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Day to Day Politics: Does the truth matter anymore?

Friday 1 September 2017

On Wednesday in my Trump report I drew attention to the enormity of his lying. In the comments section people had some interesting things to say on the subject. For example, the comments of ‘Wam’ alluded to what he described as my fixation on the subject. I’m not suggesting that he was being critical. To the contrary, I believe he is just giving an honest appraisal of my thinking.

Wam wrote:

”The Lord has a fixation with the word, diannart, (another commentator) and cannot accept that the Abbott as opus dei cannot lie. He does not accept a pragmatic approach and is honest in his belief that there is a truth and demands it of politicians as of himself. Truth before consideration of consequences. Following his comments are my extended thoughts on the subject.”

”Truth is a fact or belief that is accepted as true’ is the normal definition.”

”I believe truth needs proof which absolves me from god’s truth, Malcolm Roberts truth and Abbott’s truth.”

”Perhaps, he cannot understand how, with hindsight or science, a truth today could be a lie tomorrow.”

”No person can tell the truth other than what is believed to be true. Careful choice of words(not my forte) can, may, might, lead your leader.”

”I expect that ‘honesty’ is a quality that politicians feel is missing from journalists’ character in equal measure as politicians other than themselves.”

”International police? The septics spend more on defence than the next 8 countries (including Russia, China, France and the poms) combined.”

Why I think the truth is a necessary part of society and in particular politics

How important is truth in politics? As a writer who happens to love the way words can be constructed to shape a thought, send a message, express love, anger, or convey an action I am lost without them. Without them something vanishes from our discourse. Without words the ability to communicate the seemingly endless aspects of human emotion is taken from us.
Words of course are at their best when they are accompanied by a factual truth of what they are wanting to convey.

An observation

”Have we reached the point in politics where TRUTH is something that politicians have convinced us to believe, “like alternative facts” rather than TRUTH based on factual evidence and sound arguments”

The acceptance of lying generally and more particularly in politics is not only alarming but is also a reflection of the decline of ethical standards in society.

It would appear now that with the election of Donald Trump all understanding of political truth has been destroyed. Read my piece on Trump.

Honesty isn’t popular anymore. It doesn’t carry the weight of society’s approval it once did. The rise of the right has brought with it a new political language. One that has not yet been classified because it defies any normal understanding as to whether truth has a place in it.

What we do know is that at its base is an absence of truth. Everyone would be aware of what Trump said during the election campaign. Here are some examples:” On day one of the Trump administration we will ask congress to immediately repeal Obamacare”

Throughout his campaign he said that Obamacare was dead and buried. It cannot be more unequivocal than that, yet we now know that most of it will be retained.

The building of a wall and making Mexico pay for it was a core promise, ”Mark my words” he said repeatedly. Absolutely unambiguously you might say.

Yet Newt Gingrich has admitted the presidents promise to get Mexico to pay for it may have been a”campaign device”. Although now he is threatening to close down the Government if the don’t come up with the money.

”He may not spend much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it”, Gingrich said.”But it was a great campaign device.”

Then there was the end of ”War on coal”

”The Democratic Party does not understand that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource. Those who mine it and their families should be protected from the Democratic Party’s radical anti-coal agenda”

He strode through the American rust belt shouting: “End the war on coal”.

It was clear to all and sundry from what he said that he vowed to restore coal jobs, dismissing clean energy as part of President Obama’s ‘war on coal’.

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s “hard to tell” if the government will be able to expand the coal industry in a meaningful way.

“We are going to be presenting to the new president a variety of options that could end this assault on coal”, McConnell said. “Whether that immediately brings business back is hard to tell because it’s a private sector activity”.

Another core promise was that he would deport illegal immigrants through mass deportations. It was explicit, a cornerstone of his campaign.

Trump: “We’re rounding ’em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice. But not everything is nice”.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebusy has said Trump is no longer calling for “mass deportation” and is instead calling for the deportation of criminals.

The Iran peace treaty will be gone, he promised. Indisputable his words were.
He would “renegotiate” the agreement. He said the deal was the “stupidest deal of all time” and running mate Mike Pence said that the deal would be “ripped up”. When one might ask?

Trump adviser Walid Phares now claims that the treaty will instead be “renegotiated”.
So what were his words worth? The same could be said of Tony Abbott when he was leader of the Australian Opposition leader and later Prime Minister.

