Worthwhile Reads: Politics and Lying


It’s long been a truism that politicians will say anything they have to to get elected. But it seems to me that this has been getting worse. It’s no longer about promising the moon in return for someone’s vote – it’s about flat out bald lying. So, I thought I’d collect together a number of interesting pieces I’ve read on this issue in recent weeks, both about politicians lying and about the media lying. I’ll finish by asking for your thoughts as to why this happens, and giving you space to add examples or articles of your own. So without further ado, here you are:

Mitt Romeny Tells 533 Lies in 30 Weeks, on The Slacktivist

“Mitt Romney says many, many things that are not true. He says this despite being in possession of the correct facts of the matter.

Which is to say that Mitt Romney lies. A lot. He lies more than any other national candidate for office in my lifetime. And I was born before the Nixon administration.

This is documented. Proven. Validated, verified, demonstrated, catalogued and quantified. Mitt Romney lies.”

We’ve Been Too Tolerant of Lying from Our Politicians, on Atheist Revolution

Fox New Lies with Infographic, on Dispatches from the Culture Wars

(I’m aware that this infographic isn’t technically a lie. However, it’s pretty clearly constructed in a conscious effort to mislead.)

What do you have to add? Your thoughts, reflections, experiences? Other examples of politicians lying, or other articles you’ve seen on this topic? Thoughts as to why this goes on, and how people get away with this?

One thought I’ve had is that as long as each side has its own sources of media and information and believes that the other side’s sources of media and information are lying, well, it becomes really easy for a politician to lie and get away with it, because his side will believe him and not listen to the fact checking of the other side. This also helps explain why the two sides have so much difficulty even understanding each other!

When Men Wax Poetic about My Womb
Dismantling Prejudice and Misconceptions
Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech
On Indiana
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.fromtwotoone.com from two to one

    The Fox News infographic reminds me of the quote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It’s a statistic, but they way they are manipulating it skews the truth beyond a reasonable conclusion.

  • Landon

    As I note for my Critical Reasoning classes, when there were only one or two newspapers in a given market and only three news programs competing for the entire viewer pool, no one outlet could afford to be too far outside of “the mushy middle,” which more-or-less amounts to something like objectivity (I’m hedging because, given a market that skews heavily in one direction or another, an actual commitment to the facts is not necessarily entailed). Now, since any given news outlet can hope for, at best, a small percentage of the total market (due to proliferation of choices), there’s no percentage in being “all things to all people” – that is, in treating things in an even-handed fashion. This has been true for a while, but politicians are catching on to the fact that we are nowadays separated into far more distinct, independent epistemic communities than ever before. They know that they can target a given epistemic community with messages that will be received as true without worrying about disconfirmation. Barton’s “Jefferson Lies” is an example of this failing, but note how it failed – it took someone from inside the epistemic community to disconfirm it. Barton overreached, but the contours of his failure show us just how far you can go, how much you can get away with, nowadays.

  • machintelligence

    My own personal opinion is that the democrats have become so tired of Mitt’s lies that they are giving him a dose of his own medicine.
    BTW The Mitt Romney quote about the growth of federal spending: “Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history.” is technically true. The fact that is the lowest pace is what he left out. I guess this is lying by omission.

    • machintelligence

      Sorry, the link is broken. Google “Calvin and Hobbes monsters under the bed” and click on the far right comic in the second row to see what I mean.

    • Christine

      Between search silos and different screen resolutions, that’s not a particularly helpful description. DO you mean http://jessica.mojblog.rs/p-calvin-and-hobbes/180716.html ?

      • machintelligence

        You found it! And your link works.

  • smrnda

    I’m not sure that both sides lie equally – that idea is one of those platitudes like ‘everybody lies sometimes’ or ‘there’s something wrong with both parties’ or ‘everybody is a sinner’ – technically true, but false in any meaningful way since I feel that these days one side is a far bigger offender. I read lots of left-wing sources and I note that they seem to (more often than not) start with facts and then do reporting and then express opinions after that. Fox News is just opinion with some quick sound-bytes and an occasional fact grabbed when it appears to be absolutely necessary, and no more.

    I think part of the reason for this is that people don’t believe in today’s conservative political platform because they think it will create a better society – it’s something you believe is good in and of itself regardless of the outcomes. You see this where a saying like “taxing the rich would hurt our economy” can quickly give way to “well, taxing the rich might save the economy, but it’s still wrong. Everybody is going to have to accept mass poverty, no health care and no money for education, and that’s that.” It’s something that people believe because it’s more “American.” If a person’s commitment to an ideology isn’t for intelligent, well-thought out reasons, it doesn’t take much to keep them persuaded and convinced.

    I wonder if there isn’t also the problem of intersection with religion. When I attended some churches as an experiment, I noticed that preachers said lots of anecdotes about miraculous healing, people’s lives being saved, people being raised from the dead (this always seems to happen in Africa) people who gave away all their money to the church on faith who became millionaires. What I realized was that the audience was eating this shit up with absolutely no better evidence than the world of the guy in front. He was playing for the ‘right team’ so he was trusted, regardless of how far fetched his stories were. Once people get conditioned to do this, it isn’t a stretch to accept anything they hear.

    Perhaps this is a smaller problem on the left because the left lacks the same type of propaganda apparatus in the States.

    • Anonymouse

      I had to travel recently for work, which meant eating breakfast in a hotel lobby, which meant being subjected to Fox “news” while I ate. I snapped after the breathless news that gasoline prices were higher that week than at any time in American history, and began loudly interjecting the truth after each lie. My fellow lobby-mates were not amused to hear the reality (that we were paying more for an entire spring/summer of Bush’s reign than now) and I did not make friends by shining the light on the slimy wriggling lies being told.

  • Rosie

    I’m starting to wonder if the Right is committed to attempting a utopian theocratic experiment on the USA. Just because it’s never worked before, anywhere it’s been attempted, doesn’t seem to be any kind of deterrent to them. Apparently, as with faith, if it’s not working it’s just because you’re not *trying* hard enough. Not because there’s a flaw in the premise…never that.

    • smrnda

      I’m sure you know enough history to know that there has never been a theocratic utopia – however, it seems that the idea that a theocratic utopia used to exist in the United States seems to be the main point behind a lot of Christian homeschool materials.

  • Carol

    Here is information on “The Big Lie” and how it’s used to manipulate.


  • Michael Busch

    Libby Anne,

    That infograph is right out of “How to Lie with Statistics” – which is still a good introduction to how to present and interpret data, even through it is almost 60 years old. I’m amazed and somewhat dismayed that the Fox graphics people thought they could get away with it.

  • Cathy C

    How many times has Obama lied??? He’s at least as bad or worse than Romney!!

    • machintelligence

      Using the Tu Quoque argument here will win you no points.

      Tu Quoque is a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. This is a classic Red Herring since whether the accuser is guilty of the same, or a similar, wrong is irrelevant to the truth of the original charge. However, as a diversionary tactic, Tu Quoque can be very effective, since the accuser is put on the defensive, and frequently feels compelled to defend against the accusation.