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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Why Politicians Lie

     Hillary Clinton once admitted that she sometimes takes public positions that are at odds with her private position. But, that's nothing new. Even going back to the founders of the U.S. Constitution some framers took public stances, on religion for example, that were at odds with their personal beliefs. Politicians sometimes lie to deceive people. Why do they do it? 
     Hypocrisy and doublespeak are tools that can be used to circumvent odious or illicit schemes or for their personal benefit. Or, lying can be used to try to protect national interests. We all do it every day to some extent...like agreeing with someone when we know they are wrong. 
     Once a politician makes their position or their true beliefs public, it's going to make special interest groups angry and they will start lining up opposition and telling their own lies to prevent a deal from being made no matter what the cost to the public. 
     It's the way things are. No making sacrifices for the public good. No matter how beneficial an idea may be, if it doesn't come from the “correct” source, some politicians will be against it.   
     They can often get away with telling lies because of public ignorance because their true views differ from the majority of the public's opinion. For example, most Americans have never read the Constitution, so have no idea what it says. Thus, in 1973 when Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion on one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in history, Roe v. Wade concerning abortion, he cited the 14th Amendment's right to privacy. 
     What is in the 14th Amandment? Section 1 makes it illegal to deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process of law or deny any person equal protection under the law. Tell that to the IRS who can just claim people owe so much in taxes and start confiscating assets without going through the courts. Section 2 pertains to electing representatives and Section 3 prohibits people who have been involved in treason from serving in the military or holding Federal office. Section 4 concerned the country's public debts. Where is privacy mentioned? 
     President Barack Obama lied about his position on same-sex marriage, but kept it secret until public opinion changed and he thought it was safe to reveal his true beliefs. 
     The public is usually ignorant of most politicians true views and voting record and wheelings and dealings and won't take the time to investigate. Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan argues that deception is OK if it prevents an ignorant or malevolent public from pushing through harmful or oppressive policies. Politicians know better than the public what's good for them. Short version: public ignorance makes lying an effective political strategy. 

Politicians believe lying is acceptable because: 
1) Many are narcissists, they have excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. They are arrogant, self-important, see themselves as special, have a sense of entitlement and are exploitative. 
2) They know their followers will believe them, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. The same can be said of televangelists. 
3) People often don’t want to hear the truth because it sometimes hurts. Who wants to hear things that threaten way of life, beliefs or makes them uncomfortable? 
4) One of the consequences of the internet is that information, true or not, is likely to be believed even in the face of contradictory evidence. Research has shown, for example, that people are more likely to believe unsubstantiated rumors about a political candidate they oppose when read on the internet. 
5) Cognitive bias is when people create their own "subjective social reality" from their perception of the input. It helps people reduce confusion and anxiety and keeps life simple. As a result, people seek out information that supports their preconceived notions and deny new information that challenges their established views. 
6) Politicians know that if a lie is told enough times, people will assume it is true. 

    Politicians lie when they believe that dishonesty is the best policy for getting elected. But, there may also be another reason. Many politicians are, well, old. Some are well into their 60s and 70s. In a recent study published in the journal Brain and Cognition some (but obviously not all) subjects aged 60-92 proved significantly more likely than younger people to accept as the truth a lie they had told less than an hour earlier. 
     The study claims older adults have more difficulty distinguishing between what's real and what's not; telling a lie scrambles older people's memory so they have a harder time recalling what really happened. The conclusion was lying alters memory and creates a new memory for something that didn't happen. So, it is possible some of these older politicians actually believe their ow lies.
     There is an easy way to tell if a politician is lying.  If words are coming out of their mouth, they are lying.

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