The Successful Lie

December 16, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Myth/Story, Society

It seems we have crossed a line in the United States where a lie, if powerfully performed, is treated as truth as a reward.  Politics has always been about storytelling.  Nimble and effortless exaggeration makes up our everyday communication, self concepts and political big pictures.  Something has changed that now makes it possible to lie outright and expect to be rewarded with a prize.

In a Greek restaurant with friends Lee & Nancy maybe 25 years ago, John Coleman, the weatherman, walked in to have supper.  Lee asked John, “Will it rain tomorrow?”  John responded, “Somewhere.”

I saw Coleman being interviewed on Fox last year.  He’s about 80.  He’s a leader in the movement that broadcasts that global warming is a myth.  When John Coleman was a weatherman in Chicago, we’d watch him because he was the most entertaining.  Rainstorms were a potential deluge.  Tornados stalked most storks.  The Big Snow was an ever present winter possibility.  Ironically, his talent was exaggerating disaster.  Real disaster he cannot, or will not, see.  Or, perhaps he does see but is choosing to lie.

Storytellers are entertaining.  Liars are dangerous.  It seems pretty clear that in America today, the distinction is viewed as only a matter of degree.

Ronald Reagan inspired a mating between Social Darwinism and social conservatism that has matured into a beast that believes that lying is a sound strategy if you survive to procreate.

If a business lies, stays respected enough to go forward unencumbered and achieves its quarterly goals, it will continue to lie.  Corporations run our media and so media pundits treat lies as strategies, evaluating them on how well they achieve their goals.

Social conservatives know what’s true by how they feel.  They feel embraced by a community with specific mythological beliefs.  They feel deeply right within their community.  To the social conservative, the community beliefs, of course, are right.  Community becomes the arbiter of truth.  Social conservatives allying themselves with Social Darwinians embrace the “truth” that lying is acceptable.  What emerges is a deeply committed mythologist that lies.

I would not call this deeply cynical.  I call this frightening.

Whereas along the left spectrum we have voters sensitive to an insight that truth is relative, along the right side voters behave as if truth is fiction.

Clearly, corporate control of media encourages a blurring of the lines.  How long will it take before the young with facile access to alternative news will spawn news consumers willing to not tolerate a lie?

My guess is that it will happen when we respect the truth.  The Enlightenment was not a fad.  It will likely take a Depression for the United States to recognize it’s been had.


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