Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Culture of Lies?

A new year in Congress, and the Party of No keeps choosing lies instead of legislature. The latest campaign, in case you hadn’t caught up with the fabrication machine, is that Obama and his administration are “lawless,” so there’s hardly any point in passing laws.

Obama is lawless for three big reasons: 1) he just won’t enforce the current immigration laws;  2) as chief executive, he's delayed enforcement details of that Affordable Care Act  3) he’s become “King” and “Tyrant” by his overuse and promised continuing “rule by Executive Order.” A new year in Congress, and the Party of No keeps choosing lies instead of legislature.

Just a little fact-checking will reveal:  1) The Obama Administration’s enforcement of immigration law is as draconian, if not moreso, than the Bush Administration; 2) the GOP hates what they call “ObamaCare” and should actually applaud delays in its full implementation; 3) Obama uses constitutionally supported Executive Orders far less than Dubya, Clinton and Reagan. (1)  Politicians in both parties fabricate things, of course; but some have adopted it as a major lifestyle pattern. 

Why should we be surprised?

Sadly, perhaps tragically, we live in a culture awash with lies, a culture where style, strategy and effectiveness often take precedence over truthfulness; a media environment where the infamous “truthiness” — the plausibility of a report — too often rules.  Conservative SuperPAC fan Matthew Vadim, when challenged about the lies in attack ads, said that the ads mix "lies, scurrilous rumors and valuable information." What about the people who might be deceived? “It’s up to the viewers to sort it out.” What about the morality of such efforts? “Private organizations are free to try to influence government. One man’s sleaze is another man’s class.” (2)

Surely this is not what the Founders had in mind when the carved out a privileged space for a free press unconstrained by government control.

But it’s not just politics that is awash with lies. Just check out the customer complaints about all too many gadgets, devices and “bargain” goods and services featured in commercials on cable TV and notice the reports of deception, fraud, and corporate stonewalling about such reports.

And the result? 

The guy I hired to shovel the heavy snow this morning started expostulating about how Obama was destroying the Constitution by using "more executive orders than anybody ever." I told him Bush used more than Obama has, and so did Reagan. "I don't believe that." Just like that. "Don't believe it." I said he could check it out. "Don't believe it anyway." He listens to Fox News and Hannity.

This is what the nation is up against. Massive disinformation and so very many people who trust nothing but their own gut opinions, shaped by the confusing onslaught of "lies, scurrilous rumor and valuable information."

In the absence of trustworthy information, passions rule. Democracies are crippled, unable to deal with the challenges that really face them. And it becomes clearer why "Thou shalt not bear false witness" makes serious sense.



1. Charles Blow, "A Pen, a Phone and a Meme" in the New York Times, February 7, 2014.

2. The Daily Show, "Koch Blocked", February 5, 2014,


  1. I am completely in accord with this insightful column, Bob. Alas, the mainline networks are not much better than Fox. Watch the ABC Evening News sometime and you'll see at the top of the news the latest on Justin Bieber's antics, followed by what's the latest in dog training. Total pap. PBS is much better, even if still under the hegemony of corporate sponsorship. I find more balanced reporting from alternative public and Internet broadcasts, blogs and websites, among them Truthdig, AlterNet, Democracy Now, Common Dreams, and Truthout. And, of course, Al Jazeera. Responsible journalism isn't dead: it's just morphing into forms far removed from the vacuities and the cloaked and not-so-cloaked jingoism of the commercial networks.

  2. I agree completely. Maureen Dowd's column in the NYTimes today is a jeremiad against the corporate and entertainment corruption of editorial policy and the blurring of lines between commentary and reporting. The effect is to bury genuine attempts at accurate reporting under an avalanche of shoddy "news".