“Liars” in Context

Every human being I’ve ever met has lied, and certainly more than once. Now it might have been a white lie, or a lie to save someone’s feelings. It might have been calling in sick to work when they weren’t. It might have been worse than that. But all human beings lie… and if you insist that you’ve never lied, that’s a lie as well.

Why am I making this obvious point? First, because the fact that people lie doesn’t just apply to politicians; it applies to everyone. Second, what’s most important about lies isn’t that people lie; it’s the extent of the lie and the context in which they lie. Your lying and telling a friend that they look good or that a thoughtless word didn’t hurt isn’t the same as a president telling thousands of lies, hundreds of which are out and out falsehoods that can be easily disproved by verified facts.

By the same token, while almost all politicians occasionally shade the truth or don’t tell all of it, there’s a huge difference between the politician who utters an occasional lie, exaggeration, or misstatement and one who almost can’t utter an extended statement without lies or gross exaggerations.

Part of the reason that Trump gets away with all his lies, misstatements, and exaggerations is because he’s adept at exploiting a universal human weakness – human beings are mentally limited in the number of objects or thoughts that they can visualize or hold as discrete thoughts in their minds at any one time. After an individual reaches his or her limit, the brain defaults to “many.” So, in most people’s minds, there’s no difference between a politician who makes six or seven misstatements, exaggerations, or lies and one who makes thousands. Unless a person makes an effort to see each lie in context – and most people don’t – their unconscious feeling is that both politicians are “equal” liars… which clearly isn’t the case.

Then add in the fact that people don’t like to think unfavorable thoughts about someone they want to like… and it’s so easy to dismiss an opponent to the habitual liar as just another politician.

But, in the end, anyone who can’t or won’t tell the difference between the occasional liar and the habitual liar, or who thinks that there’s no difference, is lying to themselves… again.

1 thought on ““Liars” in Context”

  1. Tom says:

    I was thinking about the definition of “criminal”.

    If one breaks a law does that mean one is a criminal or does one have to be caught?

    Is one a criminal only if one habitually breaks a law such as always travelling at 5 MPH above the legal speed limit? Even when the excuse is that I am keeping up with the traffic flow.

    Which brings up the type of ‘law’ one breaks. I am not a criminal when caught breaking a traffic law but I am a criminal assaulting another person (for what ever reason)?

    Perhaps there is more than habituation involved in whether or not a liar’s lies are important: such as whether the lies affect the lives of more than one person or even one small community.

    On the other hand noblesse oblige should be a powerful guide to whether or not someone is a criminal or a liar of significance.

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