Abbott said that what he said shouldn’t be taken seriously unless it was written down. An American friend said that Trumps words should be taken seriously but not literally.

An observation

‘When you tell a lie you deny the other person’s right to the truth.”

Well I suggested to him that It is better to be comforted with the truth than be controlled by lies. Continuous lying breaks down trust and destroys our means of communication. As does lying by exaggeration or omission.

It all gives rise to the question of the value of the words politicians’ use. I for one would never believe a word Abbot said, then or now. There is ample evidence that he is a liar, and he has declared so himself.

But let’s take a look at the broader picture and ask ourselves what is a lie in general and what constitutes political lying.

We know that a lie has three essential ingredients; it communicates some information. The liar intends to deceive or mislead. The liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true. And we call people who use these three principles blatant liars.

When it comes to controlling human beings there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts” (Michael Ende, The Never-ending Story).
”If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed”. (Goebbles)

On a more personal level there are what we call white lies where we deliberately color what we say in shades of hue to protect the feelings of others or ourselves, or to avoid argument.

”Clinton lied. A man might forget where he parks or where he lives, but he never forgets oral sex, no matter how bad it is” (Barbara Bush).

Consider the case where telling a lie would mean that 10 other lies would not be told. If 10 lies are worse than 1 lie then it would seem to be a good thing to tell the first lie, but if lying is always wrong then it’s wrong to tell the first lie… When politicians lie over a long period of time. It only serves to denigrate the liar, and show contempt for the voter’s intelligence. Especially if the lies are chronic and systemic. The current use of the term “no direct knowledge” is a lie within a lie pretending to absolve a person who is fully conversant with the facts.

”Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when first we practice to deceive”

Walter Scott Marmion says that ”Lying is probably one of the most common wrong acts that we carry out (one researcher has said ‘lying is an unavoidable part of human nature’), so it’s worth spending time thinking about it. Why is lying wrong? There are many reasons why people think lying is wrong; which ones resonate best with you will depend on the way you think about ethics. Lying is bad because a generally truthful world is a good thing: lying diminishes trust between human beings: if people generally didn’t tell the truth, life would become very difficult, as nobody could be trusted and nothing you heard or read could be trusted – you would have to find everything out for yourself and an untrusting world is also bad for liars – lying isn’t much use if everyone is doing it”

In the US election Republican Donald Trump took lying to an unprecedented level. The same fascination for untruth by conservatives in America has been exported to Australia. We should all remember that when they lie they deny us our right to the truth. It is totally unacceptable.

My thought for the day

“Do you shape the truth for the sake of good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there might often be pain in truth but there is no harm in it.”

PS: and another thought

“The word ”lying” (in political terms) has been replaced with the more subtle reference of ”overstatement”.”

19 comments

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  1. king1394

    Predictions and promises are neither truth nor lies; often they are merely wishful thinking. When politicians promise something in an election campaign it always needs to be seen as them expressing a desire or an opinion, quite often without the full information needed about what finances are required and what competing obligations might exist. (A bit like when I tell the children we will go on a picnic tomorrow, without knowing what the weather will be like or that the car is on the point of breaking down. )

    Unfortunately the media firstly and the electorate itself tends to collude, and ‘I like the sound of that’ swiftly becomes ‘that will happen if I vote for X’. We all need to be a bit more savvy, and even cynical about these predictions and promises. With Trump’s wall, how likely was it ever that Mexico would pay. I thought it quite unlikely at the time but many US voters must have believed that it could happen.

    And there’s that word: ‘believe’. Belief is about faith, not truth. It is only one step away from wishing.

  2. wam

    dear lord how embarrassing that my negative blurb should be repeated.

    However, have you a problem with the definition::’Truth is a fact or belief that is accepted as true’?
    It is the normal definition in online webster.

    Do you not see a problem with your truth being formed by your opinion which in turn is formed by your access to ‘factual evidence and sound argument’

    I admire your posts and read them avidly with agreement on most levels except your idea of truth.

    To me politicians need to be ‘true to themselves’ and that means honesty.

    Your son, Lord is honest but his interpreters are spouting opinions as truths

    ps ‘omission’ and ‘overstatement’ are the skills of debate.
    pps king the word is BELIEVE not belief.

