September 30, 2010

Time Wasters: Lying Part 1

“I'm not upset that you lied to me,
I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche
Buon giorno. Yours truly is a bit wired today, and ready to give you a couple of lessons on lying. Yes, two: First, some explanation on what lying really means (and doesn't mean), and second, why it's counterproductive.

"Why do people lie, Uncle Bob?"

Some are compulsive liars and cannot help themselves. It may be that the truth is unflattering to them, so they have to make themselves look better than they really are. Sometimes it's because they are selfish and greedy, so if lying is a means to an end, that's fine with them. Further, people who are consumed with hate will say anything to hurt the object of their ire.

The intent to deceive is an integral part of lying. Lying has several aspects:
  • The obvious, flat-out lie. "Did you come in a half an hour late to work?"..."No..." Also, there was a "scientist", obviously a fraud, who posted a comment about my article on evolutionary fakes. In one part, he said that he examined the fraudulent Piltdown Man. Either he did it behind the ropes in a museum, or he is about 130 years old!
  • Deliberately skewing information and leaving out pertinent data that would give a more complete, or even different, result.
  • Selective citing of quotes. Be careful with this one, because sometimes quotations are appended to give a more complete picture and you can be accused of "quote mining". (This is common with evolutionists who abhor having their heroes showing doubt about their belief system.) Quoting from the middle of a paragraph or taking only a few sentences from an article out of context is typical of yellow journalism; it's disingenuous at best, and can often be dishonest. (Note that saying something like, "This sentence caught my attention. It seemed at odds with the rest of the story" seems safe enough.) The principle applies to changing quotes as well — if you're deliberately changing a quotation or tampering with it, you're a liar.
  • Implying. Closely related to the above. You can simply not bother to check out information that is readily available. For instance, "The author claims that he wrote about steam engines, but I could find no such article". Well, sure, if you only looked at the current page of the Weblog, or did not bother to do a search under the author's name and the topic. Did you ignore the link that was provided? A more honest remark would be, "...I did not find the article in my brief search." If you are implying that the author or speaker is a liar and you "support" your claim with implication (and incomplete research), you are the liar, Lawrence.
  • Assigning a motive. You don't know what is in someone's heart or mind "on the fly". For instance, I heard a Bible teacher that said he was not going to give the background support for the doctrine of the Trinity. This was because he was going to discuss a different topic, and the Trinity had to be a "given". If you say, "He skipped the proof for the Trinity 'cause he can't prove it at all!" If you pull a stunt like that, you're a liar, not him.
  • Leaving out important information. "Hey, I didn't lie!" When omitting facts to mislead someone, yes you did lie. This often includes "half truths".
  • Withholding the truth. If you know the truth and it makes a difference, you're essentially lying.
  • Playing word games. Messing with the meanings, deliberately misunderstanding what someone is saying, "typo pouncing" &c. It's an attempt to give an errant perception.
  • Putting words into someone's mouth. This can be tricky, too. One one hand, there is the "Ray is a homophobe", a complete and deliberate misrepresentation of the contents of the article. The other way is to quote a line in question and saying, "This seems homophobic to me".
  • Establishing arbitrary rules. This one was brought home to me when I was "informed" that Weblog comments are indeed a place for lengthy dissertations and off-topic discussions. However, it was not the "owner" of the Weblog that made this statement, it was from a troll looking to find an excuse for an argument. Sorry, Princess, making up your own rules, especially when you do not have any authority, is dishonest.
Lying is also disrespectful to the hearer or reader because you are saying, in effect, "I do not trust you to make your own decisions, so I will manipulate you into thinking what I want you to think."

Some things that lying is not:

No, I lied, I'm not going to continue right now. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of this. (OK, it's tomorrow now. Part 2 is here, if it's not on the same page as Part 1.)


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