American Culture

American values: Mom, God, apple pie, 'post-truth'

Survey question: Who is left in America’s national political life who holds the unreserved admiration of the majority of respondents?

Suppose that survey question (as poorly worded as it is) had been administered just 20 years ago for comparison. The smart money would bet it’s a much shorter list these days than the list of yore.

Why would the list be shorter? Part of the reason lies in individual assessment of life’s fortunes. National candidates trot out an old canard every two and four years: Are you better off today than (fill in the blank)? Two decades ago, only as far back as 1992 — before a startling increase in multi-hundred-billion-dollar, unprosecuted financial shenanigans; before more faraway wars of choice, before fears of terrorist attacks trumped the privacy of citizens; before the tech bubble and then the housing bubble popped after the greedy got theirs; before the highest court in the land declared money to be protected speech; before ideologues reframed citizen dissent as a lack of patriotism; before members of Congress spent more time dialing for dollars than legislating; before two Bushes and an Obama (and now a Romney) promised the undeliverable — could your imagination have conjured up the Grand American Fubar™ in which we now struggle to live, let alone prosper?

I wrote editorials for a living more than two decades ago. I was supposed to accurately prognosticate and predict political wind shifts. But I never saw this coming — this mass disregard of fact by extraordinarily powerful men and women. Back then, there were politicians I trusted (well, only so far; they were, after all, politicians; spin lived back then, too). But today? Nope. I assume their utterances contain a lie, not a truth. Cynicism has trumped my skepticism. Spin has been transformed into sin: Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

The modern politician with statewide or national ambitions has ushered in the post-truth era. Those who would lead us have decided that factual accuracy firmly attached to proper context no longer has political, ideological, or electoral value. In commerce, sex sells. In the new era of No Fact-Checks Needed Politics™, deceit sells. The national press, heirs to a centuries-old tradition of holding the powerful accountable for words and acts, shrugs off the deception. Everybody’s doing it. Let’s report on how effectively the politicians deceive, not identify and correct the deceptions themselves.

Truth has been evicted from national politics. That rupture with reality occurs at the confluence of the dismantling of the nation’s revenue-challenged daily print press, the invasion of politics by wealthy men and women whose opaque, multi-million-dollar purchases of political access hide behind legal skirts, and the increasing inability or lack of desire of a mass electorate to give a shit.

We should be angry. We should be outraged. We should be furious at the unabashed effrontery of candidates for national office who lie directly to our collective face. But the sheer volume of repetitions of deceit, especially through the mass-mediated, billionaire-paid-for negative ads, arrives at our collective ears as so much endless white noise.

I teach for a living. I am paid to model behaviors that lead to professional success and personal satisfaction for my students. Yet my example is an iota of Robert Fulghum in a sea of craven, cowardly deceit practiced for the achievement of power and influence. Is it any wonder that some of my students reject the practice of attention to detail, common sense, and disciplined, intelligent effort for something easier and faster?

Deceit and deception have become accepted model behaviors of the most powerful men and women in the nation. As Jon Stewart bluntly pointed out Friday, deception and deceit found a comfortable home in Tampa. (Presumably Stewart will also unearth in Charlotte the other party’s aversion to accuracy.)

Come November, I believe it’s likely that the lever you pull for a statewide or national office will be for an incumbent or challenger who lied to you — and got away with it, because no one gave a damn.

15 replies »

  1. That has to be the single wickedest poll question ever. The answer is scarier, because I sat here and tortured my brain looking for an answer. I have a near-impossible task coming up with anyone that I personally admire without reservation. And if I do, I promise you that I can find 100M other Americans who hate that person without reservation.

    We can trace the roots of this back to the early ’60s, but it’s hard to study the dynamic closely without noticing when the train well and truly jumped the tracks. It was around about the time that the Internet began gaining traction. Now I find myself reflecting on Al Gore’s promises about the new agora.

    Has any politician ever been more wrong about something?

