Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Political Lie

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  • Geoff Lealand,

    Sounds a bit like the experiment that Chris Morris did in Brass Eye, to test the claim that one in every 15 year old in Britain takes drugs. He lined up rows of 5 year olds and asked the question of every third child.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2316 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    When information is cheap truth becomes subjective.
    Argue.
    ;-)

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4875 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Here, we have seen Helen Clark sign the painting she didn’t paint,

    You would be hard pressed to find Helen Clark claiming she painted the damned thing,
    It was more of a picture with her autograph on the back. How many times must we have to hear “Helen Clark lied so it’s ok for us to do it.”. ?
    Bullshit Bulshi………..

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4875 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I would rather see politicians selling autographs to support their ideology than selling our assets.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4875 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    You won't hear that Helen Clark lied so it’s ok for us to do it.”. ? from me but I do have concerns about it neeedless to say she and it is history and in any case Simon Mitchell bought it and burnt it so we won't ever know.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1199 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to DexterX,

    so we won’t ever know.

    Won't ever know what? laying it on people to prove a negative is an old political trick, yes?

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4875 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Yes, precisely ashes to ashes and dust to dust - destroy the evidence and moving right along.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1199 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    This is pretty awesome, and even related to the thread, without even having to squint...

    http://www.buffalobeast.com/?p=6072

    It involves a Green Party candidate for the NY-26 race in the US, manning the phones as a volunteer for the Republican candidate. The whole thing may of course be lies, but still.

    “Um, Bob?” I beckon the supervisor.

    “Yeah, Steve, what is it?”

    “Some of these people are saying that Jane is going to end Medicare–just because that’s what the Wall Street Journal wrote. What should I tell them–should I lie?”

    “Hmm…” Bob thinks about this for a few seconds. “They’ve been asking about Medicare?”

    “Yeah.” And they were.

    “Shit,” he mumbles under his breath. “Don’t lie. Tell them that, if they’re 55 or over, Jane’s plan won’t change their Medicare. And if they’re 54 or under tell them that Jane’s plan will…um…make things…better.” He walks away.

    “But, Bob?” I call after him. “Some of these people are younger and they think Medicare is a problem…should I tell them that Jane’s plan will end Medicare?”

    “Yeah, if it helps,” he says, running back to his desk.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 214 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    Yep say whatever, do whatever - Just get the vote and then say and do something else.

    I love the Michael Cullen line/position that was something along the lines of, "we are only concerend with what the voter/public thinks is at election time".

    That is honesty.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1199 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    “we are only concerend with what the voter/public thinks is at election time”.

    Shit I think that's the working thesis for the whole political establishment. So one man saying it doesnt make much of a case against him.
    Where's a modern- day Ashoka when you need one.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Harvey,

    Isn't the problem that if public servants (including politicians, civil servants, local government staff, etc - that is, people paid from the public purse) are seen to get away with 'lies' of whetever kind or form, then that sets the acceptable level of corruption in the governed society. Unless the level of ethically or morally challenged behaviour by public officials is not kept in check, we all end up in a more corrupt society.

    Westmere • Since Nov 2006 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    Clark had somone quite good I hear, train them to turn any question against the intentions of the interviewer if to do otherwise would paint them in a bad light.

    Two very good people, I believe -- one of whom Russell is going to sitting very close to this evening. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    The true alliy of the political lie is "everybody knows that"-type conventional wisdom. Noone's going to vote for a politician who says that the sky is green because it is obviously false, but no politician ever did their electoral chances any harm by being tough on crime or promising to lower taxes.

    There's the implication present that these are good things that will make our society and economy better, even though the evidence says the opposite.

    (I think it's fair to take the "And this is where journalists come in by reporting actual studies on these things as context" argument as read at this point in the thread.)

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    There's the implication present that these are good things that will make our society and economy better, even though the evidence says the opposite.

    That 'conventional wisdom' didn't happen on its own. We've had several decades of concerted political messaging from the right (both inside and outside parliament) that taxes are a "burden", that individual freedom is the highest good, etc, etc.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16755 posts Report Reply

  • Baruch ter Wal, in reply to Heather Gaye,

    Here's the link where I first came across the meme.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/books/review/Douthat-t.html?ref=rossdouthat

    Auckland • Since May 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    that taxes are a “burden”

    And yet the data from the OECD rankings show exactly the reverse. Countries with higher taxation are better in every way and by every measure.

    We should be demanding to be taxed more!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3417 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Sacha,

    that taxes are a “burden”, that individual freedom is the highest good,

    Funny how individual freedom equates to all the money I can make, by whatever means, is mine, all mine. Well to some people.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    When information is cheap truth becomes subjective.
    Argue.
    ;-)

    NO!
    YES!
    MAYBE!

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6267 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Shaun Hendy via Science Media Centre graphs New Zealand's comparative R&D spend. Useful reference to contextualise any pronouncements about relevant parts of the Budget and Labour's proposed alternative.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16755 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    NO!
    YES!

    yeahnah

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16755 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite, in reply to Sacha,

    Yeahbutnahbutyeahbutnah!

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    A couple of observations, elaborated in my typically long-winded manner, because I have a lot of pressing work to do.

    Liars lie because it works - they both lay out a fiction in which they place themselves as the central character, and their audience welcome their lies.

    I am for example, telling myself that it is imperative that I get this off my chest, when in fact my other duties (marking essays) objectively matter more.

    Incorrigible cynic that he is, Peter Watts likes to point out that brains are not truth-detecting mechanisms, they are survival mechanisms. Creating workable strategies to survive and workable cognitive maps of our physical and social surroundings have been the primary selection criteria in the evolution of the brain. We tell stories to each other that enable us to get by. Whether or not they are empirically true or not is coincidental. There is a tendency then to believe things that it is useful to believe - so we create myths, we anthropomorphosise natural phenomena and so on.

    Terry Pratchett, charmingly, in Hogfather, has DEATH tell his "granddaughter", Susan, that we need lies like Santa Claus (or the Hogfather in this case) so that we can learn to integrate other lies into our lives such as justice, which have no empirical basis as "truth".

    In The Science of Discworld II: The Globe he uses the taxonomical term "Pan narrans" to describe humanity: "Plenty of creatures are intelligent but only one tells stories. That's us: Pan narrans. And what about Homo sapiens? Yes, we think that would be a very good idea ..."

    It reminds me of something Brian Eno said once (I can't remember where/when) that pop songs were not music so much as imaginary worlds that people try on.

    That leads to Huizinga's Homo ludens - we are a creature that plays. We pretend, we act "as if" things were so, not according to how they really are.

    ...and the next jump in my game of intellectual hopscotch leads to Baruch ter Wal's point upstream that people will adopt beliefs as badges of their tribe and act and speak as if the most absurd myths were true until, functionally, the fact that they are not is irrelevant.

    I think that there are good lies - metaphors, myths, fiction, ideals - but it its the calculated intent to manipulate the use of these for bad ends, bolstered by further lies to the self (it's all in the name of a good cause... mine) that makes an egregious lie. I do not believe that truth and falsehood are an absolute binary of virtue, but... well, a slippery slope.

    As you were, and I'm back to other strategies of procrastination. I now think that it's very important that I read a particular book as it will make me a better person and that's good for everyone (Wade Davis' The Wayfarers - I really recommend it - it's fascinating). The marking can wait a wee bit longer yet. I'll get around to it and I'll do a good... adequate... job... Well, I'll get it done. Honest.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    I’m tempted to coin (actually, I have) the typical psychopath’s riposte to Lincoln’s “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time”: “Fooling all of the people some of the time is enough – you just have to keep doing it again and again.”

    The goldfish-like attention spans and Korsakov’s Syndrome that are now an intrinsic structural quality of today’s journalism actively aid and abet that. I noticed Phil Goff call for an Inquiry into Jon Stephenson’s findings and saw that it looked good on the news and in the headlines, which was his intention… but then nobody followed up – least of all him. To my utter lack of surprise.

    However, as a tonic, how can we forget Richard Feynman? I am particularly fond of this gem: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 980 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kracklite,

    Wade Davis' The Wayfarers

    Loved the episode of the associated lecture series about Pacific navigation when Radio NZ broadcast it.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16755 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kracklite,

    the calculated intent to manipulate the use of these for bad ends

    That's what gets my goat. Metaphor and other tools of political discourse I'm fine with, along with genuine errors or differences in perception - but not folk making shit up when they know better.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16755 posts Report Reply

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