Saturday, 19 November 2016

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

In the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” to be its international word of the year 2016.

US election and EU referendum drive popularity of adjective.....
.......defined by the dictionary as  “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year. The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”.  

Well, there we are then, it’s official. Telling lies is the new normal,  accepted if not acceptable. Morally defensible? Maybe even that. The end justifies the means. And so on.

What will we tell children?  Tell the truth or each lie will make your nose grow longer? If you tell lies nobody will believe you when you tell the truth?  Even if you shout ‘fire’ and there really is one and you are in danger of burning to death? (It’s called ‘putting the fear of God into children - I hope we don’t really do that to them anymore.)

When I was in junior school our teacher encouraged us to put on a play about Saint Nicholas, the one who brings good children presents while bad children are threatened with the cane wielded by Ruprecht, Nicholas’ servant. I was a bit of an uppity know-all, not only did I make up the play, I also appropriated to myself the role of Nicholas, dishing out praise and admonishments as I saw fit in my misplaced enthusiasm and infantile eagerness. Most of my fellow class mates received mild praise, a few I told off for minor (imaginary) misdeeds but for just one girl, chosen at utter random, St Nicholas, i.e. me, had a serious face, a slow and ponderous voice and the ultimate accusation: “you tell lies”.

The girl instantly dissolved into floods of tears, sobbing that she never lied, that lying was bad and a sin and that she would never do that. Teacher cradled her in his arms, trying to calm her down, saying how the whole thing was made up and not true and nobody believed that she lied. He threw me a very filthy look, told me to say sorry, to go away and be ashamed of myself for being so unkind. I was crushed, indeed feeling ashamed and guilty and very disappointed that my grand play had come to such an ignominious end. I got carried away, as they say, didn’t know when to stop.

I had accused a class mate of lying; not in a playground rough and tumble way, but seriously, on an important occasion, with teacher and the whole class being present. The poor child’s pitiful sobs took a long time to subside. The fact that I remember it so well all these many years later shows how deeply memorable the incident was, probably not just for me.

Today we know that the Brexiteers led by Johnson and Farage in the UK and election campaign Trumpism in the US have made lying into an art form; the more they lied the more people applauded them. One day after Brexit Farage was asked about that repeatedly promised extra 350 m  for the NHS. His answer? Oh well . . . . .

And  "post-truth" nobody holds them and their cronies accountable. The sensation is not the demise of truth but the fact that we already have a word for it. Oh Brave New World.


  1. Friko, I've never heard the word "post-truth"... but it reminds me of "pish posh" or "posh tosh" which basically meant "rubbish". It fits, don't you think?

  2. I also had not heard "post-truth" I think it is a misnomer if it means a lie that we find is a lie and we are too tired/jaded to hold the teller to the truth. Lies do bite one eventually if they are big and bad enough and if they hurt someone. Our new President lies ALL the time. This does not bode well when one is making laws for a country.

  3. We just want to feel good and special and important. Go ahead, lie to me!

  4. We have gone through the looking glass, and I see as yet no way back. Yesterday, I was in our local post office, and this is what transpired:

    Our very nice PO person, a middle-aged white woman, and a white woman who looked to be a good bit past retirement age, were engaged in avid conversation. The customer was talking about how hard it was for her grandkids to get by, working two jobs, limited benefits, that sort of thing.

    I entered in to register agreement. “Every young person I know is facing this. It’s really tough out there, and the benefits available just aren’t as good as they need to be.” I didn’t get far before the customer and PO person both interjected with their own examples, both about the ACA.

    The customer talked about how high the premiums were for her grandson, $1000 a month, and, on top of that, he was insured for things he didn’t need, like pregnancy-related benefits. “Why does he need that? He’s single.” The PO person said her son’s premium statement had just come in and had gone way up. I nodded and said, “Yes, I heard some premiums have doubled.” I paused, then said, “You know, what we really should have is Medicare for all.”

    The customer demurred; the PO person said, “But we paid into it. A lot of these people, they’re just freeloaders on the system.” She went on a little bit in this vein, and I said, “You know, it’s not the little people we should knock, but the big shots.” To this she nodded full agreement.

    “And now,” I said, “we have these low-life scum bags at the very top, and everybody’s going to suffer.” The customer looked at me with daggers and harrumphed.

    I pointed out that Paul Ryan was proposing to dismantle Medicare. The customer waved me off and said, “Not going to happen.” I replied, “Well, he’s proposed it, and there’s no reason to think he doesn’t mean it.”

    “It’ll never happen.”

