Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lying about Lying

This is a post of mine from 2005. I recently endured some nasty back-and-forth on a television talk show, and it spurred me to put it out here again. Let me know what you think.

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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.

But it is simply inaccurate to assert that anyone who dissents is lying. 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.


At May 06, 2007 1:56 PM, Blogger Layla (aka Barbara) replied to my musings ...

I agree.

At May 06, 2007 5:27 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

I agree to wait!

I don't like dishonesty! So does that mean I agree?

At May 06, 2007 6:31 PM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

I completely agree. And I find it offensive as heck when people say that. And it DOES dumb down a debate. It's the verbal equivalent of sticking out your tongue and going "nyah, nyah!"

Great post.

At May 07, 2007 12:42 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

I like the last line of the post the best haha. Interesting post to say the least, ya big liar! haha

At May 07, 2007 7:05 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Layla: I always thought you were very intelligent. Now I'm sure.

Lee Ann: Let's disagree about agreeing not to disagree. Agreed?

Lisa B: I still approve of using the tongue.

Phats: Most people like the last lines of my writings because that means the pieces are over.

-- david

At May 07, 2007 7:59 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

Well said old sport!

Truly capital post! One of your best. Couldn't agree more.

I believe the term most of this ill-spoken pundits are looking for is something more along the lines of "disingenuous."

Although, I'm sure one could find better words yet by thumbing through Oxford's English Dictionary.

At May 07, 2007 12:00 PM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

Since most people can't, won't or don't want to think, it is easier to insult. God forbid anyone would stick to the subject at hand.

At May 07, 2007 11:04 PM, Blogger Shannon A. Long replied to my musings ...

I heard about this on NPR, great post!

At May 08, 2007 7:39 AM, Blogger Jay replied to my musings ...

I think people start accusing others of lying when they're backed against a wall themselves. If you aren't up for a proper debate, then you play dirty.

At May 08, 2007 7:55 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Perplexio: Disingenuous ... or just intellectually lazy.

GN: Maybe the problem is that there's just too many people spouting off about things. With 24 hours of talk of TV, and constant blogging, they run out of anything real to say and resort to name-calling.

Shannon: You heard about what on NPR? I'm curious what you mean ...

Jay: I think that's half of it. The other half is when you just assume that someone else has bad motives and their mistakes must be due to deceit.

-- david

At May 08, 2007 1:56 PM, Blogger Linda replied to my musings ...

I don't just think that the side I disagree with is lying, I think all politicians lie. I have a great distrust for them, maybe I have issues!

At May 08, 2007 9:12 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

I'm just waiting for one of them to finally scream, "Yo mama!"

At May 09, 2007 8:26 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

Linda said it all..."I think all politicians lie. I have a great distrust for them, maybe I have issues!"

Same here! And I even WORK for one!!!

At May 10, 2007 6:01 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Linda: Issues? Who doesn't have issues?

Phoenix: I think Al Sharpton is about one breath away from that.

PQ: Question: I wonder what position that requires serving multiple constituencies and raising money does NOT have an associated perception of lying?

-- david

At May 10, 2007 9:00 AM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

Couldn't have been said any better

At May 11, 2007 7:50 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Thanks, Jeff.

You know, I'm wondering ... if all of us feel this way, why are all the talk shows and our general culture so immersed in this "call anyone you disagree with a liar" trap??

-- david

At May 13, 2007 4:49 PM, Blogger missy replied to my musings ...

I absolutely AGREE with you ;-)

At May 13, 2007 7:55 PM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

Or "fabricator" for the bourgeosie and literati

At May 14, 2007 2:30 PM, Anonymous FredCQ replied to my musings ...

David, I nominated your blog for a Thinking Bloggers Award. Check my site to read what I wrote.

At May 15, 2007 6:09 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Missy: That just proves what good taste you have.

Ray: Fabricator, fibber, dissembler, deceiver ... you name it.

Fred: Thanks. I'll swing by later todayand see what's up!

-- david

At May 16, 2007 7:27 PM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

I would rarely call anyone that did not agree with me a lier, now calling them an idiot is a much different story.


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