  3. helvityni

    When younger I was not able speak nothing but the truth. Later in life I learnt it was not always a good policy to be truth-telling; so now I still don’t lie, but I do not tell the truth to everybody… 🙂

    We Lutherans were taught: never lie, you sleep soundly if your conscience is clear. Sometimes I thought the Catholics had it easy, they could lie and sin to their heart’s content, then go to a confessional….Not fair !

  4. stephengb2014

    Yes I do not believe that breaking a promise is a lie.
    But I do believe that a person who makes promise that they had no intention of keeping, is clearly a lying hound, of course how do prove the promise was never intended to be kept?

  5. metadatalata

    From King1394:
    “Predictions and promises are neither truth nor lies; often they are merely wishful thinking.”
    Politicians like we have seen in the Liberal National Party are making predictions and promises that have no basis in data and they have no intention of keeping. In these cases which are all too often, I classify them as lying to the public.

    “When politicians promise something in an election campaign it always needs to be seen as them expressing a desire or an opinion”
    No, it always needs to be seen as something they will honestly bring about or as a lie. Why should politicians have different definitions of a lie than the rest of us?

    1934, you sound like a liberal or national party politician or a MSM journalist.

  6. Zathras

    Sadly this is becoming “business as usual” and I don’t voters listen or even care much anymore.
    The more sincere politicians try to appear the less we seem to believe them and it’s only the extremists that we respond to.

    Perhaps some plain-speaking truth is what we need to hear but nobody’s offering.

    It’s time we replaced the lot of them and started again.

    One definition of “faith” is deliberately believing something you know not to be true – which is very close to being delusional.

  7. Kaye Lee

    “I realize more and more how instinctively pessimistic I am of all human kindness — since I am always so bowled over by it — and am never surprised by injustice, malice or personal attack.” – Dawn Powell

  8. Nearly Normal Frederick

    Much/most/all of the parameters which frame and therefore limit what is even mentioned or featured in the public shouting matches featured on the MSM have for the past 2-3 decades or so been deliberately created by what David Brock called the Republican (right-wing) Noise Machine – Right Wing Media & How It Corrupts Democracy.

    This noise machine also operates in Australia and world wide too. Murdoch noise machine is a key player in this phenomenon. As are all of the IPA clones that now infest both the print media and ABC political and current affairs programs. This includes the one-dimensional Kevin Donnelly who is regularly featured in the Australian and even the Fairfax papers as an “expert” on the topic of education.
    IPA clones also hold seats in federal parliament.

  9. jamesss

    Thanks John for your insights. The recipients of lies is a distraction to their daily lives as the lying media perpetuate it into the matrix. There is no difference from where the lie originates, a lie is a lie, eg: Snowy 2, a throw away lie obviously originating from desperation or of implanting the impression in the imagination of the populous of another great achievement capable of completion in just a few years under the guidance of the NLP.
    We are battered daily by media marketing not only appearing in the articles but the advertising suggesting a purchase of what they offer in a material product will fulfill an emotional lack in our lives.

  10. Kyran

    “How important is truth in politics?”
    Doesn’t that depend on your perspective?
    As a voter, you seek the truth from those wanting to represent you.
    As a politician, you will speak whatever truth you think your voter may want to hear.
    Isn’t that the problem?
    The truth, to a voter, is the only currency a politician has to get their vote.
    The truth, to a politician, is the dollars needed, devoid of currency, to throw at the voters when they need their vote.
    One is seeking truth, the other is seeking to buy it, or be bought by it.
    Ms Lee, in accordance with her article “Empty Attack” offered:
    “I realize more and more how instinctively pessimistic I am of all human kindness — since I am always so bowled over by it — and am never surprised by injustice, malice or personal attack.” – Dawn Powell.
    By way of pre-emptive explanation, both the article and comment were totally in sync.
    Had Anne Frank lived, she would have turned 88 on June 13, this year. To me, her legacy will be these words;

    “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

    As Mr Carli pointed out, we need to ‘Awake’. The alternative is to ‘Wake in Fright’.
    Thank you Mr Lord, Ms Lee, Mr Carli, and commenters. (Apologies for the mangling of your articles.)
    Take care

  11. Anniebee

    The old question “What is truth”. .. One man’s truth, can be another persons’ lie. … therein lies the dilemma.

