Monday, June 3, 2013

Week of 06/03/2013

Rule One: Do Not Lie
– by David Matthews 2

There seems to be an eternal pattern with scandals and crimes…

First there is the wrongdoing.  The criminal activity that may or may not harm people.  It could be something big, or it could be for something small.  A mix-up in paperwork; a mistake in judgment; negligence; a betrayal of trust; an abuse of power; or even out-and-out criminal activity.

And then, no matter if it is by a group, a company, an institution, or by an individual person, there comes the second wrongdoing.

They lie about it.

And this wrongdoing, it turns out, is far worse than the initial act itself.

President Bill Clinton was impeached by Congress, not supposedly for getting oral gratification from an intern in the Oval Office, but for lying under oath about it.  Richard Nixon was hounded into resignation over lies surrounding a botched burglary at the Watergate Hotel.  Governor Mark Sanford was hounded out of his job not because he cheated on his wife, but because he was caught lying about how he used taxpayer resources to cheat with his mistress on the other side of the hemisphere!  Congressman Anthony Weiner was hounded out of office after repeatedly lying about a photo of his genitals that got sent out.

Of course politicians aren’t the only ones that lie.  Big Business executives lie as masterful as any politician.  Sometimes even better!  Think of all of the corporate disasters that have bubbled up over the years where the executives lie through their teeth about the stability of their business.  Picture a Big Oil executive denying anything happened with a pipeline or a drilling rig as the media shows live video of explosions and an oil leak.

Everyone seems to lie when something bad happens.  It’s pretty much human nature.  If given the choice to be honest and take the pains of immediate punishment or to lie and hopefully delay or even avoid that punishment, we’ll instinctively lie.

And yet… while it’s considered unfathomable for someone to be caught lying to the government, it’s also allowed for government to lie to us.  Groups like FactCheck and PolitiFact and Snopes catch whoppers of lies made by politicians.  Politicians will commit out-and-out slander to degrade and demonize minority groups, the unemployed, people on government assistance, and do so with complete impunity.  Apparently the only time that is it not allowed for those in government to lie, is when they lie to another part of government.

Now I know this is going to be another one of those “talking to a brick wall” ideas, but someone still needs to say it, and maybe I’m the one that has to say it now.  Lying is supposed to be one of the things that is prohibited according to some stone tablets that religious extremists have a display-fetish over… you know, that whole bit about not bearing “false witness”.  Some of those self-righteous “devout Christians” have some serious explaining to do when it comes to that part of the tablet fetish.

So maybe we need to come up with a new “Golden Rule” to replace the one co-opted by the career politicians (namely “Those with the gold get to make the rules but don’t have to follow them”).  Certainly those in government that claim to want a better and more “ethical” body of government should be quick to adhere to a new set of standards, because let’s get brutally honest here… the current ones are proven to be abysmal failures.

Let’s keep this first one simple: Do not lie!

Simple, straightforward, and direct; do not lie!

I wish I could say that people couldn’t mess something that simple up, but we’re talking about the same segment of our population that have managed to mess up simple words in the Constitution like “make no law” and “shall not be infringed”.

But, seriously, if you’re a White House spokesman and you’re being asked whether anyone in the White House knew about the IRS cracking down on conservative and neo-conservative groups, then it’s better to say “I don’t know” or “I’ll get back to you on that” than to make a spot-answer of “no” and then find out that you were wrong.  I know that the media demands spot answers, but they’re in your house, not the other way around.  You can always un-invite them if they decide to push for a spot answer that you cannot back up. 

Keep in mind that the White House is a pretty big place, with all sorts of people working there.  You have staff members, chefs, security, interns, all of which may or may not know something.  So if you claim that “nobody in the White House knew this was going on” and the media pulls up some low-level cabinet official that says otherwise, then that makes you an automatic liar.  Do not lie if you cannot account for literally every single person in that building, because the media will find out.

You would think that given so many scandals that have plagued the White House over the past decades that they would realize this.

Speaking of which, I am honestly surprised that political challengers aren’t using these fact-checking groups more often to show just how frequently the career politicians lie.  When the Associated Press has to actually put a quota on the number of times certain politicians tell whoppers, then maybe that should be a red flag for the voters that said person doesn’t belong there.  Maybe the charge of “Contempt of Congress” would hold more weight if members of Congress themselves first adhered to the rule of “Do Not Lie”.

Of course the idea of a “Do Not Lie” rule will be harder to get through the private sector.  But then again, with the rise of social media and various review services out there already, we’ve seen some attempt to keep businesses honest.  Even the media has been caught in some of their falsehoods.  Just ask Dan Rather if you don’t believe me.

Yes, it seems like a “talking to a brick wall” idea, but then again, at one point the Hippocratic Oath was just an idea as well.  Perseverance and insistence over a long period of time made the idea of “Do No Harm” the rule instead of just a suggestion for the medical profession.  Maybe we can eventually do the same with the idea of “Do Not Lie”.

No comments: