David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 198: Depeche Mode (Policy Of Truth)

November 6, 2022

I think the most troubling part of humankind today, at least in much of the Western world, is that people on both sides of the political spectrum have hunkered down into self-righteous, binary mode. My side is right, your side is wrong. This delineation emerges most definitively in recent polls that show about 80% of Democrats and Republicans think the other side "will destroy America." If one side ever controls everything (all branches of the government, both sides of Congress) beware! Since both sides sincerely believe they represent the truth, we will get policies of truth.

Depeche Mode perfectly nailed the inherent dangers of a policy of truth in 1990. I was never a big Depeche Mode fan, but "Policy Of Truth" stood out to me at the time as a fantastic testament to flexibility. That haunting chorus, sung over and over again at the end, "never again/is what you swore/the time before," hit me over the head in the same way that Einstein's definition of insanity does. By 1990, I was still a rather new teacher, still juggling a couple of sections of courses for Indiana University while finishing my doctoral coursework and beginning my dissertation. Despite that newness, I was already finding adherence to strict policy a bigger problem than it might be worth. When a student got in a car accident and didn't contact me until a week later, my policy of no late papers after a certain date seemed something I swore to never repeat.

Appearing on Violator, "Policy Of Truth" was the third breakout single to help cast Depeche Mode into larger audiences. Even though "Enjoy The Silence" or "Personal Jesus" are better-known songs, the synthesizer onslaught of "Policy Of Truth" asserts the power of electronic music more than much else at the time. Since I am not a Depeche Mode junkie, I will take as truth the more knowledgeable sources online who say that Violator was the first time Depeche Mode used guitars, in addition to synths. Was it their own rigidity that Martin Gore, main songwriter, skewered in "Policy Of Truth"? (I will admit to being puzzled, as a few music geeks, much Depeche Mode-geekier than me, assert that the core, and downright essential, riff at the center of the song is a guitar; however, every live performance I have found online, shows just keyboards.)

I don't know how to describe that quintessential note that makes "Policy of Truth" haunting. To me, it sounds like bent string effect from a Synth Bass, but maybe it is a guitar. You can hear it, for the first time, from the 34 second to 36 second mark of this really cool "in-ear monitor recording" (stealing the language, which is meaningless to me, from the site that introduced the recording to me). That riff along with the relentless beat make for a memorable, if slightly discomforting, 4 minutes.

Dave Gahan's deep baritone then enriches the dark mood of "Policy of Truth." Accusation drips with attitude from the opening lines: "You had something to hide/Should have hidden it, shouldn't you?" Tables have been turned on the policy-maker, twisting in his or her own cesspool of merciless self-righteousness: "Now you're not satisfied/with what you're being put through."

"Policy Of Truth" reminds me there's no ability to compromise, especially when our more idealistic younger selves restrict emotional and intellectual growth.

It's just time to pay the price/

For not listening to advice/

And deciding in your youth/

On the policy of truth.

Through it all resounds the on-going haunted refrain: "never again/is what you swore/the time before," a catchy phrase in showing how the self-righteous are doomed by their cock-sure view of the world.

I hadn't particularly listened to "Policy Of Truth" in 30 years when I stumbled back upon it recently. As I look at the world around me, my small village and my larger world, I can't help but fear millions of people refusing to budge from their policy of truth. Ironically, it seems ridiculous to stay resolute to truth in a post-truth era (yes, that has been a phrase for at least 6 years; if you cut open a Trump, you can see the rings of eroded truth over that period). Nevertheless, this trend, unrelenting in too many people staying fixated on what is right and wrong, eroding their best judgement until too late, seems here for several more election cycles. I fear no one will heed the warnings.

Depeche Mode. "Policy Of Truth." Violator. Mute, 1990. Link here.

Day 197: Chicago "No Tell Lover"

Day 199: Roy Orbison "It's Over"

See complete list here.