Lying and deception in politics

Vian Bakir, Eric Herring, David Miller, Piers Robinson

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

2 Citations (SciVal)


From the sophists of ancient Greece, chastised by Plato (360 BC) for their specious rhetoric and Aristotle’s analysis of the operation of persuasive rhetoric (Hesk 2000; Aristotle 2013 [230 BC]), through to the 16th century realpolitik of Machiavelli and the 20th century advocacy of the necessity of deception in politics by thinkers such as Leo Strauss (1958; 1975), the issues of lying and deception more widely are perennials of politics. The 20th and 21st Centuries have witnessed numerous examples of political lying and deception, from the ‘big lie’ approach that Adolf Hitler (1939 [1924]: 184-185) attributed to the Jews but which is now seen as staple of Nazi propaganda (Herf 2006); through to the Pentagon Papers which exposed, among other things, the secret enlargement of the US war in South East Asia to Cambodia and Laos and the lies of US President Richard Nixon during the 1970s Watergate scandal (Sheehan 1971; Ellsberg 2003); and deception by US and UK political leaders about the certainty and threatening nature of the intelligence relating to Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the period before the invasion in 2003 (Mearsheimer 2011; Herring and Robinson 2014, 2014-15). Indeed, according to some analysts, lying and deception are pervasive elements of politics (Jamieson 1992; Alterman 2004; Oborne 2005). It is therefore of no surprise that we live in times of profound distrust of politics and politicians, at least in much of the Western world, as evidenced by opinion polls spanning the 1950s to the current day from the USA, Australia and Europe (Bakir and Barlow 2007).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Lying
EditorsJorg Meibauer
Place of PublicationOxford, U. K.
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198736578
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Propaganda
  • Lying
  • Spin
  • Deception
  • Misinformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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