We live in a culture that no longer cares about truth. Consider the facts…
-When a prominent US Representative is caught sending pictures of his sexual organs to a college student across the country, his reaction is to question the “certitude” of the pictures, and immediately blame a right-wing conspiracy….
-When a Governor can hide the very existence of a love-child from his wife for 10 years…
-When unfaithful spouses, including many public figures, find it easier to “deny, deny, deny,” rather than simply admit their mistakes….
-When public figures lie about previous statements and even when presented with proof of those statements, prefer to spend millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees defending themselves against perjury charges, rather than admit they lied…
I can truthfully say, we have failed as a culture to grasp the importance of the truth.
I am not talking about absolute truth, or “truth with a capital T” here, what I am referring to is verifiable information. Dictionary.com defines truth simply as “a verifiable or indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like.” In our culture, the truth means nothing.
Instead, we live in a culture where inferences are privileged. Again, from Dictonary.com, an inference is “the process of arriving at some conclusion that, though it is not logically derivable from the assumed premises, possesses some degree of probability relative to the premises.” Here is an example, because the President’s Kenyan grandmother (through a translator) misspoke (and then corrected herself) and because the President cannot produce a birth certificate (but can produce a “certificate of live birth,” which in Hawaii is just as legal) and because Hawaiian officials and White House officials are so tired of this nonsense they refuse to continue talking about this with the media….all of a sudden, it becomes a fact that the President was not born in the US. This is nonsense at the highest level!
The irony is that when approached with the facts, many liars will simply hide behind more fallacious inferences. The classic responses of “I heard it somewhere” or just ask anyone” or (my favorite) “okay fine, prove that its not true” become common defenses. And yet all these defenses do is encourage false logic, which inevitably leads to idiocy. It creates a culture that lacks all critical thinking skills–and will follow the next popular pied piper off the cliff. I think this is because of a current war on higher level thinking and education in general–fueled, in part, by people who like to make inferences.
I think we can take a lesson from former Rep. Chris Lee. Remember him? He is the House member who resigned in February when it surfaced that he was trying to woo a woman on the internet with shirtless photos and details of his life as a “divorced lobbyist,” unbeknownst to his wife. In this case, in part because the unfortunate photos were made public, Lee quickly admitted his mistake and resigned from Congress. He did this just minutes after his own chief of staff tried to save Lee’s political career–by lying about how the congressman’s personal email account had been hacked. While l disagree with what Lee did, I think that his response was admirable. He admitted his mistakes and he took responsibility for his actions and accepted the consequences. He told the truth.
I wish Anthony Weiner had done the same, instead of trying to save face. What if we simply told the truth–even when its hard. The truth has a way of making the problem a moot point, which causes the cameras to go away–which may be part of the problem. Liars like the publicity their lies bring. But, if the public refused to be persuaded by inferences, only by verifiable information, think how much more meaningful our national conversations would be.