Lies and the National Agenda

G. Donald Allen
The world you grew up in is no more. The world of reasonable honesty and reasonable lies has been replaced by abject dishonesty and blatant lies.

Lies. Ah, yes. People have always told them. You have told them; so have I. We need lies; they are a foundational structure of social living. They both deceive and protect. Children tell them to their parents to avoid consequences, like punishment. Adults tell them to their bosses, to enhance their position and/or avoid consequences of poor performance. Our bosses tell them to their boards to suggest business is good, the project is on target, or the detractors are wrong. The boards tell them to shareholders to protect their own credibility and most importantly, stock values.

Our politicians tell lies to their constituents, though sometimes innocently with them not actually knowing much more than they've been told. They enhance their positions to the detraction of their opponents and to the inflation of their personal positions. They demagogue like crazy. The very nature of demagoguery (i.e. a calculated lie) is but a lie to promote one cause against another at an emotional level. Our current national agenda is conflated with political ideology, real issues, practical problems, all mixed with lies, deceitful, dishonest, or disingenuous.

There is more. Another variation of the lie is the "selected truth," whereby a lie is promoted as true on the basis of selected, incomplete or inaccurate information.

Gun ownership and control come to mind. The left wishes more control on guns, their licensing, and even ownership. The quasi-emotional argument is that recent past tragedies may have been avoided with more control. Right or wrong, this is truly the current and most blatant argument for further control. It seems reasonable, except almost all available information argues against its reality and effectiveness. On the counter side, we hear an argument for armed security at all the schools. Expensive, yes. Effective, maybe. How can we know? Both camps argue for unrealistic possibilities. Alternatives? Who's thinking about this?

Today's lies have achieved new levels of venality. Lies are now told without regard to credibility. The password is that if you can't prove it wrong, it must be accepted. Or, at minimum, it cannot be denied. The old "common sense" litmus test no longer applies.

Today, we see the gross example of Notre Dame's Manti T'eo. His girlfriend, or so he said, of leukemia on the same day as did his grandmother. Yes, he plays the game and does well. But the girlfriend does not even exist. This was the result of a form of "catfishing," wherein the perpetrators attempt to seduce another into a love relation limited to the Internet or phone. Personal contact seems missing. Good or bad? You decide. Similarly, we see people re-engineering their FaceBook pages to reflect themselves as someone other than what may actually be the case.

Today, within the college enterprise, we see a well-documented increase in the level of cheating. Many students see no value in honesty not required to achieve the desired grade -- almost always an "A" or "B." In my personal world as a teacher at a college, sometimes the grade of "D" is all that's needed -- at whatever cost. Indeed, we now see in colleges the phenomena of a "second generation of cheaters," students raised by parents who themselves were rampant cheaters. Maybe even the third generation. I see students offering excuses that are well beyond the pale of credibility. It is as if they are offering the same, almost identical, excuses they offer their busy parents. Any attempt at originality is gone.

These new extrapolated, extended lies and half-truths in all facets of the everyday are mostly self-serving. They promote on the one hand a political agenda, perhaps on another an educational agenda, or most often a personal agenda. With no common sense allowed toward refutation, with no vigilance as to factuality, and with no cognizance of truth, there can be no limit to future excesses. Is there an end to this? We see so much due-process and delimitation of "rights" abounding these days, there derives no clear outcome. With courts arguing the law though the lens of their beliefs, with Congress reacting only to immediate headlines, with the people unable to look down the long road of consequence, it is doubtful. Correctly or not, it seems to me the national media must set the agenda on national honesty. That being the case, there exist few beacons of hope.

 

The world you grew up in is no more. The world of reasonable honesty and reasonable lies has been replaced by abject dishonesty and blatant lies.

Lies. Ah, yes. People have always told them. You have told them; so have I. We need lies; they are a foundational structure of social living. They both deceive and protect. Children tell them to their parents to avoid consequences, like punishment. Adults tell them to their bosses, to enhance their position and/or avoid consequences of poor performance. Our bosses tell them to their boards to suggest business is good, the project is on target, or the detractors are wrong. The boards tell them to shareholders to protect their own credibility and most importantly, stock values.

Our politicians tell lies to their constituents, though sometimes innocently with them not actually knowing much more than they've been told. They enhance their positions to the detraction of their opponents and to the inflation of their personal positions. They demagogue like crazy. The very nature of demagoguery (i.e. a calculated lie) is but a lie to promote one cause against another at an emotional level. Our current national agenda is conflated with political ideology, real issues, practical problems, all mixed with lies, deceitful, dishonest, or disingenuous.

There is more. Another variation of the lie is the "selected truth," whereby a lie is promoted as true on the basis of selected, incomplete or inaccurate information.

Gun ownership and control come to mind. The left wishes more control on guns, their licensing, and even ownership. The quasi-emotional argument is that recent past tragedies may have been avoided with more control. Right or wrong, this is truly the current and most blatant argument for further control. It seems reasonable, except almost all available information argues against its reality and effectiveness. On the counter side, we hear an argument for armed security at all the schools. Expensive, yes. Effective, maybe. How can we know? Both camps argue for unrealistic possibilities. Alternatives? Who's thinking about this?

Today's lies have achieved new levels of venality. Lies are now told without regard to credibility. The password is that if you can't prove it wrong, it must be accepted. Or, at minimum, it cannot be denied. The old "common sense" litmus test no longer applies.

Today, we see the gross example of Notre Dame's Manti T'eo. His girlfriend, or so he said, of leukemia on the same day as did his grandmother. Yes, he plays the game and does well. But the girlfriend does not even exist. This was the result of a form of "catfishing," wherein the perpetrators attempt to seduce another into a love relation limited to the Internet or phone. Personal contact seems missing. Good or bad? You decide. Similarly, we see people re-engineering their FaceBook pages to reflect themselves as someone other than what may actually be the case.

Today, within the college enterprise, we see a well-documented increase in the level of cheating. Many students see no value in honesty not required to achieve the desired grade -- almost always an "A" or "B." In my personal world as a teacher at a college, sometimes the grade of "D" is all that's needed -- at whatever cost. Indeed, we now see in colleges the phenomena of a "second generation of cheaters," students raised by parents who themselves were rampant cheaters. Maybe even the third generation. I see students offering excuses that are well beyond the pale of credibility. It is as if they are offering the same, almost identical, excuses they offer their busy parents. Any attempt at originality is gone.

These new extrapolated, extended lies and half-truths in all facets of the everyday are mostly self-serving. They promote on the one hand a political agenda, perhaps on another an educational agenda, or most often a personal agenda. With no common sense allowed toward refutation, with no vigilance as to factuality, and with no cognizance of truth, there can be no limit to future excesses. Is there an end to this? We see so much due-process and delimitation of "rights" abounding these days, there derives no clear outcome. With courts arguing the law though the lens of their beliefs, with Congress reacting only to immediate headlines, with the people unable to look down the long road of consequence, it is doubtful. Correctly or not, it seems to me the national media must set the agenda on national honesty. That being the case, there exist few beacons of hope.