Thursday, April 12, 2018

About lies and the truth

Considering that quite a bit of what is now circulated on the Internet seems to have been prepared in such a way as to allow its authors to lie while keeping (by exploiting technicalities) others from recognizing it as lying, let us settle this once and for all:

Let us establish that what would otherwise be a lie is no less a lie simply because it is constructed around a fine grain of truth, incorporated into the lie for the sole purpose of protecting the lie from a simple, clear denial and making it necessary for the denial to include an inevitably awkward explanation (showing what part of the claim was true and what was false and in what way the truth was misrepresented), which consequently tends to make the denial more cumbersome and less effective and ultimately causes the lie to fool more people and inflict greater damage on the subject of it.

That fine grain of truth is most often a quote or a piece of a quote, a bold and extraordinarily faithless paraphrase of someone’s words, or a true statement of fact (which, however, will often be expressed in such a way as to render the statement either untrue or nearly certain to be understood in such a way as would have made the statement untrue).  When people intentionally frame or manipulate these in such a way that the new, heavily-revised, remodeled “truth” that they communicate to others is as false as any lie, that “remodeled truth” is itself a lie.

Some things that irresponsible people (trying to take advantage of this opportunity in order to use false accusations of lying against others) might be tempted to characterize as lies are not.  It would be tedious and pointless to attempt to predict and comprehensively list every type of lie about lies that people are likely to tell, so instead, I leave them this advice: Be honest with yourself about whether your claim is true, and place a little more emphasis on that and a little less on whether the claim is useful as a weapon against someone.  When people are so focused on overcoming an adversary that their attention and interest are diverted to that effort and away from the truth, they tend to deceive both themselves and others.

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