  2. Political lying like everything else that falls under the political umbrella, in terms of establishing respective and comparative guilt of it between the political parties, will never occur if you begin and end with the “both sides do it” line. That is the form every rightwingnut false equivalence takes, which further scrutiny more often than not, reveals that while they are both apples, one is full of worms and rotten to the core, and the other not so much.

    In starting a comparison, I’d grant that on matters of foreign policy, we see by far a lesser separation between the parties. For example, as I argued it years ago, Bush would not have been able to sell his wmd lies if not for those tole by Clinton before him, and more recently, it can’t be said that BHO’s use of the “they threatened to wipe Israel off the map.” line in the case of Iran is either truthful or helpful but in the context of gaining potential support an option that never left the table Bush left him.

    We are however on the domestic front, looking at a completely different animal, as evidenced by the Romney “Bush on steroids” approach that can be sold only if history is revised, or insanity as it is commonly defined in the political world is thoughtlessly embraced. Furthermore, we see Romney running against an almost completely fictionalized BHO, while BHO has been almost wholly counting on Mutt’s record at Bain, his record as governor, etc, to serve as a confession on his part that leads to a successful prosecution.

    So I have to ask in the context of a comparative fault/guilt analysis, why does most of the successful lying, whether on the foreign or domestic policy front, so predominatly serve the aims of rightwingnuttery? This why I think this whole debate shouldn’t be about “the falsehoods” told or truth omitted on the basis of party, but rather ideology. Rightwingnuts gave their pols and pundits a license to lie without fear of reprisal long ago, which they’ve exploited as energetically as it could be in the last decade in particular, whereas all of the much talked about disappointments and disenchantment BHO has suffered with his base, aren’t based on his lies or lying, but rather his efforts to find common ground and to compromise with, the lying liars. He’s been seen by many as repub-lite and governing from the center/right that this country isn’t, and that he wasn’t elected to govern as.

    And the most daming thing that should award the rightwingnuts the lion’s share of the guilt of lying, is their planned and successful, decades long killing of the concept of “agreed upon facts”. This has been a pet peeve of mine every since I stepped into the “internets” over a decade ago now. As BIll Maher finally made a smal fed case of on his show last Friday, this is precisely why you can’t have a real “debate” with rightwingnuts, because they consider or confuse their generally fact-free opinions, with incontrovertible facts. We can see this with their “belief” in the efficacy of tax cuts for the rich as a job producing scheme and economy cure, to their “beliefs” associated with the biggest issue of this or any other time, AGW.

    So no, the patients aren’t equally sick, morally or otherwise, which political lying is directly related to, and imo, to suggest otherwise can only lead to despair and resignation, when there is some hope remaining that one of the patients can be saved. This is why I thik it’s a good idea that whatever ideas BHO has in terms of further movement rightward be challenged now as opposed to after the election, which of course means we need to hear precisely what he intends to do with SS and Medicare, etc, and everything else he’s been a bit vague about that is of significance ot us all.

    It’s not the lies in fact that are so damaging, because they can be overcome in the minds of those that matter, it’s the lies by omission that aren’t known until it’s too late that do the most damage. Even Mutt and Pal understand that, which is why they’re lying in fact about the fictional BHO, AND treating specifity about themselves like lepers.

  3. Sorry, stupidicus, it would seem you’ve bought the grand lie…that one of these two parties serves their corporate overlords less. “How” one servers/lies vs. “how” the other serves/lies is ultimately irrelevant.

    Forget apples and worms. How many rat turds do you need in your cake before the whole cake is bad? I submit that if I find a single speck on the remotest corner, sitting ever so lightly on the icing, out it goes. Sadly, we’ll always be stuck with some number of droppings on our political cake, but they’re sprinkled (and folded right into the batter) in such a way that there is, unlike a partially rotten apple, no effective way to get a less awful bite.

    I’m anti-right as well, but you cannot, in good conscience, discuss their ills without looking at Obama through the same jaundiced lens. What, it’s okay for him to order extra-judicial killings as long as he lets Biden dictate his gay marriage policy? That’s a trade-off you’re happy with? It’s okay to skip investigations into torture as long as he skips past universal care and puts birth control in the ACA? There’s far too many of these kinds of feel-good trade-offs that the establishment left lives with, as though somehow that gives them or their sitting murderer-in-chief the higher moral ground. Bah.

  4. sorry frank, the issue I addressed isn’t one of who serves their corporate masters more or less or how or why, or who has the moral high ground associated with issues I neither addressed nor intend to now, but who the bigger and more damaging liars are.

    What hogwash. There was nothing in my post about moral conflicts, much less anything from which you could cast such baseless assertions about what I think about anything, much less to designate in no uncertain terms what moral or political calculus I use. It certainly went a long way towards providing disinterest in sharing them though.

    Therefore I’d suggest that your arguments be devoid of and not be built on, any assumptions about me. You could do this by focusing solely on the only argument that I made — that the dems are no more comparable collectively to the rightwingnuts in the “LIAR” department than they are in say, the “hate speech” department. “How” they respectively lie is identical — in any and all ways what we call lying can be done. “Who” they do it for is irrelevant in the context of who does it the most, and especially if as in this case, it is assumed to be for the same monied masters. They must however, be serving different masters or in varying degrees, because it’s extremely difficult to reconcile all the work the dems do on social equality/justice, etc, with them serving the same masters. The simple fact of the matter is, on those issues no analogies are required, because the rightwingnut will give us –we the people — nothing needed or desirable, whereas BHO/the dems will and have, despite the insurance companies getting theirs. The same could be said on the withdrawal from Iraq and that upcoming in Afghanistan.

    The only reason the apple/worm analogy was used was as a representation of the fractional nature of the lies coming from the dems versus the repubs, not the palatability of the worms. They’re “bad” no matter who they come from or why.

    SO yeah, your opening remark is hogwash and totally inapplicable to what I argued. It’s not a matter of “how” they lie that I argued for in defense of BHO and the dems generally, but rather “how much” they respectively lie, based on the “fact” and measured in terms of frequency, egregiousness, and damage it does and has done to this country. It doesn’t matter whether you wanna measure those costs in terms of just things like lies about wmds, the known lack of efficacy of tax cuts for the rich in terms of job creation or debt/deficit matters, or the lost decade from concerted lies about the danger AGW poses to us all, or say, only in terms of the dozens if not hundreds now, lies Steve Benen has chronicled on the part of Mutt alone. Rightwingnuts always have been and will remain by far, the biggest “LIAR” problem. That garbage about “looking at BHO through…” and allegations of approval of “skipping singler payer” for this and that, etc, has absolutely not a god damn thing to do with which party or pols lie the most or most egregiously, or whatever role the “liberal” media has in their propagation. Those are things that have already crystallized into policies for which no lies were told or were necessary, unlike say, the Clinton lies that maintained the sanctions and provided some cover for Bush’s. SO it wasn’t just a baseless attempt to malign me, it is also totally irrelevant to the topic of who’s doing the most and harmful lying I addressed.

    It was nothing but a dishonest dodge full of baseless and dishonest suppositions designed for and intended to obscure the fact that you have no material with which to dispute much less refute the ONLY point of my post, that being that rightwingnuts are by far the bigger liars and source of the political lying problem, therefore making it unfair and unreasonable to suggest all pols are equally suspect of guilt of roughly equal crimes of the dishonesty kind. That’s nothing more than a perpetuation of the “both sides do it” (the false equivalency I addressed here) that underlies much of the “he said/she said” stuff that passes for modern journalism. Furthermore, the “post-truth” label the author here borrowed came as direct result of the lie frequency and substance coming from Mutt, not BHO. The outrage or the label/description wouldn’t exist butfor his efforts.

    As a nobody from nowhere who’s been writing about this issue for a decade now, it leaves me wondering why it has taken those like the author here and others who’ve worked in the media profession, so long to get outraged and make a fed case out of it. I was in the lead-up to the Iraq war. They should have at least had a clue in the wake of the media enabling of that war, or Kerry’swiftboating at the latest. The Barney Fife, “nip it in the bud!” outrage and action was needed then when the problem was smaller and likely easier to remedy, and already in a “post-truth” condition. It’s almost like there was an expectation that the already chronic and pathological rightwingnut liars were gonna at some point accept, acknowledge, and cease and desist in their ways, as opposed to predictably escalating in the way those tangled in their web of lies usually do or something.

    The truth has been an existential threat to them ideologically and politically speaking for a long time now, and I suspect that this represents the quality of the arguments I can expect from those unaware of this.

    1. I’m anti-right as well, but you cannot, in good conscience, discuss their ills without looking at Obama through the same jaundiced lens. What, it’s okay for him to order extra-judicial killings as long as he lets Biden dictate his gay marriage policy? That’s a trade-off you’re happy with? It’s okay to skip investigations into torture as long as he skips past universal care and puts birth control in the ACA? There’s far too many of these kinds of feel-good trade-offs that the establishment left lives with, as though somehow that gives them or their sitting murderer-in-chief the higher moral ground. Bah.

    I certainly can and will look at their lying without an unnecessary examination of BHO’s. My disappointments in him stem from the unvarnished truth he’s shared in the form of policies I object to, that you’ve dishonesty assigned my approval to – the absurdity of it as a rebuttal to my claim the rightwingnuts are the biggest liars notwithstanding, and like that which I approve of and don’t aren’t in isolation from one another, leaving only questions as to whether he’s gone to far on some I don’t. Sure, I suppose I should forgive Bush his many war crimes to, after his recent saintly work in Africa too, no? I made no claims to any moral high ground for BHO or the dems generally outside of that to found and confined to honesty, and after a contrasting and comparing of their lying with that of the righteingnuts. This is just you taking a very narrow case I made, and trying to widen it into areas I neither addressed nor have any interest in addressing to someone who resorts to those kinda rightwingnut-like tactics. It calls your integrity into question as far as I am concerned, or your intelligence, given the ease with which one should be able to discern the diff between making a case for relative and respective honesty between the parties, and assigning guilt from it, and the defamations you attempted against me based upon some baseless charges of moral relativity on my part, or worse, using that as a basis to make trade-offs with evil.

    You don’t know shit about me. Like an attorney, I can defend my client BHO and the dems against charges of lying like a rightwingnut as I have here, without approving of lying or any of the other things he’s done, just as I can praise the work Bush did in Africa, without praising him generally or even exclusively in that case, since I find his effort falling short of the amount of redemption his crimes would demand. The rest of his life in the prison might be a good start. That however doesn’t change the fact that the work itself is praiseworthy. I don’t give BHO any points for honesty where his “kill list” is concerned either, anymore than there’s anything you could say or do from this point forward that would mitigate the attitude I now have towards you.

    SO, either provide me with some material showing that I’m all wet regarding my assertion as to who are the hands down champions of lying in frequency and egregiousness, and the proximate if not exclusive cause of this miserable “post truth” world we now live in, or run along. I think I’ve wasted enough time and text already on someone unable to remember or respect what the topic I addressed was, or in the worse alternative, one determined to change it.

    After all, that’s what trolls do, ain’t it?

  5. “After all, that’s what trolls do, ain’t it?”

    Who smelt it, dealt it, no?

    I’ll spare you my usual verbosity as you seem to have taken the lead there. All I’ll say is that I’m quite amused. You indulge in ad hominem after ad hominem, a case of specious reasoning if ever there was one, while crying foul over someone’s reasoning and intellect. Note, here in this comment as well as in the previous, I used the word “seem.” No assertions made, other than that of how your arguments, not you personally, seem to me. Seem.

    Surely, as an advocate for “truth” that has recourse to “defending like an attorney” (pardon me while I wipe the coffee off my monitor, that was hilarious), you can appreciate the seeming absurdity of your position, even if you would never admit to such awareness. Perhaps a bit of omission, eh?

    So you enjoy your slice of turd-laced cake. I’ll keep rejecting it, thank you.

