Liar Liar Pants on Fire!


by Roxanne Tellier

When we’re kids, we’re terrible at telling lies. You can spot a kid that’s telling a tall tale a mile away, because they’re just not great at deceiving others.

Deception and lying are all part of a cognitive understanding called a Theory of Mind. That’s the realization that we all have our own knowledge, beliefs and opinions … that development informs us that we all have different minds.

Over time, we learn to tell ‘social’ lies, the fibs that get us through our days. “How are you today?” the cashier asks us, and we cheerily inform her that we’re just fine, despite the screaming headache we’re trying to ignore. Or someone asks if they look good in their new coat, and we tell them they look amazing.

pinochioSalespeople lie a dozen times a day, or if not lie, at least they’ll minimize the defects of an item, and maximize it’s benefits. We lie on our resumes, and on our dating profiles .. at least a titch … and we lie when we want to look smarter or more informed than we really are.

Peer pressure and our need to fit the perceptions and expectations of others drives a lot of the lying. We want to look good to others, and to do so, we often have to ‘enhance’ our reality.

We lie to avoid the consequences of mistakes, we lie to buy time, we lie to spare other people’s feelings. We may be lying for all the right reasons, but we’re still lying.

All of that lying comes at a cost. What we really crave is honesty, or at least the belief that someone is being honest; complete honesty is the access to ultimate power. When we feel that a person is telling us the truth, we hand over our power to their keeping. We believe that they have our best interests at heart, and, in effect, must be better people than we assume ourselves to be.

But trust is a fragile thing. And even if the person who broke that trust tells us with sweet words and warm embraces that our trust was broken for a very good reason … once we no longer trust, we can no longer cling to a faith in the person that has broken the code of truth.

And when you pile lie upon lie upon lie … the very foundations of a relationship proves to be built upon quicksand. Not a great thing if it’s in a romance, but if that relationship is between a nation, and it’s leader, there’s an enormous price to pay, and it’s a dangerous place for a nation – or a planet. Especially a planet where Pinocchio demands absolute fealty, constant attention, and has the codes to a nuclear football.

“On January 20, Trump’s truthful hyperboles will no longer be relegated to the world of deal making or campaigning. Donald Trump will become the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world, the man charged with representing that nation globally—and, most importantly, telling the story of America back to Americans. He has the megaphone of the White House press office, his popular Twitter account and a loyal new right-wing media army that will not just parrot his version of the truth but actively argue against attempts to knock it down with verifiable facts. Unless Trump dramatically transforms himself, Americans are going to start living in a new reality, one in which their leader is a manifestly unreliable source.” Politico, January 1, 2017.

There’s a crushing irony in Trump, who promised to be the ‘law and order’ president, who has racked up a blinding total of over 6000 lies since taking office, telling Americans and the world that he believes the words of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who denies having been involved in the murder of U.S.-based, Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

don't lie to meBelieves MbS, may I add, over the findings of his own CIA, the actual tape of the screams of the man being murdered, and the fact based reality that nothing happens in the Kingdom of the Saud’s without the leader having full knowledge of all actions taken in his kingdom, and in his name.

I’m sure it’s not only those of us who are parents or grandparents that smelled the aroma of defensive lies well before they were fully baked in Trump’s oven of hypocrisy. He did, after all, begin cooking them up even before the Saudi’s had had a chance to properly season those lies with the blood of their tortured and murdered victim.

Kids lie because they have no power. They lie to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. But leaders have ALL of the power; if what they are doing or proposing is in the best interest of those they lead, there’s no need to hide their words or deeds. Trump’s deep dish lying is only necessary when there’s double dealing, corruption, and personal greed afoot.

But then again, Trump has a lot of practice in both the telling of, and the swallowing of, lies. He’s essentially based his entire presidency and legacy on a roiling sea of tall tales, myths, innuendo, misrepresentations, denigrations of truths, and lie after lie after lie. And his claims are usually at the expense of those whose sole mission in life is to present truths – be it the CIA, the FBI, or the free press.

