One of the most cathartic things about lying is the moral ambiguity of it. For instance, it can be used to get ahead in life, it can get you out of trouble, and it can give hope and make someones day. But most view it as wrong and evil. Why is something with so many benefits viewed as wrong? So much so, a German philosopher and central figure in modern philosophy Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) went on to say But a lie, is a lie, and in itself intrinsically evil, whether it be told with good or bad intents.
However, before a society can discuss what causes one to lie, the battle with honesty/facts, and if there even is a problem with dishonesty. A society must first understand what a lie is. With the constant thirst of power and the necessity to preserve ones autonomy. Now more than ever honesty and facts must always be in question.
The Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary defines a lie as, To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive; To create a false or misleading impression I would define it as, To influence or give someone a twisted version of the truth; can include withholding info.
Even though our definitions are eerily similar there are some discrepancies with how we define it. I for one believe lies can be based in truth. In fact, I believe the best lies incorporate the truth. A great example of this is the story that everyone cut from a basketball team ever has heard. The story of how Michael Jeffrey Jordan didnt make his high-school basketball team his sophomore year. This story is fiction according to Coach Clifton Herring in an interview conducted with Sports Illustrated. Michael Jordan in fact made a team, he played on J.V. In Herring’s words, In those days it was rare for sophomores to make varsity. But after a string of amazing performances he later moved up to varsity. This was a story made up by David Gavant and NBA Entertainment to sell the documentary Come Fly with Me. They even went through the trouble of getting Fred Lynch who didnt even work at that school that year, to pretend to be his coach. This story has been told so much it started to get viewed as a fact. A great example of a lie that incorporates some truth. Jordan technically didn’t make the team he was going for initially even though later that year he played for varsity. By way of contrast, The Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary example of a lie is more black and white as it would be closer in line with someone lying about their location.
Since the basic groundworks of what a lie is have been laid, a society now can discuss what compels one to lie. According to Dr. Charles V. Ford, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham(UAB), there are 13 different motives for people to lie. However, there are 3 that are most relevant to a modern society: lies to preserve a sense of autonomy, lies to obtain a sense of power, and lies to help another person. What does each of these mean? According to Ford, lies to preserve a sense of autonomy are used to establish independence or save one’s skin. For example, when you are breaking away from your parents, assuming responsibility for yourself, you tend to not be completely truthful with your parents about sexual activities and other things. This happens for a very instinctual reason, to avoid punishment. This type of lie is often considered to be the most selfish. However, to some this has become a necessity to avoid complete self-implosion. As they use it to maintain self-esteem and create a sense of identity. It is very often in life people fall short of what they thought they would achieve. So they tend to exaggerate their own accomplishments. This is used so people will see them in a certain way, giving some sort of identity. With this thought process it very easy to conclude if people view them in a positive light, they will get treated better, and that is almost as good as being the actual thing. Next lie of discussion are ones to obtain a sense of power. More often than not applicable to public figures. Ford came to the conclusion that, You get large groups of people to start following you through lies and start to feel invincible creating a disconnect between your true abilities and your fantasized abilities. This can be achieved in two manners the delight of putting one over and accommodating others self-deception. The most basic form of putting one over are jokes. A prime example of this would be yo mamas so stupid she stared at a cup of orange juice for 12 hours because it said concentrate. This is funny to the perpetrator giving them a sense of power, but can be morally crushing to the victim showing vulnerability and lack of power. Accommodating others self-deception is something Ford would refer to as, People want to be told what they want to hear. Politicians know this. This is very common in religion. You can have all these evangelical preachers promising all this sort of stuff. This is what people want to believe in. Telling people want they want to hear is a sure fire way of gaining power as they will look to them as a means of achieving self-benefit. The final lie of discussion are lies to help another person, also referred to as altruistic or paternalistic lies, these are used to help someone else. a popular example of this is when Huck from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn lies to keep Jim safe as a runaway slave. Commonly viewed as the most permissible reason to lie. As this type of lie isnt directly benefiting the user.
The most pressing and possibly most relevant topic in todays society is the battle with honesty and facts. With the emergence of fake news and number 45, this topic has been brought to the limelight. Firehose propaganda and fractionalized and specialized news can be attributed as the main causes of this problem. Firehose propaganda is the disregarding of facts with lies, taking the power away from facts, turning facts into a matter of opinion or stance on a subject. This idea can easily be summarized in a quote from Rudy Giuliani, Truth isnt truth. There a four major components into firehosing according to Christopher Paul senior social scientist at Rand Corp and co-writer of Firehose of Falsehood. High volume and multichannel; rapid, continuous, and repetitive; no commitment to objective reality; and no commitment to consistency. Its important for firehosing that a lie is told and heard by multiple sources. As the more something is told the more likely they will be accepting towards it. No commitment to objective reality and consistency is more about power than anything else. They are showing that they are not confined by reality. Anything and everything, no matter how blatant can be challenged. An illustration of this in act, provided in Firehose of Falsehood is the Russian Ukraine incident of 2014. Where Russian troops invaded the Ukraine. Shortly after this happened an interview was conducted with the leader of Russia Vladimir Putin where he denied the troops being Russian and dubbed them little green men. Even Though the troops were seen on Russian military bases. Weeks later when asked the question again he showed no consistency with his previous story and is quoted as saying, Of Course we had our servicemen, they were acting very correctly. This story has all the components of firehose propaganda. Sadly and more alarming is this sort of a strategy has infiltrated U.S politics. Including the highest office in the land. Donald Trump has been caught numerous times using such tactics. From claiming, President Obama founded ISIS to Lying about having the biggest tax cuts in U.S history and numerous claims that his phone was tapped. However, the biggest player in the battle with honesty and facts is fractionalized and specialized news. This is news that caters to its viewers. Rarely do they present facts or info that challenge the ideology of their viewers. This in cause creates bubbles. Leading to actual facts to be disregarded and labeled as fake news if they are not in line with their beliefs.
With all this new found info, the discussion about if dishonesty is wrong can commence. This is a topic that doesnt have a clear cut answer. This is more indiscretion to the person. For example, Immanuel Kant says lying is never permissible and, By a lie, a man annihilates his dignity as a man, but what if there was a killer looking for his mom. The killer asks Kant where his mom is, Kant is aware of his moms location, according to his logic he tells the killer the location of his mom, and his mom is gruesomely murdered. This is a situation where Lying is clearly permissible to most but, to others this challenges everything they believe in. The more closer an action is to gray, the more discrepancies will be seen in answers.
In short people are power hungry and focused on themselves, rarely looking out for others. Leading to perverted facts, and honesty always in question. As shown by, Come Fly with Me people will lie for a quick buck. This idea is elaborated in studies done by Dr. Charles V. Ford. As his works came to the conclusion people will lie to gain power, or save one’s skin, or help someone else out. Furthermore skewing the line between fact and fiction. Firehosing and fractionalized news are major players in the battle with honesty. As they try take to power away from facts or spin the truth. Even with all the research done deciphering if dishonesty is wrong, it depends on the person’s beliefs. Sadly majority of people believe that they have to lie to get ahead, creating a moral-less society.