    As for the quantification/qualification of liars, maybe it would help to look at the political as a wrestling ring with heels and faces. While the athletics may be real, the wrestling, per se, is not. The faces are every bit a part of the overarching fiction of the “wrestling” match as are the heels, both governed by the programmatic wishes of the “wrestling” medium for which they perform as hired entertainment. I can’t help it if you can’t or won’t see that the false dichotomy of left/right/GOP/Dem is all part of the dog ‘n pony Bait ‘n Switch show put on to keep we the people divided while the promoters of the show make away with all the profits.

    Again, enjoy your cake. It’s been real.

  6. Nice insight. “Not about correcting lies, just reporting on who does it best” or something like that. Clever.

  7. BTW, Frank. I think I actually agree with stupidcus here, although the post is so long and rambling I am not quite sure.

  8. Otherwise, that would be a fair cop 🙂 As usual with me, my quibble might be just that…a quibble. If you’re reading a novel, by definition a work of fiction, who is more fictional, the protagonist or the antagonist? By extension, if, and it’s a huge if, my cynical nature is correct (ye gads I *hope* not), if there really is a case of corporate overlords using a fake 2 party system as part of a divide and conquer strategy where both party mechanisms are complicit, which one is less of a fiction? In which case, at what point do truths uttered in the interest of the fiction actually partake of the greater lie?

  9. yes frank, I’m familiar with the “amused” thingy, and the conditions underwhich it is most commonly used. That’s right outta the troll playbook too. “Amused” about what, that someone picked your garbage apart? All I see is more dodging from you, apparently in an effort to put as much distance between you and the stench you left behind as possible, no?.

    I didn’t cry “foul” over anything but your intellectually shallow and dishonest injection of this

    1. I’m anti-right as well, but you cannot, in good conscience, discuss their ills without looking at Obama through the same jaundiced lens. What, it’s okay for him to order extra-judicial killings as long as he lets Biden dictate his gay marriage policy? That’s a trade-off you’re happy with? It’s okay to skip investigations into torture as long as he skips past universal care and puts birth control in the ACA? There’s far too many of these kinds of feel-good trade-offs that the establishment left lives with, as though somehow that gives them or their sitting murderer-in-chief the higher moral ground. Bah.
    garbage into it. Try as you might, you can’t distance yourself from your implying and worse, that in your pov, I was in violation of not using a “jaundiced lense”, which is made clear by the question

    What, it’s okay for him to order extra-judicial killings as long as he lets Biden dictate his gay marriage policy? That’s a trade-off you’re happy with? It’s okay to skip investigations into torture as long as he skips past universal care and puts birth control in the ACA?

    as if that was what I was doing with my focus on who the biggest and worst liars are. There’s no reason to even ask ME such stupid questions unless that was what you thought my thoughts on the subject of who the biggest and worst liars are indicated — a rationalization/tradeoff intended to serve as continued support for him no matter what crimes he commits. Who the biggest and worst liars has nothing to do with any “tradeoffs”, but rather only who the biggest and worst liars are. Why is such a simple concept taxing that big brain of yours so? Apparently you’re willing to assign faults/guilt where they are neither earned nor deserved in your tireless quest to make repubs identical to dems in all ways, no?

    Furthermore, any schoolchild could likely have discerned based on the content of this statement/declaration alone

    1. For example, as I argued it years ago, Bush would not have been able to sell his wmd lies if not for those told by Clinton before him, and more recently, it can’t be said that BHO’s use of the “they threatened to wipe Israel off the map.” line in the case of Iran is either truthful or helpful but in the context of gaining potential support an option that never left the table Bush left him.
    that my political/moral calculus would bar such, unless you’re willing to go further and baselessly assert that I approved of the Iraq War, and the one in Iran should it occur under BHO, or that I’d give him a pass I didn’t Bush or Clinton on their wmd lies.

