Lies are easy; truth is painstaking

July 14, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More

Here is perhaps the biggest challenge facing democracy today: Telling lies is often much easier than establishing the truth. This parallels physical construction, where destroying a building is much easier than building it.

I’m going to pick on conservatives here, because this is where the problem most often and most saliently occurs these days (consider the track records of FOX News, for instance, or Michelle Bachmann). When conservatives lie (or palter or recklessly repeat falsehoods), it takes substantial time and effort to set the record straight. That work of setting things straight often involves tracking down primary sources, and it often requires rehabilitating the credibility of the smeared parties. When this repair work is done well in writing, it involves lots of research, ample linking and especially clear writing. The work required to damage truth is so much less than maintaining truth that I would propose that the smear campaigns run by 5% of the population are usually capable of incapacitating the other 95%.

I’d like to point to a recent example from Missouri, where Dana Loesch, an entirely unself-critical conservative radio host affiliated with the Tea Party, in concert with other conservatives, spewed lies that almost cost two university professors their jobs. Both the lies and the truth have been well-documented by Adam Shriver of St. Louis Activist Hub. Shriver goes well beyond getting the facts straight in other articles he has written–he has given important context to the facts–something that a major St. Louis newspaper failed to do. Setting the record straight also required excellent work by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

So the battle goes on, and the forces of truth will be fighting at a major disadvantage because they carry the burden of establishing the truth. They will be working longer and harder to keep things accurate, and even when they successfully document and refute the lies of conservatives (as they did here), there will be no time to celebrate, because those who intentionally lie, or who are reckless with the truth, will have moved on to promulgate new falsehoods.

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Category: Media, Propaganda

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    I think lying is just the tip of the iceberg. I've been thinking a lot lately about how Democrats seem to spend a whole lot of their time fixing the screw-ups that Republicans leave in their wake. From environmental messes and financial meltdowns, to unnecessary wars, healthcare insurance crises, (un)equal rights for ______ (women, minorities, homosexuals…), prayer and Creationism in school, global warming, Hurricane Katrina cleanup, failed criminal justice systems (just to name a few), the list of Republican-created wreckage is as long as anyone wants to make it. Meanwhile, Democrats turn out programs that work. Or, at least, would work if Republicans wouldn't deliberately sabotage them.

    I heard a great quote on the radio this week. The person, referring to the current refusal of Republicans to agree to any reasonable solution to the national debt limit problem, said, "At his inauguration, Republicans handed President Obama the biggest poop sandwich in U.S. history, and now they want to take away the bread." It seems the only thing Republicans care about is protecting their own sense of entitlement, and they couldn't care less about the destruction they cause (to the nation, to the planet, to any non-Republican) to do so. Meanwhile, Democrats work to end wars; end discrimination; clean the air, land and water; feed the hungry; educate the young; house the poor; heal the sick….

    Lying is just the tip of a contemptible Republican iceberg.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Many of the conservative legislators take their marching order from the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC) which describes itself as "the nation's largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators".

    In reality, ALEC is a power super PAC representing about 2000 of the biggest global corporations which develops model legislation that furthers the objectives of of its member companies.

    ALEC has been behind the attacks on health care, workers wights, womens reproductive rights, financial regulation and oversight. They also promote the no tax on the rich and austerity for the poor legislation, for a good reason.

    One of the noted effects of a default on the federal debt would result in effectively moving the debt from a triple A rating to someting in line with subprime lending, with a substantial increase in the interets rates. By forcing a default, the global banks will effective be able to levy a huge private tax on all working class Americans.

    The most believale lies are the lies we want to believe. A governor signs a state bill for tax incentives to a corporation to relocate its headquarteds to his state, believing the corporation will create more jobs in the state, but when the corporation createa 1009 jobs in the state, and creates 50,000 jobs in China, while lost tax revenue results in downsizing state civil service workforce by 5,000 workers, making the government less efficient, increasing the unemployment by a net of 4000 workers, then something is terribly wrong.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    As I reported 3½ years ago in Counterknowledge and the Web, the forces of disinformation are ingenious and tireless. We now have a world where no one stands between most people and promulgators of all flavors of ideas to cry "Balderdash" or "Shenanigans" when sources are suspect.

    Sure there are plenty of information filters. But for every Britannica or peer reviewed journal, there are hundreds of Drudges, Foxes, and Discovery Institute sites telling their flocks of sheeple what to believe. And more importantly, to distrust fact-based first-sources in favor of emotionally appealing explanations that require no depth of understanding.

    For example, an acquaintance recently sent me a long list of links in support of his (ultimately correct) assertion that camels came from North America. I'd been sure that the Camelids had evolved in South America. But most of his links were from very suspect (i.e: chronically wrong) sources, like the Institute of Creation Research (Young Earthers) and Yahoo Answers (who pay by the number of questions answered, with no penalty for false answers). The most reliable link he sent was from a National Park site. So I Googled for some actual archaeology sites to confirm his contention.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    I'm often resentful that I need to spend substantial time setting the record straight, but it helps me to remind myself that this is all part of my job to the extent that I strive to be a trusted source of information.

    I'm still on vacation in Europe–my daughter and I are now in London. We spotted the following sign, that I would like to adopt to symbolize the work necessary to setting the record straight by digging for credible links.

    <img src="http://dangerousintersection.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/IMG_2299.jpg&quot; alt="" />

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Grumpy: I agree with you that the misinformation is the tip of the iceberg, but I am at wits end with the Democrats too. I'm picking on the Republicans because their lies tend to be more egregious, and more warped by their warmongering and sanctimonious alleged religiosity.

    But i have very little respect left for most Democrats these days. I'm not as appreciative or optimistic about their motives as you appear to be.

  6. Tim Hogan says:

    I'm drafting an initiative petition to have anyone who votes or declares themselves to be a Republican to be drug tested! Republicans get all sorts of personal and corporate welfare and that makes it OK to mandate they be drug tested weekly. The cost will be assessed to each Republican who fails the weekly drug test, which is likely all of them because Republicans have to be on drugs to support more and bigger tax giveaways to corporations and the super rich as well as destroying Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid!

  7. grumpypilgrim says:

    I get really concerned when Erich is more cynical than I am. Indeed, today's Democrats are often not what they used to be. There's been a great tilt toward conservatism in politics over the last 2-3 decades, and much more so in the past decade. Intolerant, extremist Christians have successfully infiltrated the Republican Party and driven it far, far to the Right of where it was under Reagan, and even where it was when George Jr. took office. Lies, myth-building and doctrinal rigidity seem to be standard operating procedure for these people. Meanwhile Democrats have struggled. I believe their motives are still good, for the most part, but that they have struggled to remain a party of inclusion and problem-solving in the face of rabid exclusion and deliberate problem-making. I say deliberate because, for example, Republicans seem delighted that Obama has spent virtually his entire term just trying to fix the huge problems left by the previous administration, and today they delight in creating more of the same.

    Which leads me to conclude that Democrats, despite having what I think are mostly good intentions, are up against some vicious, determined, deceitful people. Perhaps some of it is bound to rub off. My hope, and belief, is that there is still a core of good intentions left among Democrats and that, eventually, as they notch up some successes, history will provide enough convincing evidence that the Republican liars can be, if not silenced, at least pushed a little back on their heels.

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