Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lies, Damn Lies and Politics

We can go on for DAYS about the absolutely deplorable practice of telling falsehoods during a high-stakes political campaign. But, all of this misses one very important point: Why are people bothering to lie?

Yes, yes, I know - There are any number of people who'll say that we already know that. After all, the position of President of the United States of America is widely considered to be the single most powerful political office, if not the single most powerful office, period, on the face of the Earth. With stakes that high, who WOULDN'T be tempted to cheat, if only a little bit?

But there is one thing that can be said for everyone who lies for reasons other than pervasive mental pathology: They want, hope and/or expect to be believed. They rely on a belief that their audience wants to believe statements that are provably false, and then have them disseminated, acted upon, and backed with complete sincerity by people whose identities are bolstered by those falsehoods.

But, of course, that's not the whole picture. Can more than a few people honestly say they've never chosen to believe someone, when they really knew better, just because they really didn't want to believe they were lying? I don't know about you, but given the choice, I'd much rather that our elected officials were as stand-up as they act. The idea that someone's a liar, but that they somehow will never find it useful to lie to ME, creates too much cognitive dissonance for my brain to handle. And while I tend to therefore be consciously suspicious of people's honesty, that there have been at least a few times when I've decided that someone was being honest with me, despite the evidence, because it suited my purposes.

And shall we take a few moments to talk about the practice of ignoring a lie here and there, when it serves "the greater good?" How many times have you heard someone with no personal stake in what's going on say something like, "Well, yes, my side lied, but the stakes were so high that the ends justified any means." Or, the old standby: "The truth just doesn't work with some people. Our side had to lie to get these people to take the action that we needed them to take." Or how about: "Look, these people are criminals! Why should anyone bother being honest with them?"  And here's one of my personal favorites: "But the other guys lie! If we restrict ourselves to the truth, it puts us at a disadvantage. So we have to lie to level the playing field."

Yeah. You can just tell that we're a society that values honesty.

So, in the end, we encourage the very practice that we claim to so dislike. Through a number of factors, from pride, to expedience, to hope beyond hope, we find ourselves having to take everything with a grain of salt, and sift truth from fiction in situations where one would think that the stakes are too high for some idiot to decide, "Now's a good time for a mind game." We've allowed people to make cynicism into a survival trait, and then we wonder why some people view suspicion as a mark of intelligence.

No comments: