Monday, September 19, 2011

"Bald-faced" Lies

I recently heard someone accuse Republicans of “bald-faced lies.” In my endless but largely futile quest to understand Republican behavior I asked my wife what a bald-faced lie was. She said it was when a person said something they knew was a lie but said it anyway. She also suggested I “google” it. I did:

“The original term seems to have been bald-faced (bare-faced) and refers to a face without whiskers. Beards were commonly worn by businessmen in the 18th and 19th century as an attempt to mask facial expressions when making business deals. Thus a bald-faced liar was a very good liar indeed, and was able to lie without the guilt showing on his face.

The more correct term is "bald-faced lie" or "bare-faced lie" (bare is more common in Great Britain). It refers to a "shameless" or "brazen" lie. One where the teller does not attempt to hide his face while telling it.”

I found this a rather strange definition. First, I find it hard to believe our ancestors grew beards in order to cheat one another in business deals. While that could have been one function of a beard I do not believe it could have been the motive for the widespread male practice of having a beard (interestingly enough it could explain why women were not very successful in business in those days, but this is just silly speculation). I also do not find the teller not attempting to hide his/her face very useful. It does not seem feasible to me that anyone would attempt to hide their face while telling a lie as that would probably be self defeating. I like my wife’s definition better.

However, when I try to analyze various Republican statements using her definition (or any definition) I find it difficult to decide what they truly mean. You know there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. There are also white lies, innocent lies, lies told out of compassion, and of course, bald-faced lies. I think we can easily dismiss white, innocent and lies of compassion when speaking of Republican lies. That leaves us with lies, damn lies, statistics, and bald-faced lies. They seem to have mastered all of these forms.

But how do you know when a Republican is telling a bald-faced lie? Probably when he or she opens their mouth, but perhaps that is unfair and rather begs the question. When, for example, Mitch McConnell says we can’t raise taxes on the rich because they are the job creators, how do you know whether he actually believes that or not? Unless you believe he is completely stupid you have to believe he is knowingly telling a lie because the evidence is quite clear that this “trickle down” theory is bogus and we know it has not worked as claimed. Similarly, when Rick Perry announces that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and an outrageous lie, you have to believe he is incredibly stupid and believes that, or he is only saying it to win support for his election (but that would be also incredibly stupid). As Social Security has been a very successful program for over seventy years it is hard to believe Perry does not know that and is, therefore, telling us a bald-faced lie.

It is not always so easy to understand when someone is lying. Michelle Bachmann, for example, claiming that the vaccine causes mental retardation. She might believe that or she might not. But she didn’t actually claim that connection, merely that a woman told her that. Thus she didn’t actually lie, but she did imply something for her own political purpose that was of questionable veracity. I guess when she reports that god wants her to run for the Presidency she probably believes that. Thus it is from her point of view, as well as ours, not a lie at all, but from the standpoint of reality just a form of psychobabble. When she claims her husband does not attempt to cure people of homosexuality, but the evidence is clear that he does, she is telling us a bald-faced lie, unless of course she has no idea what she is talking about, always a possibility with her.

Some candidates seem to use bald-faced lies more readily and more often than others. When Mitt Romney claimed he had been a hunter “all his life” it was an obvious bald-faced lie as he had only hunted twice and did not have a hunting license. When he claimed to have created jobs when Governor, when in fact he had not, it was, again, an obvious bald-faced lie. Romney’s reputation as a flip-flopper rests largely on the accumulation of the all-too-obvious bald-faced lies he has told. It is usually obvious when he is telling a whopper, not because of the look on his face but by the eagerness with which he blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind, like, for example, when he blurted out that we needed to expand Guantanamo.

Then, of course, there are the obvious bald-faced lies Republicans have put out from time to time about President Obama. He was not born in the U.S., he did not have a birth certificate, he’s a Muslim, he’s a socialist, he’s not one of us, and so on. Most everyone recognized these as bald-faced lies except for the few fanatics that are willing to believe anything negative about Obama. Lies over time do take a toll on public opinion, whether bald-faced or not. How many Republicans do you think truly believe global warming is a hoax? How many truly believe that raising the tax three percentage points is going to destroy jobs? How many believe that “Obamacare” is a socialist plot? But they repeat these lies over and over again as part of the Republican litany of lies and they, with perhaps a few insane exceptions have to know they are not true. Virtually the entire Republican platform rests on the repetition of bald-faced lies. Bush/Cheney knowingly performed them repeatedly without hiding their faces or growing beards, without apparent shame or regret, and their legacy is with us still. They lied so repeatedly and so shamelessly people came to assume that if they were talking they were lying. Does anyone believe they did not know they were lying? Virtually everyone on earth knew they were lying but very few ever challenged or exposed them. Bald-faced lying has become the hallmark of Republicanism and goes unchallenged by their owned and operated MSM. Bush/Cheney set an example that has been eagerly adopted by other Republicans, it has become all too true that you know they are lying as soon as they open their mouths. Is it possible they have told these lies so often they have come to believe them? No, they are only serving their international corporate masters who apparently believe nations are now expendable.

Now that President Obama has announced his plan to reduce the deficit, and there are only some 13 months until the election, prepare yourselves for a hurricane of dishonesty, bald-faced lies, invective and false information unmatched since the rise of the Third Reich that will make the Swift Boaters look like Pollyanna and drive us further along the road to premature oblivion.

He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying.

Michel de Montaigne

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