    You therefore, as far as I am concerned, drew first blood of the ad hominem kind, which was dishonest and entirely baseless. I could give a shit less if they were couched in question form or not. There’s no reason to even introduce those questions into the lone context of political lying and the false equivalency that “both sides do it” BS represents, unless you saw what I was arguing for was exactly like a “trading-off” you’ve seen so many lefties do. There’s no other plausible explanation for the introduction of those questions other than that you were too stupid to know what I ONLY argued for, which was the idea that they don’t lie equally in terms of frequency or egregiousness. I’d be happy to accept and acknowledge either in your case, given that they are just about equally unflattering. You’re either suffering from an acute reading comp deficit, or are an assuming and paranoid ass that sees “trade-offs” in every defense of what BHO or the dems have or haven’t done of the positive kind.

    I’d bet you use pretty much the same garbage anytime anyone posts anything of the positive kind BHO or the dems have accomplished, which is essentially all I did here in the form of, “yeah they lie, but their lying isn’t really reasonably comparable to that which the rightwingnuts do and have long done, beyond the fact that they’ve both lied.” But for the record here, I find no consolation/solace in the fact that he hasn’t lied about his drone use or “kill list”, nor does he get any “trade-off” points from me.

    As one who has written and ranted about the good cop/bad cop/faux duopoly/janus-like condition in DC for as long as I have the political lying one, I find it highly doubtful you can enlighten me even the tiniest bit about anything pertaining to the matter — so stuff it.

    And sorry I’ve missed all that “rambling” you’ve no doubt done as the self-proclaimed verbosity champ.

    And for the record as well, I always enjoy my cake, and particularly that served up by would be highbrows who unwittingly make themselves the best witnesses to their own prosecution. Like trollhood, I learned a long time ago that rightwingnuts don’t have a monopoly on that behavior either.

    I’m an equal opportunity scalp-taker.

    Well done baldy.

  10. Last words I’ll waste on you, stupidicus. When you refer divisively to elements of the right wing exclusively as “rightwingnuts” (oh, so very clever of you), you are the one who drew first blood. To quote you, “you don’t know shit about me.” Maybe I’m one of them. Maybe I’m not. What I am is anti-right and anti-establishment left. Your speech is inherently divisive, proposing no solutions, and cutting only skin deep in search of the disease. You are part of the problem.

    As for trolling, I don’t often trot out my byline, but if you ever actually bother to read S&R, at least of late, you might notice that I’m a blogger here. I attract trolls, and occasionally feed them, as in this case, but am not of them.

    The only thing I can say in your defense is the narrow technicality of your correctness, as pointed out to me by otherwise, sort of. “Narrow technicality” is my own attribution for it. Do elements of the right wing lie more and more profoundly? Sure. None of that invalidates my observation, one you call false equivalence, that both party machines are part of the problem, ergo, the establishment left is as much part of the systemic lie, even while truth-telling, as is the right.

    I don’t need to try to school you and I’m intelligent enough to recognize a lost cause when I see one. Try not to choke on your cake. Maybe drinking more of your Kool-Aid(tm) will help with that. Dismissed.

  11. let me be frank frank. You being a blogger doesn’t mean crap to me. I’ve locked horns with many a legend in their own behind that thought that meant something, or was some kinda trump card that served as a bandaid after the fact.

    Meanwhile, here again we have you stupidly dodging and continuing to insist that I’m a rat turd eater, despite my having made it abundantly clear with the “good cop/bad cop, faux duopoly, janus-like condition” comment that we’re on the same page in terms of them both being problem children. The difference is, I don’t buy into the false equivalence that underlies your “systemic lie” BS.
    It simply isn’t needed to explain what is going on, but it no doubt appeals to you because you might have confused it with an “original” thought you had — like that’s likely.

    Do a top post on the matter so I can shred it, no?

    And in regards to your equally phony “devisive” charge, and suggesting that a response requires a “solution”, well, the post at the top of the page is divisive in its entirety, and you’d be the last I’d expect to understand any solutions even if I felt a need to provide one. And in the case of political lying, a schoolchild could figure that one out, which is why it’s unsurprising you needed one spelled out.