Carl Pettit wishes politicians would stop insulting his intelligence, and put more effort into their lies.
Lying used to be a subtle art. A well-crafted lie, tumbling from the lips of an accomplished liar, could be a gorgeous thing. Attention, skill and thought went into molding the perfect falsehood, which could never be admired by anyone except the creator of the ‘beautiful lie’ itself, for when deception is born of art and deceit, by definition, it should go unnoticed.
The beautiful lie, while no undoubtedly still in existence, has lost some of its cultural significance. In a society plagued by public figures making public apologies, a few sincere, many not, you can say just about anything you want and get away with it.
Mitt Romney, who was surreptitiously caught at a fundraiser dismissing 47 percent of the American population as “victims” looking for government handouts, has now disavowed those statements, and said that he was “completely wrong.”
Romney was either being less than truthful with his campaign donors when he made his remarks, or he’s being less than truthful now. He can’t have it both ways. Perhaps what he meant to say was that he was “completely wrong … ” for uttering his politically perilous views in public, where they could be recorded. His clumsy subterfuge, or ‘apology’ if you will, lacked elegance and substance, yet amazingly satisfied a sizable chunk of the populace.
Imagine if Mitt had never been caught out by his remarks. Would he have stopped anyone who happened to be in attendance that fateful night in order to clarify the record? “You know, that whole 47 percent thing was just a joke, right? I represent 2 percent, darn it … I mean 100 percent of the people. Sorry, math is hard.”
Politicians lie. That’s no revelation. Bill Clinton lied through is teeth about sex during the Whitewater trials. George W. Bush lied about his military record in the Texas Air National Guard. We all lie sometimes (if you never have, congratulations), from the skinny kid who sells you pretzels at the beach to the men and women walking the halls of power. What’s disturbing is how easy it has become.
If you absolutely must lie, please refrain from attacking the credibility of political fact checkers in order to make your job even easier. Put some effort into it. Tell me a beautiful lie, one that took you weeks, if not months to prepare. Deceive me in ways that I could never imagine. You’re not a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, chocolate chips smeared across his face, saying, “This isn’t what it looks like.” Mix a little craft in with your slime. You’ll find that a lot of people want to be fooled. They just wish you were better at it.
This is why, for some strange reason, I was delighted by U.S. Representative Paul Broun’s comments about the ‘true’ age of the Earth, as well as Arkansas state Representative Jon Hubbard’s comments about historical slavery. Broun, a certified physician serving on the House Science Committee, believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old, a fact which can be disproven scientifically, while Hubbard wrote a book describing how the descendants of American slaves are actually pretty lucky, because if their ancestors hadn’t been snatched away from Africa, there lives could have been a lot worse.
I heartily disagree with both men, yet I actually kind of admire them for being so honest about their unconventional (scientifically speaking), and arguably offensive (especially in Hubbard’s case) beliefs. At the very minimum, I know where they’re coming from, and can proceed accordingly. The problem with the new breed of fibbers is that most of them are terrible liars. Yes, I know they’re lying, and they know I know they’re lying, but no one seems to know what they actually believe. If you’re going to try and fool me, don’t do a half-ass job. I deserve better.
Hubbard’s political allies, for obvious reasons, are distancing themselves from the man and his controversial comments about slavery. Perhaps Representative Hubbard was never a skilled practitioner of deception, and he simply states his opinions as they are. Regardless, I’d wager that members of The Republican Party in Arkansas might have to take the art of lying to some astoundingly deceptive heights, in order to pretend Hubbard’s beliefs aren’t their own, irrespective of the truth.
Perhaps the beautiful lie is still alive after all, and even thriving, only hidden beneath an ocean of obvious and amateurish deceit. How would we really know? And that’s the point.
Image credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr