Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Political Lie

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  • Hadyn Green,

    Plunket, Edwards and Slack. Jesus that's a hell of a line-up!

    Probably make a good sitcom too.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hadyn Green,

    Plunket, Edwards and Slack. Jesus that’s a hell of a line-up!

    Indeed. Imagine if they formed a consultancy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    If circumstances change so that a promise must be broken, does that make a lie of the original promise? Or should we simply accept that minds change when the evidence does?

    I’d say the latter, but here’s where I think people’s patience ends – and should. There is nothing wrong with a politician changing her mind,and do so for reasons ranging from high-minded Road to Damascus experiences to whorish poll-driven expediency.

    What you should never be allowed to do is pretend you never changed it at all.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12003 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Plucket, Edwards, Slack and Jesus would be an even better consultancy!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 727 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I’d say the latter

    But there's a grey area where promises are made, in the full understanding that circumstances will change, allowing the promise to "legitimately" be abandoned.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I think it's OK to change policy because of new evidence or changed circumstances, as long as it's an open and transparent process. The earthquake levy propsed by the Greens would have been that: a tax rise to pay for a natural disaster, clearly marked as such.

    The political lies that rankle most with me are the self-justifying, position-protecting ones about what particular people did or didn't know. Or what they personally authorised. I remember Regan's denials in the Iran Contra Scandal. And I think Key and his Ministers need to square up to the Afghan issue, because if they did know our troops were handing over prisoners to be tortured...yikes, that's really awful. And we deserve a lot better than the evasive statements we're had.

    Key's so expert at dodging issues. Remember that time he was challenged to say what early childhood services he would use if he had a young child, and he deflected the whole topic by making jokes about his vasectomy? We don't pay these people to be funny, we pay them to stand up and answer the freaking question.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3453 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to 3410,

    Quite right – but I think that’s less of a problem that politicians who coldly make promises someone else is going to have to keep (and pay for). The glaring case study is the bipartisan political cowardice in the US who regard ballooning senior entitlements as a no-go zone because, quite coldly, old people vote in swing states and children don’t anywhere.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12003 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lilith __,

    And I think Key and his Ministers need to square up to the Afghan issue, because if they did know our troops were handing over prisoners to be tortured…yikes, that’s really awful. And we deserve a lot better than the evasive statements we’re had.

    Actually, Lilith, I'd agree with you -- and I'd like Helen Clark to be invited to come home and answer a few straight questions in front of a select committee under oath, with Mark Burton and Phil Goff sitting next to her.

    Won't happen, because it's not in anyone's political interests in an election year. But the members of my family in the armed forces deserve better.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12003 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I think one problem that leads to the political lie is that politicians are expected to talk to wildly disparate groups of people and tell each group what they want to hear. Eventually the groups become so dissimilar that the politician finds themselves needing to either piss off a whole group or say something explicitly different to different groups.

    Imagine telling a meeting of grey power what they want to hear and then going to a local PTA and telling them what they want to hear and next morning talk to the local business association, all in the name of getting votes.

    At some point it becomes a case of lying to each group. My guess is that for some politicians it becomes a habit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3394 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to 3410,

    But there's a grey area where promises are made, in the full understanding that circumstances will change, allowing the promise to "legitimately" be abandoned.

    You mean like promising ultra fast broadband in an election, but not mentioning that many of you outside Auckland might not actually see for at least a decade?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2152 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Mark Burton and Phil Goff sitting next to her

    And Key and McCully

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3394 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to 3410,

    Such as "we will not sell off assets"? Oh, look, now we're in big debt so we have to. That's were cunning caveats come into play "...in our first term".

    Fortunately, people forget the caveats just as easily as they forget the lies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    The biggest problem with The Political Lie - and Bart's touched on it - is that the electorate often doesn't reward honesty, because it's usually... I don't know... too depressing?

    Case in point: Catching Up With Australia. Complete bullshit, but the voters lapped it up.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    At some point it becomes a case of lying to each group. My guess is that for some politicians it becomes a habit.

    I think the habit of never saying anything clear serves them much better. Lying is for amateurs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Road to Damascus experiences

    The Road to Damascus was also a lie. Just sayin'. Unhelpfully. Carry on.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Do politicians actually recognize a lie?

    Seriously, I get the impression that the for many politicians they may not even know what a lie actually is any more. As Ben says never saying anything clear is one strategy but even that can become a lie by omission. I just get the feeling that some politicians are so detached from reality, as we might understand it, that they have no idea what the truth even looks like.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3394 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Joanna,

    Plucket

    The naked truth?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3394 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The biggest problem with The Political Lie - and Bart's touched on it - is that the electorate often doesn't reward honesty

    Especially in the face of so many others who'll happily contradict honest claims with incompetent claims or claims reliant on incomplete information, or simply lies. It's a hard ask for an entire population to become policy analysts.

    The Political Lie is the lowest common denominator. It's what we've ended up with, though it's interesting to see some of the effects of MMP where smaller parties with a large enough support base to stay alive (the Greens come to mind) sometimes have less incentive to tell the entire population everything it wants to hear.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 411 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    What is the truth anyway? You could ask a philospher, but they are like lawyers, and another could be found to say something different. My truth is 100% pure in comparison to other truths. Explaining is losing, perception is reality, forever and ever amen.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 214 posts Report Reply

  • elsketcho, in reply to Lilith __,

    Yes, we do pay them to stand up and answer the freaking question. And yet, when they refuse to answer the question, often we just move on. I would very much like to see an interviewer persist with the requirement for a 'yes' or 'no' answer. Guyon could have, and should have spent as much time as was necessary getting a 'yes' or 'no' from Phil Goff on Sunday. Instead we got 'what I'm saying... what I'm saying...', it reminded my of the Pooze Man ad on bfm. And yep, he was full of shit. These buggers should be held to account until we get a straight answer.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    It strikes me as remarkable that while “misleading the House” is a political sin with real consequences...

    I'd like some evidence to back this up, please.

    Maybe just the name of two MPs who have suffered "real consequences" for misleading the house. Or even the names of the last to to go before the Privileges Committee and risk "real" consequences.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3004 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    What you say is true, but does not mean that no inroads in our understanding of what Truth is have ever been made. Lawyers will say different things, but not all of them are lying all of the time. Philosophers will say different things, but some of them can be right and some wrong. Scientists are famous for having discovered a lot of truth, usually by way of a great many speculative untruths.

    In the simplest explanation, truth is a property of statements. An utterance is not a statement unless it can be true or false.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    You could ask a philospher, but they are like lawyers

    Nah. About a third the price. Or you can find an unemployed philosopher who'll talk all day for nothing :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1571 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    What is the truth anyway? You could ask a philospher, but they are like lawyers, and another could be found to say something different. My truth is 100% pure in comparison to other truths. Explaining is losing, perception is reality, forever and ever amen.

    'Did you know those captured suspects were going to be tortured when you handed them over?' is not a question that can be answered with 'What is the truth anyway?'

    Not without looking like an ultra-evasive slimebag, anyway.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2396 posts Report Reply

  • Baruch ter Wal,

    I'm an employed philosopher, but will venture a comment. There's a meme going around that often political statements are outside 'the reality business', and more a symbol of your tribe. When W was US President, a huge proportion of Democrats polled as believing that he knew about 9/11 in advance of it happening. But none of them took to the streets to complain about it. They didn't really believe it, but it was a badge of their tribe. I won't even trouble you with examples of Republican tribal statements, but let me venture that many of the spouters don't really believe in their statements either. Now, when we all go around parroting these tribal statements that we don't really believe, is it any wonder that the politicians start spouting convenient statements that are also outside reality?

    Auckland • Since May 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

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