He’s denied that Russia had any interest in putting him into office, even as witnesses, texts, and chains of emails come to light proving his collusion. No matter what proof is laid on the table, Trump, that sly dog, manages to twist and turn the truth, until his base can be convinced that there’s no smoking gun of evidence, just a ‘light’ claim of wrong doing that he denied at the time, but that if you look at it from his point of view, was never wrong doing, and even if it was, it wasn’t a crime and certainly not illegal .. and hey presto! There’s your new normal … a candy coated lie that everyone wants under the tree at Christmas.

The Teflon coating of Trump’s America is nothing but a veneer of protective lies. Just ask special counsel Mueller, who’s spent the better part of a year and a half exposing the lies of 45’s cronies, lies that come to them as easily as breathing. Or ask those he’s caught in those lies, those that once swore utter loyalty to the Father of Lies, in exchange for a sniff of power … Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn, to name but a few.

Whether it was lying about the paying off of sex scandals, the fiddling of campaign finances, or Russia’s involvement and meddling into the 2016 election, and whether it was for power, loyalty, or reasons we may never understand, Trump’s ex besties will be paying a steep price for lying to federal authorities.

Yes .. I’m aware that all presidents lie. The difference here, though, is the frequency, and the intent .. Nixon, Reagan, Clinton... no question that they were caught lying, in attempts to protect their reputations.

But Trump seems to lie because he just can’t help himself. There’s no matter so small that he can’t find a lie inside it; during the campaign, PolitiFact found that he lied 70 percent of the time. It’s knee-jerk, it’s just what he does … George Washington could not tell a lie, Trump cannot tell a truth.

(anecdotally, Trump once told his butler, Anthony Senecal, that the tiles in a nursery at MarALago‘s West Palm Beach club had been made by Walt Disney himself. Knowing that was false, Senecal protested. Trump’s response was: “Who cares?”)

He is the Boy that Cried Wolf. Many of us can no longer believe anything he says, ever.

Even the most brilliant human brain can only cope with so much misinformation. For the majority of us, we’re easily overwhelmed with a flood of false statements. Our coping mechanism soon becomes overburdened, and ultimately, we begin to absorb the disinformation as a new reality, no matter how implausible those statements may be.

yes masterAnd Trump is also the master of another form of lying, so insidious that most people don’t even see it coming …he practices ‘illusory truth,‘ … the sheer repetition of the same lie until it begins to register as truth in our minds, and even causes the actual reality and truth to be erased from our memories.

Keep repeating a lie and it begins to seep into our minds as truth. Say it enough, and we’ll no longer be able to recognize truth at all.

Worse still, our efforts to refute those lies only serves to solidify the lies as truths. The brain can’t parse out a phrase like, “it’s not true that all migrants are gangsters.” Instead, it filters out the first part, and seizes upon the second as what is important. Refutations and retractions will do nothing to change judgments and decisions we make based upon false information.

I wish that I could tell you that there is an easy way to change the minds of those who have absorbed this administration’s lies and misinformation and made those deceptions into core beliefs. But I cannot. In point of fact, the processing of all of this false information has physically altered the minds of the ‘true believers’ as surely as those of religious cultists. They literally cannot hear any information that does not correlate to what they have accepted as truth.

The base of Trump’s followers will not willingly drop their acquired values; they are far more likely to double down on their emotional connection to the lies than to hear statements that belie what they have come to consider gospel. Trump’s base will have to be ‘deprogrammed’ by someone able to reshape their minds. We can only hope that whomever comes along to do so, has honorable intentions, and the good of their country top of mind.

 

Addendum:  When I first started writing this column, I came from a very different perspective. By the time I was winding up the piece, I was shaken to my core.

“Lying” sounds like something we have to teach kids not to do; kid stuff, not all that important, a mere peccadillo, as they used to say.  But it’s so much more than that. When the people we are meant to trust … our elected leaders, civic leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas, their words can warp the teachings and beliefs of a lifetime. And that is some scary stuff. Manchurian Candidate stuff.

