Lies, lies, and more lies — our world of post-truth politics

Marshall Ward
Marshall Ward
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In Dr. Charles Ford’s Psychology of Deceit, “lying is part of the bridge between one’s internal world (beliefs, perceptions, expectations, fantasies) and one’s external world (reality). Lies work not only to deceive others but to deceive ourselves.”

Lies have a uniquely corrosive impact on our democracy.

At the most basic level, lies destroy public trust in our political systems, causing the American people to lose faith in our government. Lies also distract from real debate, bogging down lawmakers and regulators, sometimes for years, as settled science is argued over and over.

Lies create fractures in our political culture, which makes legislating impossible.

Over the past several decades, corporate and conservative interests have become better at playing the press to serve their policy goals. This means MUDDYING THE FACTS to create a political climate where TRUTH NO LONGER EXISTS.

So the only “infrastructure” Republicans are interested in is “made up of lobbyists, PR companies, media lackeys, unethical ‘experts,’ and unscrupulous think tanks,” according to Ari Rabin-Havt.

So the question becomes “How are these special interest group’s lies shaping public opinion and governmental policy?”

In Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics, Rabin-Havt offers a metaphor of a three-legged stool to help us understand how special interest groups distort the truth and our policy-making process.

Leg one of the stool: Money in politics

Money was largely kept out of politics from 1907 (Tillman Act) until the 1970s, when a series of reforms and court cases allowed more and more money into politics.

In 2002, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) tried to close some of these loopholes, but a series of lawsuits including the 2010 Citizens United (Money is speech) case led to a flood of money into politics .

Leg two: Lobbying

A lobbyist is a person who takes part in an organized attempt to influence legislators.

Corporations spend $2.6 billion lobbying Congress each year. By contrast, the entire budget of the legislative branch itself is only $2 billion.

Businesses spend 34 dollars for every 1 dollar spent by progressive interest groups and unions combined.

Leg three: Lies

Lobbyists work with both activists and industry groups (such as gun rights activists and gun manufacturers) to achieve their goals. But, they also spread lies to muddy the waters of public discourse.

Here’s an example of how these three legs of the stool wind up affecting what policies and legislation get implemented.

  • In 2012, the NRA spent 26 million on election-related activities including direct money donations to campaigns.
  • In 2013, the NRA spent $3.4 million on lobbying.
  • That same year, the NRA spent $18 million on negative advertising and lies.
  • Afterwards in 2013, most post-Sandy Hook gun-safety legislation was defeated.

Rabin-Havt concludes, “One does not need to establish truth to influence decisions; one only needs to obscure the debate to stall progress.”

One does not need to establish truth to influence decisions; one only needs to obscure the debate to stall progress. – Ari Rabin-HavtClick To Tweet

A career of “sucker-punching” the American people

Rabin-Havt provides us with one pioneer who has spent his whole career “sucker-punching” the American people.

His name is Richard Berman. “He is the purest representation of a growing force in American politics that creates and disseminates lies designed to disrupt the public policy process for monetary and idealogical gain,” reports Rabin-Havt.

Here’s how it works:

Berman makes up companies to dump donor funds into, and then refines the donor’s attacks, shielding his clients in anonymity. One company, called the Employment Policies Institute, has been developed to specifically to create lies about the minimum wage.

They make up reports that are funded by the fast-food industry, and then the fast-food industry cites the reports as if they were independent research. Result? The minimum wage in Kentucky has not changed in a decade.

Recently, Berman was caught saying that he “works to confuse the public so they ‘don’t know who to believe’.”

What are the effects of all these lies on our politics?

This flood of lies has three major effects on our politics and on our legislative bodies, from local to national:

  • The lies destroy the public trust and cause Americans to lose faith in our political system.
  • The lies detract from the real policy debates we need to have by obscuring the facts.
  • As a result, the lies and the “alternative facts” that people adhere to make bipartisan agreement impossible.

The goal of these liars is not to convince you to agree with them, but to muddy the waters so that the truth is hard to discern—this is what people call post-truth politics.

We are living through Republican lies in real time, whether it is about the 2020 election, the January 6th insurrection, immigration, abortion, gay marriage – you name it.

As long as Liars continue to dupe the average US citizen without public scrutiny or consequences, we will continue to have a sick system for discussing, debating, and passing good public policy that is essential to a healthy democracy and the success of our nation.

As long as Liars continue to dupe the average citizen without public scrutiny or consequences, we will continue to have a sick system for discussing, debating, and passing good public policy that is essential to a healthy democracy.Click To Tweet

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(Featured image by Titan9369 [CC-BY-ND-20] via Flickr)

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Marshall Ward

Marshall taught history and economics for twenty years in Charleston, SC, then moved to Murray, KY, where he taught AP history for seventeen years. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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