Sunday, August 07, 2005

When in Doubt, Shout "Liar!"

There is a disturbing trend in American politics. Actually, there are several … but I will reserve today’s vitriol for just one.

Check back for others. I am sure they will be spilling out soon.

What is rankling me is a tendency that has been growing for years—incrementally enough that we barely notice it has become standard fare. I am talking about the all-too-common practice of labeling a view you do not share a “lie.”

AKA: Advocacy of an alternate view is “lying.” Anyone who disagrees with you is a “liar.”

Lie. Lying. Liar.

To lie, however, means to make an intentionally false statement.

It is NOT to state a position that is controversial or even incorrect. It is NOT to express a belief that is unpopular or even repugnant. It is not even to take a country into war based on information that you wanted to be true but had no way of knowing was not, because just about everyone in the world agreed on that information.

Such a thing may be seeing what one wants to see. It can be annoying, it can be sad, it can sometimes be mind-numbingly stupid.

But it is not always, or even often, lying.

Accusing someone of being a “liar” is a particularly nasty epithet. Yet I hear it being used de rigueur on the radio and TV talk shows of the left AND the right. The worst case, of course, was the very title of a recent book by left-wing author whom I will not dignify: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”

Lie. Lying. Liar.

Unlike most political analysts, apparently, I do not assume that those with whom I disagree are deliberately telling falsehoods. I truly believe that most of my critics—no matter how illogical or ridiculous I find their ideas—actually believe the facts and arguments they share with me to be true. Even when I think their suggestions would only hurt those they intend to assist, I believe that these folks actually do mean well.

This is not, of course, what you will hear from a growing number of political commentators. No, they would rather disrespect any poor soul who disagrees with them.

How to undermine a critic’s arguments? Accuse him of telling lies. Insist that he is lying. Call him a liar.

Lie. Lying. Liar.

But calling anyone who dissents a liar is simply inaccurate. It offends reason. It dumbs down debate. It is an incorrect use of the word—and a morally repugnant tactic.

And anyone who disagrees with me is a liar.


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