If you have an interest in the science of lies, please read this article – especially the second half – and be prepared to look at America with an entirely different and more educated eye by the end of the read.

The distressing reality is that our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena, and especially when that sense of truth is twisted by a figure in power. As the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain put it, “The great master fallacy of the human mind is believing too much.” False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. A leader who lies constantly creates a new landscape, and a citizenry whose sense of reality may end up swaying far more than they think possible. It’s little wonder that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations. “You are annihilated, exhausted, you can’t control yourself or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost,” as one man who had been subject to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” campaign in China put it to the psychiatrist Robert Lifton. “You accept anything he says.””

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/donald-trump-lies-liar-effect-brain-214658

Dreamers and Cassandras


“Yes: I am a dreamer – For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”Oscar Wilde

In mythology, Cassandra was a tragic figure, blessed with the power of prophecy, but cursed to have no one believe her words. There are echoes of this syndrome in modern literature, where Cassandra’s name is frequently invoked when prophecies and warnings are not believed.

pompeii-victimsHistory is littered with cases of warnings ignored. The victims of Mount Vesuvius‘ eruption in August  of AD 79 ignored all of the mountain’s tremors as the molten rock  increased within, and only marveled as all of the animals, including rats, fled the town. The wells and streams suddenly dried up, but the Pompeian’s brushed off that warning as being due to hot weather.

To mix my metaphors, that sounds a lot like Nero fiddling while the continent burns … or like a politician, one of the largest recipients of fossil fuel money in the US,  blithely and inaccurately, showing and telling how a snowball in winter disproves climate change.

Similarly, the Indian Ocean‘s tsunami and earthquake of 2004 was predicted, not just by ‘dreamers,’ but by the Pacific Ocean Tsunami Warning System. Even as one government official had his calls to action ignored, he found himself termed “crazy,” and he was banned from certain parts of Thailand, as he was believed to be a threat to tourism.  For seven years, the countries in the tsunami’s path were warned of the coming event. There was another clear warning of disaster when the sea in Indonesia receded several hundred meters after the earthquake, but few knew or believed a tsunami would follow.

tourists-escape-tsunami-2004

More than 230,000 people were killed, 500,000 were injured, and 1.7 million were left homeless.  But at least they got those tourist dollars.

maori-paintingAnd what of those whose ‘visions’ prompt such ridicule? If you’re not going to believe a Tsunami Warning System, you’re certainly not going to give credence to the Maoris, who believed that seeing a spirit canoe called waka wairua sailing over a lake near Mount Tarawera in New Zealand in 1886 was a sign of an impending disaster. Even several European tourists claimed to have seen the canoe, which legend said was used to transport the souls of the dead. There were physical signals as well, as the lake’s volume rose and fell rapidly, and the rocks released hot water.

But that’s just silly people believing in legends, right?  120 people died that June 10th, and several native Maori villages were completely destroyed.

While I am not advocating a belief in legend and mythology, I think it’s interesting to consider how humans deal with information they don’t like, or refuse to believe. There is a knee jerk denial, inevitably coupled with sarcastic laughter directed at those who are explaining what is about to happen. Public ridicule becomes the norm, with the object being to drive the truthsayer’s reputation into the ground, and to mute their words from society’s hearing.

That shortsightedness doesn’t prevent disasters from occurring … in fact, it’s more likely to hasten the disasters.

frozen-soviet-soldierBy June of 1941, Josef Stalin had received more than 100 warnings about Germany’s intention to attack. Germany, meanwhile, was assuring Russia that they were just massing troups at the Soviet border to ‘protect them against British bombing.” Oh, the lies we will believe in the name of keeping safe! The Soviet Intelligence communities had their warnings ignored., while the head of Soviet intelligence, who had also warned Stalin of Germany’s intention to invade, ended up shot.

775,000 German soldiers and at least 800,000 Soviet soldiers died  in Operation Barbarossa.

