Having entered the High Election Season, time for demented distortions, fertile fibbing, specious spin-doctoring, Pinocchio prevarication, and out-and-out ludicrous lying, it might be a wonderful exercise to contemplate the good and bad of the art form. If not wonderful, at least interesting. Or maddening.
What makes a good liar? What makes a great liar? Is lying an art form? Is it by any stretch of the imagination, less than evil?
Already we have seen some doozies. It makes no difference what your political affiliations are, or your stance on any of the social issues of these times, you recognize the blatant less-than-truths being tossed at us as if we were brainless. On reflection, there is some embarrassing truth in that supposition, or politicians and other (recognizably, occasionally) devious occupations would not persist in treating us like morons.
We’ve seen same-party enemies label primary opponents devil incarnate, now in league against an opposing party, realize the devil has been all along a saint.
We’re told past voting records or legislative initiatives are simultaneously detestable and magnificent, depending on the interpretation needed at the moment.
We’re informed changes in the economy over the same five-year period are at once good and bad, depending on whether you are left- or right-brained.
What, and more significantly who is to blame for the state of the economy, unemployment statistics, lawlessness, healthcare costs, and the broccoli shortage is dependent on where the calipers are placed to measure the moment of responsibility.
We expect lying from some professions. Among them politicians, used car salesmen, insurance agents, second grade elementary and Freshman high school students, cheating spouses, and software professionals – especially coders and project managers.
CEOs are a special group worthy of individual attention. Able to blamelessly guide hundreds of thousands to joblessness, bankrupt corporations, and defraud investors, they lie us into belief it is necessary we reward them not with jail terms or forced repayment of filched funds, but with handsome millions in severance packages.
There are standard lying situations. Situations where truth is impossible. Unexpected. Disallowed. Shameful. When will the appliance repairman arrive? How much will this repair cost? When I install this software, it won’t affect the rest of my applications, will it? And that is the total cost to me? Why yes, officer, I know how fast I was driving! C’mon, it’ll only take a minute of your time!
It’s not the biggest or the most frequent liar who succeeds. It’s the one who can make their lie seem to be gospel truth. Liars who believe their own lies are the most dangerous; they are self-encouraged, free of guilt, and unstoppable. You hate a liar when his view is contrary to yours. You love him and agree with him when his lies reinforce your views.
Good liars Try to make unignorable facts fit the lie. They don’t, however, lie often enough to sharpen their skills. Good liars become temporarily great liars only when their arguments agree with your philosophies, or their ‘good’ lies are of sufficient number and quality to make you think you agree with them.
Great Liars don’t need, can improvise credible twists on, and are adept at manufacturing facts. A great liar believes himself and his lies. Great liars lie often and would rather lie than tell the truth even when the truth sounds better than the lie they have prepared. It is a special skill great liars have that makes you believe them even when you know they’re lying. A complete reversal of their stance neither embarrasses nor slows down a great liar. Confronted with damning factual arguments, great liars dismiss facts by ignoring them or by levelling totally unrelated accusations against the one confronting them.
Poor liars apologize for their lies with their eyes or posture. When a new lie is needed, their hesitancy reveals the lie before the insult to your intelligence is complete. Sadly, what a poor liar says, what he wants you to believe does not insult his intelligence.
Is lying an art form? Sure. You’ve heard the old Perry Mason line after counsel raises an objection and the judge sustains, “The jury will disregard….” You know the jury won’t ‘disregard.’ Juries are composed of people, not dogs. They will ‘remember’ and good or bad, they will let it season their opinion and thus their verdict. (Dogs are smarter.) It’s one if the sharpest tricks in the book to ask a question you know will raise an objection. It is the penultimate trick when you word your question in such a way it clearly predicts the answer that even unvoiced carries a forever undeniable, nearly irrefutable message.
In its simplest form, lying can be excused as less than evil. How so? “Hon, does this dress make my hips look too big?” On two counts, a lie here is okay, assuming the truth is “Yes, it does have an unflattering effect.” First, ‘Hon’ avoids possible bodily injury. Second, ‘Hon’ escapes innocently hurting someone’s feelings. The defense rests.
There are some cardinal rules for liars: If you’re gonna lie, lie big. If you’re gonna lie, don’t be the first liar; the first liar has no chance and will be discovered. Confronted with proof, never admit to a lie; the fallacy is not in your statement but in the facts used against you. Failing with that ploy, deflect: never directly address what challenges your lie; double down with an insult or counter-allegation, however unrelated to the first. Never sweat publicly when confronted.
Bear all this in mind as you (cannot help but) listen to the steady barrage of accusations of misdoings by political opponents and promises of good deeds candidates and parties will deliver when elected. If that is not enough to keep you busy, pay attention to the enumeration of ills and corrections we should embrace championed by social and economic coteries.
While you’re mulling over my snarky observations on lying, or better, those you’ve independently recalled from your own experiences, spare a few moments to reflect on the “moron” issue. From now until early November and beyond, boredom should not be a concern.