Oh You and Your Pseudologia Fantastica
Well well well what to believe. What is true and what is snot. Alas, the trust of the public everywhere has deflated like a sad balloon, as the absolute volume of information has amped up, thanks mostly to our darling Internet. More news, more info, more hoaxes and more mixed-up people. Is this something new? If you’re old you’ll shake your head and smile sadly.
LYING IN POLITICS (Do I repeat myself?)
Just think back to the era of Kennedy, Khrushchev, Johnson & Nixon… and the war on Vietnam:
“The picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring a thousand non-combatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.”
—Robert S. McNamara
But did Secretary of State McNamara say this publicly? Not when he was in office, no. It was an era of official lying, over and over, and only exposed by The Pentagon Papers, as commented on by the famed Hannah Arendt.
Truth has little value when success depends on bending it – and the mass media are a convenient tool.
Wonderful. Fabulous. Can’t tell the truth even when you try to. Is lying an essential part of human relationships? How about the world of business, which operates according to its own rules?
But wait… How indeed can we be sure when we are attacked for spreading…
Obviously the first order of business is to define: WHAT. IS. TRUE? WHAT. IS. FALSE?
But before that, a moment of truth, and tooth, as we dig in to the freshly-prepared pasta, exquisite chicken and robust hooved beasts happily fed, slaughtered, dressed and roasted, baked, fried or boiled in perfect Euro-style, served with lovingly slow motion by our YaUdah Bistro battalion of waitresses.
Now we get down to details. First, recognize that there are types of lies. Lies of commission, omission, character lies – but each of them toward a specific objective:
(You’ll also notice Pinocchio up in the corner there – remember how his nose would grow when he lied? One of the little tricks parents use to scare you into avoiding the practice.)
Things are often not as simple as they seem; this even applies to an ostensible bad habit like lying:
The first real lie in the story is not told by Pinocchio, who does, however, repeat various fanciful inaccuracies almost as soon as he can speak, but by Geppetto, who sells his coat in order to buy Pinocchio a schoolbook and lies to the boy, telling him that he sold it “Because I found it too hot.” (This is a classic example of a paternalistic lie told with good intentions, of which both a Buddhist and perhaps even Plato would have approved.) Interestingly, Pinocchio understands what his maker has really done, “and unable to restrain the impulse of his good heart he sprang up, and throwing his arms around Geppetto’s neck he began kissing him again and again.” So Pinocchio does have a good heart and a subtle enough intelligence to understand that though Geppetto has lied to Pinocchio, he has done so out of kindness; it’s simply that Pinocchio likes to misbehave, and he hasn’t learned the ways of the world yet. When the fox and the cat come along, he is easily led into temptation.
Now we are tempted to the conclusion that there are good lies, necessary lies and wicked ones.
Patient lies to the doctor: “Come on, Doc – I haven’t been getting my pills from anybody else. I really need more of those painkillers.” BAD LIE. Doctor lies to patient: “Those tumors aren’t spreading as quickly as we thought. We’ll just need to do more tests and try another one of these new cancer drug$… You did say you have full insurance coverage, right?” GOOD LIE OR BAD LIE? (How can you tell? “You need a full overhaul on your transmission, Doctor. If we don’t do it now it will start grinding metal at high speed and that will be a lot more expensive – and dangerous.”) How can you tell if the mechanic is telling you the truth, Doctor, when it is in his interest to give you the $4000. tranny job on your Beemer?
Doctor walks into the examination room and sits down, without greeting you. He stares you in the eyes and states, unsmilingly, “The tests are back and have confirmed what we suspected: advanced neurodegenerative disease. You have around six months to live, at the most. You should get your affairs in order.”
Now thus far we have been talking about willful liars, who lie in order to sell you something, to gain power, to cover their misdeeds. How about the pathological liar – the compulsive one?
Astonishingly, just such a character has been propelled into the White House. And he keeps on lying to such an extent that a whole crew of “clean-up men” dissimulate to fix what he has wrecked.
It is great fun to watch until you realize that real damage is being done. Thus… doubt. Doubt, check, verify, confirm.
Trump’s lying is different. It’s not just a departure from the norms of the presidency — it’s a departure from the norm. There are so many examples — The Washington Post’s Fact Checker estimates that during the two years of his presidency, Trump has told some 7,600 lies — but let this one suffice. On Boxing Day last year, during an unannounced visit to Iraq, Trump spoke to US troops about a pay rise. “I got you a big one. I got you a big one.” He continued, “They said: ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 per cent. We could make it 2 per cent. We could make it 4 per cent.’ I said: ‘No. Make it 10 per cent. Make it more than 10 per cent’.” The future pay rise is 2.6 per cent. Think about what is happening here: a lie — easily discredited — is being made, with complete shamelessness, to people most of us would regard as heroes. When he told the troops about the pay rise, they must have gone wild. For the briefest moment, Trump will have been applauded, celebrated — but then what? How can someone be so oblivious to the consequences of deceit?
Just as observers of the wild & wonderful world of finance point out “Behind every bad loan, there is a bad lender” there have to be suckers – I mean WILLING VICTIMS – for a pathological liar to succeed.
Take the hilarious case of Anna Sorokin, a middle-class Russian immigrant girl who pretended to be oh so rich, so she could chisel and scam and rip off well-to-do-but-not-that-rich “sophisticated” New Yorkers.
Again, the voice whispering in our ear: “doubt”, “question”, “examine motives, assess objectives”.
Now if you really want to dig deep there’s nobody deeper (or darker) than the old spoilsport Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who would not let the matter of truth vs. lies alone: he worried it like a dog with a bone.
Speaking of digging deeply, don’t you think it’s time to dine on our fine Euro-Asian cuisine at YaUdah Bistro? If you don’t want to hear the wife yap or the kid whine then tweak up your listening device and enjoy these podcasts on the subject of truth and lies according to Nietzsche, courtesy of Dr. Gregory B. Sadler.
All the while you need not doubt the quality of our endeavor at Ya Udah Bistro or the intent of our writing in this blog. Thanks for reading; we trust we have inspired your curiosity and your inquisitiveness. Any comments, doubts or praise would be welcome. Fill in below.