We are in a time of transition. It used to be that, if someone was caught out in a bald-faced lie, they were embarrassed and humiliated. The liar would probably also be shunned for a while and then..after some time…maybe forgiven by those around him/her. Maybe not. But they would not be trusted again and it would take years for them to be trusted in much of anything, however trivial.
Not so much these days.
Why is that?
Part of the reason, of course, is that lying by omission is something we all do. We do not feel the need to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth all the time to all and sundry. The ‘whole truth’ is no one’s business. AND the questioner has to be ‘verified’ as being on a need-to-know position. The questioner also has to ‘hit on the right words in the question‘ to get an answer that may not even be the whole truth. Bill Clinton’s famous “I did not have sex with that woman” is unforgettable as an example.
Another reason is that we are bombarded with lies so much that we don’t believe much of anything anyone says who is not closely ‘invested’ in us. Friends and family, for instance. So, a salesman is more than half-expected to lie. Politicians lie like rugs. Advertising exaggerates at the very least. We expect little truth from a Craigslist ad and, of course, we expect no truth from institutions who present a brick wall as a form of doing business. Think: “We value your call and will be with you in a moment.”
But we have kicked lying up a few extra notches lately. The president of the United States has been caught out in so many lies, I cannot list them all. That so many are so trivial and stupid makes it even harder to remember them. And, of course, he has surrounded himself with similar truth-challenged people to support him. So, the highest office in the western world is now held by proven liars.
That has to be considered strange even by our Conservatives and their Republicans. Don’t you think?
But this is not about that. Nor is this about the very odd effectiveness of it all. C’mon, admit it…you not only can’t remember all the lies, you are already (two weeks) starting to not bother listening. In effect, nothing-but-lies has the effect of anesthesia on the public.
This is not even about our own government lying. Trudeau, Clark and those in positions of responsibility in OUR lives (though, I admit, Trump affects us all) are also proven liars. Our PM lied about electoral reform, for instance, and that seems to be going OK for him. Clark lies, her ministers lie and she has even hired bona fide professional liars for her campaigns….and that seems to be going OK for her, too. Rob Ford, the previous mayor of Toronto became world famous for his outrageous lies. We are living through an epidemic of lies at the moment and it is unprecedented.
But, like I said, this is not about the obvious. The lies are obvious. This is about the response. What does one do when one is told an obvious lie? And, even when the truth is pointed out, it seems to make no difference?
The media (the fourth estate) – themselves not renown for veracity or accuracy – have taken to extreme fact-checking as a response to this new initiative by the deceivers. The logic, of course, is that, if the lie is countered with sufficient facts, the liar is made impotent in their message.
I love that the media have finally come to the party with bundles of facts but, the truth is, it isn’t working. They are not at the right party. For almost fifty years the media dissipated it’s Kronkite-era credibility for the sake of infotainment, celebrity, brevity and the bottom line but I do not believe they were intentionally lying to deceive. Lying to sell. Lying to entertain. But deception and manipulation? I think that outcome was just an unfortunate consequence of making news-for-profit an industry. Sadly, the mainstream media’s new-found commitment to journalism is too little, to late and more surprising, anachronistic. The world tweets now. The party is next door.
The real ‘response’ is being played out by Google, Facebook and Twitter. They, it seems, have awoken to the fact that the liars lie by way of social media and that they (the social media are the fifth estate) are, in a large way, now complicit. They enable the liars. They are the unwilling accomplices. And Zuckerberg and his contemporaries do not like that. Neither do the spawn of the Zukerbergs, the hacker group Anonymous. The righteous, it seems, are outraged.
But, so what? The public, by and large, have been dumbed right down and they wouldn’t know the truth even if they were paying attention. And they are not. Most of them weren’t invited and the few that were are lost. They can’t find the party.
So, how does this all play out? Assuming the sheep continue to graze and the battle for their attention plays out, will honesty, truth and goodness prevail?
If the Zuckerbergs and Anonymous prevail, will that even be good? Can the media ever reclaim their exalted (and partially exempted-from-law) position as the all-powerful fourth estate or will they be eclipsed forever by the unregulated and currently rogue fifth?
My guess? The fifth will prevail. Why? Because the net is easier for the government to control. Big Brother prefers the fifth.