Lies, Damned Lies, and Political Promises

Most are probably familiar with the phrase ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics’ which was attributed by Mark Twain to the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, though that is open to debate. No matter, though. What you take from statistics is, to a degree, a subjective judgement, and you can find copious examples of data being interpreted to make a point, when others have made something completely different from the same material. The same creative subjectivity has always been true of politicians, but it seems to be an ever-increasing political currency.

that-busIn the UK our referendum vote on whether to leave the European Union was based, to my eyes, on two key factors. One was the nebulous phrases ‘let’s take back control’ and ‘taking our country back,’ which with the help of the right-wing press gradually morphed into a kind of racist distrust of anything and anyone ‘foreign.’ The other was the assertion that every week the UK kindly donated £350m to the EU, and that this sum of money could be far better spent on our National Health Service. They even plastered this all over a bus, in case we didn’t get the message clearly enough.

The recent US Presidential election was seemingly won on another nebulous phrase, in this case ‘make America great again.’ Define ‘great.’ Define when you think America was ‘great’ and what it might mean to take the country back to that time. Get my drift? I would also point to parallels to our £350m bus, but there were so many that we could be here quite some time.

One thing was common to both elections. The morning after our referendum, Nigel Farage – largely regarded as a racist clown jumping on the coat tails of real politicians – proved his credentials by saying that the £350m figure wasn’t really a promise, but had just been used as an illustration of what a post-EU Britain might look like. Yeah, right. Since ‘call me Mr Brexit’ won the US Presidency, his team have begun to disassociate him from some of his more extreme promises, describing them as just ‘campaign talk.’

Do they really think that we are so stupid that we don’t see these statements for what they are? Sadly, given the results, it appears that they do – and we are. But I’m not stupid. So, just to be clear, dear politicians, these aren’t illustrations or campaign talk: they are LIES. Big, bold, fat, pants on fire LIES.

Why do politicians need to lie to get what they want? Are their genuinely held beliefs so odd that we wouldn’t vote for them if they told us the truth? Let’s face it, some of the stuff Trump said during his campaign was so outrageously racist, misogynist, homophobic and xenophobic that if his real opinions are watered-down versions of these they are still pretty distasteful. But he found enough people willing to give him a chance. Both election results were seen as protest votes against the status quo, against politicians who had lost touch with the people they represented. That is probably true, but if the alternative is lies then I don’t want it.

Do real people, those who voted in these elections, base their lives on lies? I guess some do, but that isn’t my way. I believe in being honest and truthful, in being taken for who I am. You may not like me, but that’s your right and I accept that. But I could never live my life by lies: I have a conscience, and it would destroy me from within if I tried to do that. I have a conscience which prevents me from telling lies to get what I want. I have a conscience which prevents me from telling more lies – ‘I didn’t say that’ – when challenged on what I have said and done. I’m probably being naïve, but if politicians started to tell the truth they would be much more likely to get my vote. You can always tell when a politician is lying – it is when their lips are moving. It’s time for some truth and honesty. But the cynic in me says that it won’t happen. Over to you, politicians: prove me wrong.

 

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37 thoughts on “Lies, Damned Lies, and Political Promises

  1. Glad you managed to fit a nice holiday in between the work and the horrors of the political world. Hopefully our worst fears won’t be realised – but maybe I’m clutching at straws! France also seems to be moving to the right and I expect Germany will follow. Best just to concentrate on doing things right in our own lives, I think 😊

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  2. Hi Clive, Playing a little catch up here as we are “vacationing today” from packing, sorting, and downsizing! I agree with so much above, but I am not sure if it is isn’t a chicken and the egg deal because I think to some degree we incentivize politicians lying. So many Americans, as Clare has said, wanted the kool-aide. In fact so badly did they want it that if Trump had said it was poison, they would have drunk it anyway. They wanted the lie, the Big Lie, and they wanted to believe the lie enough that they voted for him.

    Many of them knew he was a liar. They believed he “didn’t mean it” about the wall. They believed his personality was over the top, his racist, misogynist, views were exaggerations, that climate change exists, that he didn’t really intend to “lock her up” or leave NATO, that he was in effect a liar…but they wanted the “GREAT” America where the economy was soaring, getting a job easy, where union jobs equaled hard work, but big pay, overtime, time and a half, the blue collar equivalent of Wall Street bonuses for the “little guy.” They wanted to believe those jobs went away because of regulations, and poor governance and can be easily brought back. They are like the woman who knows the man she met is lying, is a cheat, and a womanizers, but so desperately wants to fall in love she swallows lie after lie and keeps whispering, “Lie to me.”

    What I think really scares me the most about the lying is, I don’t think they will “wake up” and insist the system of big pharma and Wall Street golden parachutes and bonuses for failing execs is ended. I think they will know they embraced the con job and justify whatever idiocy he does, that they will keep drinking the kool-aide and want the rest of us to say it is champagne, and Trump will smile as he walks to the bank and deposits all the patronage and graft he collects.

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    • Hi Jo, hope everything has gone well with your move and you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

      I fear that you are absolutely right about people wanting to believe in what they were being offered, and being prepared to accept the ‘campaign talk’ to do so. The problem is in determining which are exaggerations, which are ‘promises’ that will never be kept, and which are outright lies. There is something masochistic about wanting to be cheated, I think. There is also something very stupid about it: if you suspect that it is all just the bluster of an election and are being offered no substance to back up vague slogans, how can you give your vote away to it?

