Human societies embrace dishonesty. We like to think that we value truth, that we seek it out and affirm it. But most of our social interactions are dependent on half-truths, hidden truths and untruths. For the most egregious lies — usually told by politicians — it is necessary that we practise a certain hypocrisy, becoming outraged at the deceit of public figures even as we deceive others. Perhaps this is why we’re generally willing to forgive those who admit to lying and apologise for it. Sometimes they are punished but retain a kind of moral status (Nhlanhla Nene, the self-sacrificing lamb). Sometimes they escape punishment, and a greater good is served (President Cyril Ramaphosa is not a truth-telling saint but he’s our best shot at getting out of the mire). We’re less tolerant of the posturing of those who adopt an unearned saintliness when their duplicity is there for all to see. The EFF, for example, will be hit hard at the polls next year by the VBS scandal and other exposés...

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