The Enlightenment brought back Athenian philosophy, Alrenous notes — and with it democracy and sophistry:
Sophistry, unleashed upon a population unprepared and lacking resistance, quickly laid the foundations for popular government. Popular government, once established, convinced each citizen that they have a share of government power — that they’re a politician. Therefore, all citizens sought expertise in the politician’s primary tool, sophistry. Sophistry became normalized, even prized.
These centuries have seen innumerable self-serving political campaigns, waged and won using ever advancing sophistry. These politicians are seen as heroes by their duped victims, as they embody an ideal sophistication to aspire to, and each victorious manipulative lie is seen as a worthy ideal.
The truth is what it is, but a lie can be designed for marketability; to go down easy and smooth, to fit existing misconceptions. Each new avaricious politician sees a much easier path in expanding old lies rather than attempting to fight them.
The result is that by now, the average voter’s head is stuffed to bursting with the fossils of past power grabs. Almost everything they say or do that has any political relevance whatsoever is the echo of some dead politician’s clarion call to serve his interests over their own.
Andrew Bisset made a similar point about the power of orators in the less-democratic England of 1859.
(Hat tip to Foseti.)