Posts Tagged ‘liars’

Why do Politicians Lie?

February 11, 2013


I, like former comedian and present Senator Al Franken, “never lie, unless it is absolutely necessary.” Really, I do prefer telling the truth. All of that conditioning by my mother, the church, school teachers, and the Boy Scouts made its lifetime impression on me that lying is wrong.  However, as the old saying goes, actions do speak louder than words. Sooner or later, a person discovers that the very people who have told you it is immoral, or a sin, to lie, lie. Sooner or later you are going to catch your parents telling a lie.  A classic example is the Santa Claus lie. 

Of course there is a very practical reason for not lying.  People will trust you if they think you don’t tell lies. That’s a huge reason that I assiduously tried never to report a story on the news that was not, to my knowledge, true. Protection against news sources lying was to attribute their comments to them. If the comment turned out to be a lie, it wasn’t me lying. It was the source. My TV news ratings were quite good  on average, and I believe a main reason is that viewers trusted me.   Still, being a human being, I did tell a few untruths off the air.  I’m certainly not proud of it, but in an effort to be truthful,  I can’t deny it.  

There are different kinds of lies.  There are the outright ones  like President Obama being a Muslim (Pew research shows that 30 percent of  Republicans believe that) , and global warming being a hoax.  Probably, lies by deception are more effective..  To say, as some politicians do, that their goal is to “save Social Security,” when their real aim is to destroy it by “privatizing it” is lying  by deception.  The absolutely most effective lies are probably lies that are closest to the truth.  A Time article reported that, in the last presidential  campaign,  President Obama’s lies were worse because they were the most accurate.  

It is interesting to me that the news program on the air that, in my view,  best tells us the truth about the inconsistencies, doublespeak,  and double standards of political and other powerful people is the “fake newscast.” Yes, I am referring to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This program is presented as comedy, but it is very serious satire.

Now, all of this is not to say that lying is a good thing, or that a politician should be forgiven when he or she lies because “everybody does it.”   In fact, it can be a very destructive thing, harming the common good, causing catastrophes like wars.  The fact is there is a lot of it, and some believe that  the public is at fault for putting up with it.  Then, there are those who blame news media. No doubt, they must share some of the responsibility, though some do put in a lot of effort to fact check what politicians say.