Prior to the Gulf War, the CIA and US military intelligence had warned the US government about the impending invasion of Kuwait. Those warnings were not only ignored, but led to the granting of a $1.2 billion loan to Saddam, just two days before the invasion. Indeed, the US was so contemptuous of the warnings that it took four days for maps of Kuwait and Iraq to be loaded onto their computers, post invasion.

25,000 Iraqi soldiers died, as did 248 UN troops, and 100,000 Iraqi civilians.  A million more Iraqi civilians died later, due to sanctions imposed against their country.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar? Perhaps you remember September 11th, 2001.

“… starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.

By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me.

….  And there was one more chilling warning to come. At the end of July, Tenet and his deputies gathered in the director’s conference room at CIA headquarters. “We were just thinking about all of this and trying to figure out how this attack might occur,” he recalls. “And I’ll never forget this until the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, ‘They’re coming here.’ And the silence that followed was deafening. You could feel the oxygen come out of the room. ‘They’re coming here.’” ”     (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/11/cia-directors-documentary-911-bush-213353)

Insolence, a belief in one’s own superiority, and a lack of imagination always work against those who doubt naysayers and whistleblowers. Consider the case of Bob Ebeling, an engineer who worked for the company that produced the rocket boosters on the Challenger space shuttle.

christa-mcauliffePrior to the January 28, 1986 launch, Mr. Eberling had warned that the extremely cold weather would prevent the O-rings from sealing properly and would cause an explosion. But a delay was nixed by executives under pressure to get the shuttle into space, and he was told it was ‘not his burden to bear.’

And so millions of viewers, on the ground and on televisions around the world, watched as the shuttle exploded, 73 seconds after takeoff , killing seven astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who had won her seat on a NASA educational program.

After World War I, the German economy was a mess. Inflation, massive unemployment, and a crushing debt imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, requiring them to pay the equivalent of 100,000 tons of gold as restitution, led the Nazi party into power. One of Hitler‘s main propaganda points was that Germany would refuse to pay anything ever again. It would be “Germany First.”

trump_it_cant_happen_hereEconomist John Maynard Keynes said that the Treaty was dead on arrival. Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a French army commander, warned that the treaty was not the end of the war but rather a suspension of it, and that Germany would be much more formidable in a new war, invading France and staging attacks into England from there.

They were right, but ignored. And despite those tinfoil hatted lunatics who deny the Holocaust, by the end,  almost 50 million people were dead.

The list of tragedies that could have been prevented by heeding the warnings, either of dreamers or Cassandras, or by the use of simple common sense,  or by listening to those  who could sense what was coming based on their own knowledge and experience, is very long, and filled with millions of casualties.

Americans were given ample warning of what would happen if they allowed themselves to elect a president whose sole intention was of ransacking the treasury for his own personal gain, a man who demanded total control of an entire country and delighted in a chance to remake it in his own image .. a place of carnage and destruction that he could survey from his gilded palaces.

trump-power-grabTheir own constitution offered all the information they needed to prevent his rise to power. Their vaunted ‘checks and balances’ produced nothing more than a last line of defence – the Electoral College – that folded like a cheap suit. Now that the fox is in the hen house, it’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to get him out, and will likely produce millions more victims to add to that very long list of innocents,  murdered through the elected officials’ casual ignorance, or a  stubborn belief in their own infallibility brought about by a controversial electoral win.

Like the victims of Pompeii, or the tourists that ran forward into the retreated waters of the Indian Ocean to catch stranded fish, we seem to be waiting, mindlessly, to see what will happen next, as the ante keeps getting raised. Like them, we will be buried under what we refused to see coming.

We were warned, by dreamers and Cassandras, but didn’t listen.

“A basic weapon of regime changers, as fascists realized nearly a century ago, is to destroy the concept of truth. Democracy requires the rule of law, the rule of law depends upon trust, and trust depends upon citizens’ acceptance of factuality. The president and his aides actively seek to destroy Americans’ sense of reality. Not only does the White House spread “alternative facts,” but Kellyanne Conway openly proclaims this as right and good. Post-factuality is pre-fascism.”   (http://time.com/4690676/donald-trump-tyranny/)