      It happened here too, with the referendum. People believed the lies and the campaign talk, which the Leave campaign began to disavow before the votes had all been counted. You had ‘Make America Great Again,’ we had ‘Let’s Take Our Country Back.’ There is no possible means of judging the success of those who have won on these statements, they are both just empty rhetoric for the gullible masses to lap up.

      Trump has already started to show how little the office of POTUS means to him, other than as another way to make money. I think his reaction to the SNL parody last week is because he realises that, for him, it is too close to the truth to be funny. I can only hope that the masses realise they have been conned and get rid of him at the earliest opportunity, before he has the chance to do real damage to the US and the world. The fact that his Veep is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun is no comfort either!

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      • You are so right, Clive! Every now and again I just shake my head and think this despicable buffoon can’t possible have been elected. (Baldwin has done such a perfect job lampooning him on SNL) And when friends insist with all his business conflicts he will certainly be impeached, I remind them that Pence would merely be a nightmare of another sort. We did have a nice holiday and now back to packing like fiends! I’m sort of glad for the hard work and need to focus so I don’t have to think about what is coming! Got to go drop into bed, pretty tired from packing. Jo

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  3. My husband commented just before the election last week that the fact is that anyone who courts high office is likely the sort of person you would despise in any other circumstances. Lies are part of that equation. A big part. For things to change, the electorate has to take to heart that you can follow men and women of decency and integrity but that they are most likely not the greatest orators, not the most charismatic – Mother Theresa springs to mind – but simply those that really do have the interests of the masses at heart. Until then, we will be sold down the river again and again and it makes me both angry and sad.

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    • I agree 100% with you and your husband. The two main candidates last week were hideous, and the same could be said for most of our politicians too. I think this has really taken off in the days of mass media, of instant news coverage, and particularly with social media. The few who genuinely care aren’t sufficiently strong as an attraction to get the coverage. Bombast and lies win elections, as the public en masse are easily led. I despair!

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      • I too blame the media (horribly biased here which backfired on them in the grand style) and social media (which fuelled the victors campaign). Everyone has become an expert all of a sudden. And the more outrageous the claims the more traction they have in this instant gratification world. This is why I crave a life of hermitude. Not because I don’t like people (I do) but because I can’t stand the noise and nonsense …. it’s all so blazingly obviously lies and yet the Pied Pipers toot their tune and the lemmings trample one another to follow. Depressing my father would have said, wholly depressing.

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      • Our media are biased too, and though we’ve always had them we had some especially racist headlines during and since the referendum. The trouble is that a lot of people believe what they read – it’s in the paper so it must be true. It seems we’ve lost the ability to think for ourselves. As you say, that’s depressing.

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      • I know British media is just as bad and I would say that it has been declining for the last couple of decades. My father died 13 years ago and was already getting irate with the BBC then and threatening regularly to change his daily paper. The issue is that people believe what they read and that has become worse with Social Media – people sharing stuff blithely without considering where it came from, who wrote it and often taking things out of context. Fancy starting a movement? Media for people who consider the issues fairly? It’s a thought – my other thought is that I will live out my life off-grid. It seems achingly enticing just now ….

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      • The BBC is an interesting case. It gets criticised from both sides, which probably means it’s doing an ok job at getting balance! Not so the likes of the Mail, Express and Sun, whose racism is often borderline fascist. But people lap it up! That suggests to me that we are becoming less tolerant and liberal generally, which is very sad. I’m not sure that there is much appetite for a movement of moderation and tolerance, to be honest! Going off grid does have its attractions at present.

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      • My very first job was on Fleet Street at the start of the 1980s. A very talented journalist asked me this question ‘who are the best writers on Fleet Street’ …. I replied that The Times was actually based on High Holborn, could I include it. He ignore my facetiousness and said ‘The Sun is where you find the best writers. The Star when it takes off will also have some of the best writers. You need to listen, young lady – I asked about writers, not journalists. These are people who know how to appeal to their readers. Theirs has nothing to do with the facts’. I have never forgotten those words. I would like to believe that Aunty Beeb gets it right but I think one needs to err cautiously even with her.

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      • Cynical, but it proves the old adage ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story.’ I take your point about the BBC. I guess the question is whether news reporting can ever be free from any kind of bias – it is presented by (mostly) sentient humans, who have their own viewpoint, and this must colour their reporting, surely?

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    • Maybe something was needed, but despite the American public’s willingness to believe it he isn’t really a true representative of working people, is he? Just another greedy, self-centred businessman only interested in making money. Plus ça change….

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      • Exactly. He is appalling in every way and a threat to international stability. My hope is that having got someone SO awful, thinking Americans will say ‘enough is enough’ and do something about a system that allowed it to happen, and allows the NRA, HMOs, pharmaceutical companies etc to dictate American domestic policy. I don’t trust politicians further than I can throw them, but I do think your system (and mine) has more chance of keeping the bastards honest. Just for a start, the judiciary is firmly separated from politics.

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      • I think the American system does need to change, particularly the Electoral College. But a businessman who will have massive conflicts of interest isn’t the right person for the job. The likes of the NRA will get stronger under him. I hope you’re right, and that there enough thinking Americans in the right positions to effect change. As you say, an independent judiciary would be a good starting point.

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  4. Sadly, the US is a country where many of our citizens don’t see through the lies – and worse don’t see how devastating the results can be when they blindly follow a liar. I call them the Kool Aid addicts and I wrote about this in a recent post where I mention the cult leader, Jim Jones. His followers drank poisoned Kool Aid and worse, gave it to their children. Trump’s followers metaphorically have done much of the same in my estimation. But a loud voice of reason has come rising out of all of this and I don’t think he’s going to shut us up real soon. Hopefully, we’ll be listened to before too much damage is done.

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