There is an old question and answer that has proved its significance over the ages and, with the advent of social media, has become far more pervasive.
Question: How can you tell when a politician is lying?
Answer: When he or she opens their mouth.
Funny, yes. True, also yes.
However, there’s something sinister about the fact that the listening public seems to almost accept that this is the normal state of affairs and therefore little or nothing is done about it. Even the media, with some exceptions, only report it as if it was what they expected. Their condemnation is almost half-hearted.
I have just endured two weeks of news reports on, and live coverage of, the two political conventions in the U.S; the Democratic National Convention last week and the Republican National Convention this week.
The fact that these conventions were conducted outside of the normal razzmatazz and circus environment of previous conventions brought some positives and some negatives: The speeches were much shorter without all the cheering and clapping, and the absence of hundreds of people in silly hats cavorting about on the convention floor were just two examples of the positive aspects of the new “Covid 19” format. The negatives for me were that the virtual environment, whether live of recorded, made you listen far more attentively to what the politicians, and their stooges, actually said.
I realise that that doesn’t sound like a negative so let me explain a little.
When speeches are made in a normal convention there is so much noise in the background that it is very easy to tune out and thus not catch the normal lies and miss-truths. However, when the atmosphere is almost sterile in comparison, you do actually listen, and that is worrying. It allows the politicians, if they are good at their jobs, to be far more sincere and believable.
That’s good, I hear you say. Yes and no.
If they are telling the truth, that’s good. If they are flat-out lying, that’s bad.
I had a discussion with my partner about what percentage of “lies to truth” came out of the presentations in the two conventions. It probably depends on your political bias but I would bet its over fifty per cent for both.
I then realized that even if we could actually quantify those percentages it really doesn’t make any difference to the end result of convincing the listener to support one party or the other. Convincing the audience all comes down to presentation, delivery and the background surroundings and environment.
Let’s assume for the moment that my saying above is true and the percentage of lies is 100% in both cases. How would we know, and does it make any difference?
I want to think about this dilemma further – more blogs – but in a democratic process where we have to choose one candidate/party over the other, it does bear some serious consideration.
Right now, I am tempted to say “the best showman/bull-shitter wins”, which is hardly a complement to democracy.