    “You might want to the facts on this, before you are so sure. I guarantee you there’s a lot of misery in store for everyone.”

    She harrumphed again. “Not going to happen.”

    “Well, we shall see, won’t we?” With that, I took my leave.

  5. Obama has just made a speech about "fake news" and the dangerous situation we are in with the viral and dangerous lies that are spread around the world in a matter of minutes. Facebook founder, Zuckerberg, and other Internet news outlets are looking into ways to stop or at least curtail it on their websites. I think it is a lost cause. Other presidential campaigns, in the past, have gone by the rule that even if it is a lie, throw it out there and see if it sticks. Under trump, anything and everything went out and people, who were angry and full of hate, believed it and passed it on. The trumper, who was said to have lied about 74% of the time, won on hate and lies and the people who voted for him do not care.

    As I was reading your post and your story of regret, I remembered something that I did wrong when I was six years old. It has stayed with me till this day. The good thing is that we remembered and it was a lesson learned for life. The

  6. You've described a situation that has been bothering me for a long time. We are the authors of our own fate since so many people vote for these liars. I'd have a hard time fudging the truth with post truth.

  7. I hope out there on the www is the person you called a liar is reading this and says, ah, I remember Friko at school, but I can't remember her calling me a liar or being upset.

    Thought provoking. It is kind of a catch 22 situation. We have become used to being lied to by politicians and governments. We don't like it but we seemed to have accepted it, up to a point. But then we grasp at someone or something that seems like an honest breath of fresh air, only to find out they are just the same as what or who we have rejected. As the saying goes, it doesn't matter who you vote for, a politician will be elected.

    Bring on the revolution and off with their heads.

  8. Would that all our politicians could remember such an incident in their own lives.

  9. We all make our world around us as truthful or not as we want ... in order to survive, friend Friko ... Love, cat.

  10. I hadn't heard post-truth either. I'm tired of all the lies. The spouse and I are going off the grid for a few weeks to regain our sense of what is important to us.

  11. Hi Friko - oh yes .. that makes sense as too Susan's comment and the others. How we get the media to change from promoting one liners, how we get the people with power to stop exaggerating or lying and refusing to acknowledge said fact ... we are in an uncomfortable world ... there seems to be no easy way out.

    How we find people who are natural leaders against belligerent louts, and then how we expect normal people to behave and not bully others of their ilk ...

    We must rise above it all and set examples for others to follow, regardless of our very past minor, minor mini errors ... when we learn as we progress from young to teenage years and on ... truth must be out ...

    Have a happy and peaceful weekend ... I like #1Nana's idea of going off the grid ... cheers Hilary

  12. We need to involve ourselves with those around us, to discuss what we need, what is good for our society - and then put up candidates whom we will not promptly disown as being useless the first time they are squashed by the current political party power base.

  13. Unfortunately lots of people where I live were for Trump. Now the reversals of what he claimed he would do will begin. And they will make excuses to themselves, as will Fox News, and continue to believe the lies because they simply can't admit they were fooled and that their hateful feelings about others not like them, are not justified.

  14. I wonder whether the girl you "accused" of having told lies still remembers the event... and if so, she'll have understood later that you were a child just like her, and as much as she took the scene to heart, you had just been caught up in the play and didn't really think of her as a liar.

    I've just read the other day how we seem to have arrived in a post-fact era. It is nearly the same as post-truth, and I'm afraid it really is like that for many people. Actually, I'm glad that I don't have children, so I don't have to explain the world to anybody but to myself (which is sometimes difficult enough).

  15. A childhood incident that you've carried all these years; one in which you were but a young child, caught up in the moment, and in which you learned a life lesson. What strikes me with your story is that there was an adult in the room (your teacher) who put things right and, to take from an old television character, "nipped it in the bud". It seems that part of the problem in this new era of post truth is that there are no adults in the room.

    Here in the States, the media takes a big chunk of the blame, but, so do the sitting party leaders, both nationally and statewide, soho should be the adults in the room, and what concerns me the most are the large number of people who either believe the post truths or don't care about the lies, especially the ones where there is video of the liar saying them!

    I have been mourning what was for over a week now, actually longer, if truth (there it is again) be known.

  16. if this is the new normal then we are well and truly fucked. the right wingers in France are emboldened now so I hear and Germany, according to one article is just about hysterical. they've seen this play before.

  17. When I read the first article I encountered about "post-truth" being the word of the year, I became so incensed I simply closed the page. This is the end of a process that actually began some years ago: at least, in my opinion. When I first heard people using "transparency" for "honesty," I became exceedingly nervous. Just as I'd feared, it seemed over the coming months to have become a signal of dishonesty. If someone said they were being transparent, you could be sure that was exactly the opposite of what was going on.

