Saturday, April 26, 2008

Will lies ever be completely unacceptable?

I paused on Fox News while channel surfing today. Fred “Beetle” Barnes and Morton Kondracke were expressing such sympathy for the Democratic Party. Barack Obama is in trouble they say because he can’t carry the traditional Democrats Hillary Clinton won in Pennsylvania, such as union members. Yet it would divide Democrats terribly for superdelegates to give the nomination to Senator Clinton. I guess Democrats just have to get used to the inevitability of President John McCain. I’m glad that such a mainstream neo-con as Barnes and Republicanly minded independent as Kondracke would take the time to give us Democrats such compassionate advice as just to give up all hope.

The lies these two were telling were not entirely invented. The exit polls indicating how union members voted in Pennsylvania are a matter of record. Yet consider the possibilities that The Beltway Boys didn’t, that Obama will win the votes of many who voted for Clinton in the primary, that there are many groups that will determine the next President, not just union members, that the number of McCain Democrats will not challenge the phenomenon of Reagan Democrats. There are always many more possibilities than know-it-alls on TV are likely to consider. Why don’t they consider them? Well, there are a number of possibilities.

However one labels lies that aren’t complete fiction, be that spin, concern trolling, a false front, partisan speculation, poor documentation, rationales or false hope, they are less than the whole truth. People tend to pick out what’s wrong with the other guy instead of what’s wrong with me or my guy. It seems to be human nature. Was that nature all The Beltway Boys were expressing, or were they more deliberately being optimistic for McCain and pessimistic for us enemy Democrats? I don’t know, but I know it was some kind of lie. Otherwise why didn’t they consider other possibilities? Why didn’t they consider how they might be exactly wrong? Oh, would that be bad for ratings? So that’s just another type of lie, irrational confidence so as to impress viewers.

Everyone lies sometimes, but some go farther than others. Both Obama and Clinton claim to have misspoke in the past month, “misspoke” for me meaning someone made a slip of the tongue such as if I said Iran when I meant Iraq. Neither misspoke in that sense. Senator Clinton told the same story about her courageous experience several times, and it was so different from what actually happened when she landed in Bosnia that to say she “misspoke” is just another lie. Then Senator Obama copied her “misspoke” label to explain away his going too far in his analysis of the sociology of bitter votes.

Some in the media essentially called Senator Clinton a liar by juxtaposing her story with what is documented. I didn’t hear anyone suggest Senator Obama did more than misspeak, but then I didn’t search for that. Yes, I’m sure there are different degrees of lying, and this is an example. To me Senator Clinton’s lies are simply unacceptable. They are forgivable if she wanted forgiveness for them, but I have no reason to think she wants that. It seems she wants to say she’s said nothing morally wrong, just factually incorrect. Oh come on. You may keep most of your supporters with that claim, but not me.

Senator Clinton continues to lie today by saying she is ahead in the popular vote without explaining what an eccentric definition of popular vote she is using. That’s a lie. It’s deception. It’s deliberate. It’s to make her look better than she is. It is immoral according to any moral system that says love and truth are the ultimate good things. There are many such systems, theistic and atheistic.

How many people care if the person they support politically lies? I’m sure it depends on how bad the lie is and what trouble that lie causes. I myself have given up on Senator Clinton because of her lies after voting for her on February 5. I haven’t done that with Senator Obama’s lies. They aren’t as bad as Clinton’s lies, in my judgment.

Is it OK if every individual decides for himself or herself when lies are unacceptable? It doesn’t seem to be OK, judging by how much politics is full of lies. It seems many individuals are letting political liars off the hook. Of course religion is also full of lies. Just about anything people believe about themselves, other people, life and the world is full of lies, from nutritional fantasies to what one thinks about one’s job. Human beings desperately want to be seen in a certain way, such as how Bill Clinton doesn’t want his wife to be seen as a quitter. So people tell lies that they like better than reality. Not many people tell them they can’t do that. In this current world I observe I’m not sure whom I would trust to be a judge of who’s lying except doing that for myself. That’s one reason I wish we could be more effective at identifying and having sanctions against all lies, not just the worst ones. I actually would like to be able to trust some random purveyor of information, instead of thinking through or researching whom I can't trust.

I don’t suppose this will change anytime soon. Will it ever? Experience does make people more sensitive to why people say and do what they do. “Concern troll” is recognized by many in the blogosphere, when the deception involved in that wouldn’t have been as obvious in the past. Will people in the future be even less easily fooled, sometime after the Fox News Channel collapses in shame around 2025?

I hope so. Can you imagine just how many words 6 billion people waste on lies? What if we used those words to work on reality instead of on fantasies?

Will cultural evolution go in the direction where lies are less acceptable today? Will people be less partisan so that when they say, “That’s a lie,” they’re more likely to be right than telling their own lie? Will voters and other supporters abandon their leaders if that leader tells lies as big as Hillary Clinton’s lies? It hasn’t happened yet, but I for one don’t want to go through another 8 years where every communication from the government is as creative as they have been in the last 8 years. The specter of that is unacceptable to me. Experience changes us, both individually and collectively. I’m not sure if there are sufficient forces to keep lies as prevalent as they are despite such experience. I don’t find that I want to explore them much. If my hope for the future is false, I don’t mind. False hope is sometimes better than no hope at all. That makes us suckers for some lies, but I hope not too much.


Jonzee said...

I read your comments on the halfrican's blog today in regards to Reverend Wright.

All I can say is thank you. I think you approached this whole mess with your eyes wide open and with an objectivity that is rare.

In the last few days, I have let my usual rational self be distracted with anger and hurt. You and a few others have helped put me back in the center.

Keep on writing.

DavidD said...

jonzee, thanks for your kind comment. I haven't posted here for a while, as I'm not often sure what will help anyone without just repeating myself.

It did stimulate me to hear Reverend Wright's message for the NAACP dinner. "Different does not mean deficient" is a good slogan for many of the ideas I've tried to express here and elsewhere.

My life was such that there were times when all I had to put me back in the center was a God I didn't yet know. It got my attention that something helped me at those times, something that didn't depend on anyone being kind or an election going well. I've tried to express here what I think is true, that one can trust God to be whoever and whatever God is, that one doesn't have to believe any human theology that one finds unbelievable.

What I get to with that is if next time you don't find anyone helping you to feel centered, there is still help. My favorite definition of God is that God is whoever and whatever answers when I pray, "God help me!" Everything you liked about what I wrote comes from my getting help that way.