and I apologise for my earlier remarks which caused offence and will try to be more sensitive to people’s interpretation of words. I know I push the boundries trying to be smart and it backfires occasionally.

    Again.. without trying to sound crawly crawly ..I have to applaud the moderation which is confusing for me in that I expected being sent off first tackle! 🙂 It makes you more moderate. Look at me as an example.:)

    Peace for all in the ME. They deserve a break.

  14. htd

    Sorry …I meant to say… it was indeed an Israeli coup. Somehow the best trained and arguably most professional elite force in the world are the victims.

    If ill tell you now that they were not victims but they were there to stop the vessel but were attacked and were unable to respond ( this were the commands from above in the chain of command ) until their senders got to understand that if they won’t open fire they will die .


  15. Excellent piece Mitnaged.

    The entire structure of anti-Israel rhetoric is based, not on reason but on emotion. The words of the comedy song, Gaza Flotilla, currently doing the rounds, point out that the pro Palestinian cause is based, highly successfully, on emotion and that the useful idiots who fall for the ‘peace activists’ blandishments, do so based on their emotional attachment to the cause, not on rational, reasoned argument.

    So notwithstanding the Rambam’s instructions, perhaps we need to create a mythical, wondrous ethereal entity which becomes part of Israel’s new persona and start introducing it through the media.

    If all Israelis became alter egos of Idan Raichel, with flowing dreadlocks and mystical sounds, perhaps we’d get better treatment in the media.

  16. THH

    “If ill tell you now that they were not victims but they were there to stop the vessel ..capish? ”

    Then I will respond with my usual refrain…stopping the boats might have been morally acceptable and was arguably justifiable . But it was illegal..capish?

  17. htd

    Then I will respond with my usual refrain…stopping the boats might have been morally acceptable and was arguably justifiable . But it was illegal..capish?

    So you are one of those famous lawyers I’ve been hearing about .

  18. You are welcome, Bluesea.

    cityca, thank you. It’s tempting to encourage Israel to create its own brand of misinformation but anyone who is seriously thinking of this should look at the idiocy which reigns in most Arab countries and then at CiF before they do so. Their leaders often don’t have a clear demarcation between fantasy and reality and the result would be psychological and actual chaos and the corresponding social and economic degeneration.

  19. Mitnaged, you are right of course but it’s awfully tempting to want to throw up a smokescreen and entice the gullible to believe. While the Arab ‘street’ and now the European ‘street’ apparently hate us, the establishments of most states recognise Israel for what it really is, a formidable, technologically advanced and extraordinarily productive modern state that it is far more advantageous to have as a friend than to turn one’s back on. Hence the membership of the OECD and the favoured status within Europe.

    Although we may hear apparently critical comments from world leaders, I suspect that most are for home consumption rather than real criticism.

    To all
    After a very few clashes on CiF, I decide the best thing I could do was completely ignore Berchmans. It’s worked for me – you need two hands to clap.

  20. cityca, I believe you are correct about the critical comments being for home consumption. I believe that Abu Mazen is a prime al-taqiyya merchant in public whilst raking in the new found prosperity which comes from cooperation with Israel at home.

    I also believe you are correct about the “other matter”

  21. cityca

    “After a very few clashes on CiF, I decide the best thing I could do was completely ignore Berchmans. It’s worked for me – ”

    I think this is a wise stance. Your lightweight and ill considered posts should not also be accompanied a large ” B ” sign that somebody has riposted on your tunic jacket! 🙂