    I'm told they no longer teach "Animal Farm" or "1984" in our schools. I'm sure they don't.

    As a side note, I still have the article bookmarked that lists all the words related to the natural world that the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed in favor of more tech terms: take out acorn, add broadband, and so on. I understand that space is limited, but what kid needs a dictionary to know what broadband means? Acorns, on the other hand, may need a little defining.

    1. Here in Canada we still teach "Animal Farm," - I taught it just last year, and also "All Quiet on the Western Front." I hope these stories that tell sometimes-difficult-to-hear-truths continue to be taught and discussed.

  18. I had never heard that term. I think of it as emotional blindness. Don't confuse me with the facts. They believe only what they want to. Pick and choose their truths. So scary.

  19. More like Rome ~ reign of Nero.

  20. As a teacher of young children, I used to have the kids do activities for vocabulary development. We made paths of pairs of colored paper footprints on the walls around the classroom. Who could have foreseen that "post-truth" would pair with "lie"? It seems that Atlas shook the world; now everything that used to be is no more. Alas!!
    Thank you for posting, It helps so much to know I am not alone in my perception of the present world.

  21. Thank you for this post, dear Friko. Once again, i count my blessings that I am no longer young. This new normal get more curious every day.

    Facts and data swirl around us. What does leadership mean? I do wonder how parents are now preparing their children for the future. Is honesty valued? Is courtesy? Is kindness? Is patience. Is it wise to be a good listener? When does one engage in conflict with another person?

    Thanks also to the prior commenters. xo

  22. I think it's about nobody really knowing what to believe any more. So many people I spoke to before the UK Referendum couldn't figure out which side was scaremongering and I spoke to so many smart Americans before the election who still couldn't think whom they hated more, Clinton or Trump. Basically, they were offered too many points of view, plus they thought they knew all kinds of things they didn't really know at all. I for onebase a lot of my opinions on what I THINK I know. In reality I haven't spent the years investigating those issues, and I don't know anyone or anything about what happens behind the scenes. Obama said in his new Yorker interview that most issues are immensely complex so there's no point in freaking when you don't really know. (My words not his) I don't know whether we should be reassured about this in the present situation.

    But there are some ways of choosing what to do. I do think that when people openly lie and flout decent behaviour, and aren't ashamed to do it, then anyone who chooses them is going to end up shafted. Alas the world is full of credulous folk who send their life savings off to scammers, or marry someone who beats them up, and so they will follow people who promise £350m for the NHS and then scream "Yah, shut up Project Fear" in response to all questions about exactly how this money could be found. We all have a hard job distinguishing between what we wish for and what is true, anyway, and now we live in an online echo chamber, spending our online time almost entirely with those who agree with us, we think that we must be right in our views, cause everyone else has the same views.

    I reckon we need a new Orwell to create a book that will point up the perils of echo chambers and too much information.

  23. In my 4th gr. class one year, a delightful girl's parents were from Holland and she told me the customs there. Apparently Santa come sailing into the harbor. He comes with 5-7 black servants. If a child has been naughty, the servants come, grab him, and beat him/her soundly. Kids set they clogs outside, in hopes of getting good stuff. My class was horrified.

    1. All the years I worked in a Dutch playschool , I only ever saw one child who actually got salt in his shoe, instead of sweets . It was interesting to see that his brothers and sisters thought it was funny and just shared their chocolate with him .
      "Oh well ", said Mum , "It was worth a try ... "

  24. Oh Friko -- this whole thing just drags me down every single day. As I attempt to determine what I can do to change things -- donate to causes whose funding will be cut or that protect rights, be nice, kind and giving, write letters, actively support candidates -- I realize that it is very small and in the best case scenario, nothing much changes for at least two years here with our bi-election and four with the presidency. On our satire show "Saturday Night Life," the actor playing Trump referred to Pence as "the reason I won't get impeached." And in a lot of ways he's right -- Pence is scarier because he appears reasoned but he's as vile as the rest.

    And the lies continue in "fake news" sources or pundits and "surrogates" who just spout off. Poor fact check sites must be overwhelmed. Now there's a place for an American to get a job -- I'm sure they'll need to hire...

  25. Post truth .
    Ah , that's why Trump's nose didn't grow ...

  26. You are a master story teller. I find I much prefer your truths to whatever post-truths spouted by those "in charge."


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.