    Backtracking just a little on the subject – take for example a battle ( pre Family Law statute ) between a married couple over the custody of children. Negatives are hurled across the court room, by both sides trying to win custody. ( the losers of course were most often the children ) …. anyway – it becomes a case of ‘he said’ / ‘she said’ …. and both might well be uttering truths – and lies. … In order to defend themselves, they will most often call out the opposing faction, as ‘lying’. “He hurt me brutally many times” … ” I never hit her – ever ” …. who is telling the actual ‘truth’ …. him, her, both, neither ?

    It is up to the listener to decide. It always is – and there is another dilemma. No-one on this green earth can see completely into anothers’ mind, and know exactly what a situation really is. In this example, ‘he’ may well have hurt her brutally many times – with abusive language, by put downs, insults, threats, mental and emotional stress, denial of money for food etc. … while never once hitting or physically hurting her in any way whatsoever. Both in their own minds are telling the truth – as..they..see..it

    I was a member of a debating society – we did hefty research to present ‘for and against’ arguments. It is up to the judges and listeners to decide who is putting across the most acceptable argument, based on what they claim to be ‘truths’. As far as politics is concerned, voters are the judges and listeners. And the candidates will use language that seem to impart truths – as they want their words to be believed. There is cunning in truth telling … just as there is cunning in lying.

    John … I suspect that you have come at this subject from an almost pious viewpoint. The goodness of truth telling vs. the bad of lying. I think it can be accepted that politicians ‘colour’ their words to appear to be truth – to gain acceptance, when they know it is not wholly true. Small parts of their delivery may be, but not all. Most of what pollies utter is rhetoric, and the more eloquent a politician is in expressing his / her delivery, the more chance he/she has of winning a few more votes. e.g. The difference often is between the words “We Will”, and what should be said “We Will Try” …. there is a HUGE difference between those two sets of words.

    Semantics. … “We will” has a power to it, is assertive, while it most likely will turn out to be a lie in the long run …. “We will try” … is unfortunately weakened by the word ‘try’ … but has more of an element of truth to it, when delivered. Both however, might turn out to be big fat lies – or not.

    11 comments added now to John’s article … and where is there truth ? All writings on this subject here are opinions, coming from the minds of people trying to figure out differences – and answers.

    An age old, and fascinating subject.

  12. Mark Needham

    “Anniebee September 1, 2017 at 11:22 pm
    The old question “What is truth”. .. One man’s truth, can be another persons’ lie. … therein lies the dilemma.”

    The always amazing part of the selection, of Yes or No, to a piece of TRUTH, is the absolute, infallability of my understanding of it.

    To think opposite to “I”, you will have the following attributes.

    Racist.
    Troll.
    Idiot.
    Uneducated.
    Moron.
    and so on….you get the drift.

    Now, in answer, does “Truth matter anymore”. Nope. Not one iota.

    We all have the truth of a subject, in our heads, already. Trust me, I know! I am correct. Just ask me.

    Truthfully,
    Mark Needham.

  13. Harquebus

    An endless battle between the evolutionary benefits of being able to lie and being able to recognize one.
    It’s got me confused how one can disbelieve one side of politics and then totally believe the other. Must be some other external forces at work here.

  14. Anniebee

    Have tried several times to post a comment back to Mark N … but it keeps on coming up as “page not found” ???? … Annoying ….

    But will keep on trying. Plus I would like to reply to Harquebus, but will desist for the moment until this all gets sorted. 😉

  15. Anniebee

    Harquebus ….

    from the smallest party … to the largest of parties, I think they all ‘lie’ – or project some rhetoric that they hope to be seen as truth, or even believe is truth.

    Are they lies ? …. it’s impossible to tell, as we cannot see into the deliverers minds as to what their wishes truly are. … There is no doubt however, that many politicians are charlatons, prompted by their own egos, and political ambitions. …

    It is always up to the voters to try to decide who is telling something near to the truth, and who is outright telling porkies. Not the grandest of responsibilities ….

  16. Anniebee

    Reply to Mark Needham simply does not work – no matter what I do to edit content.

    Confused …….. !!! 🙁

  17. Michael Taylor

    Annie, email us at theaimn@internode.on.net and detail the issues you are having. I can then pass it on to either our web developer or WordPress for investigation.

  18. Harquebus

    Anniebee
    No argument from me on that. It is an age old problem.

    “Under every stone lurks a politician.” — Aristophanes in Thesmophoriazusae 410 BC

  19. Anniebee

    Thanks so much Michael … have sent you an email to the addy given, detailing the problem.

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