Despite the allusion to Al Frankens’ book, Lies, and the lying liars who tell them — a fair and balanced look at the right, I really prefer his book, The Truth (with jokes). This article is not so much about birthers or Al Franken as it is about lies. I was reading the Wikipedia article on Lies today, and while it not my favorite Wikipedia article either, it was still thought-provoking.
I never realized that there were so many kinds of lie, running the scale from the little white lie to the big lie. We learn to lie at an early age and it pervades our culture. According to WorldNetDaily (assuming they’re telling the truth), Americans average 4 lies per day, compared to Australians who only tell 3.
Lying is a pernicious activity because it undermines trust in our society. In fact lies have become so pervasive that in some cases we expect to be lied to, and discount some speech in advance. The most common example is puffery, exaggerated advertising claims. Puffery is not banned by FTC rules because no one is expected to believe it. A much more serious example is government lies which lead many people (myself not included) not to believe anything the government says. This last consequence of a past history of government lies shows up in the birther movement who disbelieve the Congress, the news media, the federal courts and officials in Hawaii without a moment’s hesitation. [In all honesty, only some birthers do that.]
I am personally concerned about the effect lying has on the liar and on others. The first example that comes to mind is Dr. Terry Lakin (no longer Lt. Col Lakin) who lost his military career and went to prison because of birther lies. A problem with lies is that one often has to tell bigger lies to cover up the ones before. Whether Donald Trump is lying about his beliefs on Barack Obama’s origins as Bill O’Reilly suggested, he is at best repeating lies. And as he tries to defend himself he is repeating bigger and bigger lies and making things up (e.g. the lack of a Nelson Rockefeller birth ad). Lying erodes character.
Birtherism is an example of “the big lie,” a lie so audacious that it is hard for someone to believe that someone would make it up. What bigger lie could someone come up with than “the President of the United States lied about being born in the United States?” Another huge lie is “US Presidents must have citizen parents and everybody remembers this from Civics class.” They must be true because no one would make up something huge and public and easily refuted!
I personally try not to lie, whether from a sense of morality or an essential lack of audacity, and it has worked out well for me. Despite what some birthers say (they’re lying) I don’t lie on this blog. I may get things wrong, but not intentionally, and I correct the mistakes when I find them and I assure you that I am not a left-wing communist bed-wetter [h/t to Lewis Grizzard for the phrase and some thoughts about lying]. On occasion I don’t say some things I could (lies of omission) but I do this because I believe disclosure would trigger lies from others and result in less rather than more truth out there.
I can understand the child lying to escape punishment. I really don’t understand public lies that are readily exposed, but as Lincoln said: “you can fool some of the people all of the time.” I really don’t understand someone who would trade their reputation for fooling some people.
I wrote this article to help me think things out and to see what visitors have to say.