Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waging War on Lies

4. Waging War on Lies

This is my 4th and final article about truth telling. My first article (“Liar, Liar Pants on Fire”) asked if our nation’s leaders have a duty to model honesty and encourage truth telling. I asked whether there is a duty to correct a falsehood, to call someone out for deliberately lying, and I looked at a recent incident wherein John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, failed to do just that. Shame on him.

In “Snips & Snails and Puppy Dog Tales” — note “tales” here instead of “tails” — I took a humorous route around my anger toward Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. I decided to give two examples of the many ludicrous things Beck & Limbaugh have been known to say. “Snips & Snails” spun me into another trajectory because the painful reality is that Frick & Frack enjoy millions of fans who enjoy their venomous style and swallow whole their idiotic Frick & Frackisms.

Why is that????

To help understand this question I chose to look at what we know about why people are vulnerable to lies and propaganda and my 3rd article brought us back to the 20th century’s most famous masters of deceit, Hitler and Goebbels. Hitler and Goebbels brilliantly played to the needs, fears, and embedded beliefs of millions — most of whom were seemingly normal people. History suggests and recent psychological studies have proven that outrageous lies and propaganda only work when they appeal to pre-existing prejudices and core beliefs.

This is a very scary reality because it means that lies are less about the liars than the persons who are deceived. If we discredit the Hitlers and Geobbels of our time (and there are so many!) it may matter little because there will always be more liars to take their place.

The only immunity against the extremist propaganda that spews from the far right in American politics today rests in reaching the people who are vulnerable to those lies in the first place.

Before anyone jumps on me to say the “other side” as in “the liberal left” (the Democrats, liberals, progressives) is just as guilty of extremist speech, let me say most clearly: “no, it is not.”

I’ve repeatedly issued public challenges asking for proof that liberal politicians, pundits, elected officials, or journalists have produced anything near the equal of the hateful and dishonest speech routinely spewed from the right. The reality is that the left has no equal to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Anne Coulter, Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, or dozens more who gleefully identify themselves with the far right wing of conservative politics. The truth is that people on the left respond to the rhetoric of the right; they do not instigate it and they do not create their own propaganda and lies capriciously demonizing and defaming others. Liberals in this country have been under continuous assault for decades and that has put them in a defensive, not an offensive, position. For the most part, the political left has been left stuttering and bemused by the aggressiveness of these many attacks and history may well write yet that the left has been sadly bereft of the leadership necessary to combat these assaults.

We have no Winston Churchill’s ready to pugnaciously call out the Huns among us – and so they have advanced and are now on in our backyards. They have captured the minds and hearts of our families and friends. We are losing the war, left consoling ourselves with the humor of pundits and late night comediennes who use our sad state of affairs as fodder for satire.

How can we send the Huns packing? How do we get the minds and hearts of our families and friends back to center, back to sanity and common decency?

I wish I knew – but I have some suggestions.

First, we need to restore a desire for truth but before we do that we need to get out the word that truth is not elusive or a shape-shifter that morphs into whatever we want it to become. Truth can be absolute; we can know it, absolutely, and our elected officials must honor it and be truthful.

Perhaps we should demand George W. Bush and others in his administration be prosecuted for war crimes and treason. I don’t think that will be successful but it is a start. We can demand men like John Boehner not only speak the truth but work to discredit the lies. We can boycott the sponsors who buy time from propaganda machines like Fox News and Murdoch-owned related entities. We should also boycott Koch Industries and research and release information about their generous support in the humanities and medicine. No one seems to be discussing it but as we excoriate the Koch Brothers on the one hand for their financial backing of the far right’s political agenda we fail to also acknowledge that they are proving to be the most generous philanthropists in American history. They have donated hundreds and hundreds of millions to cancer hospitals, museums, and the arts. I would not want to stymie their generosity to good causes. However, I do find it disturbing and wonder if it isn’t somehow ominous. This one is a hard nut to crack.

Confronting the sloppy mental habits, lazy thinking and prejudices of our friends and family will be a true challenge — and that one has me stumped. I’ll be thinking about it for quite awhile.

Your ideas will be welcome. As always, thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. the koch brothers are influencing the same good causes that they donate to. admittedly my example may be an outlier, but nova is now testosterone fueled in its efforts to reach our inquisitive minds. what are these brothers doing to decisions in the arts and sciences?