Lies and more lies. Politics, am I right? Dan Ariely, author of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves (2012), has stated, “It turns out that people want their politicians to lie to them — people view politics as a means to an end, and if they care about the ends, they’re willing for the means to be a little bit more crooked” (Jesse Singal, The Cut).
But it’s not just about politics. Ariely also believes that virtually everyone lies. Yael Melamede‘s 2015 documentary (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies, which featured Ariely’s research and insights, drew this review headline from Anna Pulley, Village Voice: “Dishonesty Reminds Us That Our Pants Are Still On Fire.”
“Perhaps most interestingly,” says Pulley, “(Dis)Honesty shows us how we rationalize that mendacity.”
And some lies are worse—way worse—than others. Dennis Harvey, Variety:
Any era is a good one for liars, but folks on every point of the moral or political spectrum are likely to agree: We are living in a fibbers’ renaissance. As Yael Melamede’s documentary notes, various bendings of the truth have among other things recently led us into war, crashed the economy, and allowed potentially catastrophic despoiling of the planet to continue more or less unchecked.
You might be thinking right about now that politicians are the worst? Well, apparently bankers top them, says Ariely.
Pamela Meyer, acknowledging we live in a “post-truth society,” speaks with authority on this subject. Her 2010 book is called Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception. She uses a 5-step BASIC method to ascertain whether someone is lying or not (Baseline behavior; Ask open-ended questions; Study the clusters; Intuit the gaps; Confirm).
Things would be a whole lot better, of course, if more people told the truth in the first place. Author/neuroscientist Sam Harris, has a brief 2011 Kindle book called Lying, in which he…
…argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. He focuses on ‘white’ lies—those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort—for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process.
Selected quotes from Lying:
A wasteland of embarrassment and social upheaval can be neatly avoided by following a single precept in life: Do not lie.
Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.
By lying, we deny others a view of the world as it is. Our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make—and in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) remains one of the foremost authorities on lying and truth-telling. He pointed out one of the most practical aspects of lying:
If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
And that should be a strong enough incentive, don’t you think?