Monday, October 8, 2012

The Lying Liars and the Meta-World They Create

When someone lies to me, I just assume that they believe that the truth will not be acceptable.  I have heard people justify lying by simply saying, "if I told the truth, you wouldn't have responded how I wanted you to."  Like a teenager trying to get permission to go to the mall, a lie manipulates. When I hear a political candidate lie, it is understandable. The truth won't get them elected. Can you really lie about the future?  I won't raise taxes or I won't invade that country. It is only a lie, if they know they intend otherwise. It is the intent of the speaker that determines the lie, so they are often the only ones that know they are lying. But lately, the lies are all too obvious. You get to have your own set of facts and if you repeated it enough, it gets to have its own truth, a meta-truth. You can have your own perception of the facts, but the facts don't change. You can refuse to accept them if you find them inconvenient or painful. But unless, something new gets discovered, history doesn't change just because you don't like what it says.

The Jefferson Lies by David Barton was recently pulled from publication by it's publisher. The irony of its title doesn't escape me. The book is supposed to be about the lies that are told about Thomas Jefferson by mostly liberals and historians. But the book is just a bunch of lies about Jefferson portraying him as a Christian evangelical who promoted America as a Christian nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you were to line up all the American founding fathers and rate them on a graph of Christianity, Jefferson would be at the bottom. He was not a Christian but not an atheist either. He was a deist. He was an intellectual explorer and is hard to pin down but he was very clear on this point, he did not believe in the trinity. He believed that Jesus was perhaps the greatest person in history with John Locke and Isaac Newton close behind.  He coined the term "wall of separation between church and state."  He was clear on this as well.  Yet the Barton book states otherwise by quoting Jefferson out of context with sloppy research rewriting history to meet his preconceived ideas, his will and his agenda.

The book was pulled from publication, yet it is still be held up by many right wingers as proof that our nation is a "Christian" nation. The publisher of the book, Thomas Nelson (a Christian publisher), received a lot of pressure from inside the bubble and out. Christian scholars, Conservative scholars and Liberal scholars all agree on this ... this book is full of lies and inaccuracies. Among the other lies is a claim that Jefferson didn't emancipate his slave because Virginia state law at the time prohibited it and that Jefferson abhorred secularism. These are fabrications. Jefferson was an avid letter writer. We know what he pondered over.  This is not the first book that has attempted to rewrite history, but what I find interesting is that even though it is widely accepted as a lie, it is still be promoted on Glenn Beck show. Beck is also republishing the book and has used it at a source for "history courses" on his web site. Why do we tolerate this as a culture? I have been wondering for a while why Beck has any viewers, so I don't think I am going to explain this here. But it does seem that we like to be lied to. As long as the liar confirms our firmly held beliefs and doesn't challenge, we are just fine with it.

Today is Columbus Day in America.  Like the speed limit during rush hour, Columbus Day is one of the lies that we keep around for unknown reasons. It is the least celebrated of our national holidays but it is still out there. As kids we were taught that he discovered America in 1492, but can you really discover some place where people already live?  He wasn't even the first European to be here. The Vikings were here long before him. When he land in the new world, he wasn't even on what we now consider American soil. He never set foot on the main North American continent on all four of his trips.  On his first voyage he visited the Bahamas (he thought was Japan), Cuba (he thought was China) and Hispaniola. We are not even named after him, but after Amerigo Vespucci.  Why don't we have a Vespucci Day? You got me! We all know it is a lie but nothing is done about it.

The meta-world makes the lies possible because we are so used to them that we just shrug them off. When Paul Ryan goes in front of the Republican Convention and lies about everything, every single bullet point contains egregious lies... the lies were so obvious that you could easily check them yourself with an Internet connection and Google ... we just go on with our day. The recent Presidential Debate wasn't much better.  When they are arguing about economic nuances or wonky policy points ... eh! ... no big deal. But when we become so jaded as a populace that people can make a living out of lying about humanity's role in global climate change, it is very scary that our response is again ... eh!  Hopefully, our destruction is only a meta-destruction.


Olga said...

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan one said: You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.
I guess it is related to that thing about faith over science.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark, I hope my comment is welcomed here. I like your blog post. The double negative seems to balance the title well. Probably a bad grammatical description, sorry. Our factual sources have taken a plunge in the media. Just under ten years ago a case in the supreme court, against FOX news, had determined news need not be factual, but is a form of entertainment. In addition, what media was not bought out long ago has since merged under few umbrellas . Just the same it is your admiration of jefferson which brought me from the shadows. I have found much history that was not presented to me as it should have been during my early education. This all stems back two months ago when I learned of the historic establishment of the federal reserve. Since then my inquire has brought me back to the founding fathers , and a change of political heart, passed sides.
Lies are a form of deceit ,as well as omission at key times and disinformation. Stepping further back into history can be helpful in understanding today's frustrations. To avoid long body and sprawling misuse of the english language by me, I offer up a documentary on youtube from 1996. The subject matter is based solely on money and it's historical influence on our world. It stretches back from primarily focuses during our revolution to near present. Unfortunately it runs three and a half hours of play time, which took me practically a week to view. It's thorough ,the narrators voice became just tolerable by the end ( little bravado, almost monotone). But it successfully filled in a missing subject from my youth which I had not questioned before. If you choose to give it a try, patience is required with it's strictly academic nature / as compare to dramatic flow of this piece . I think it may open a new view on today's incongruent nature.
Be well my old friend...John

Mark Peloquin said...

Olga, I didn't know that phrase came from Moynihan. The first I ever heard it was from Karl Rove. Quite a different personality.

John, It may be awhile before I get a chance to watch a 3 hour documentary but I will check it out. If you get a chance (if you haven't already) check out "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media." I saw it in the theater in Cambridge when it was originally released. A lot of Chomsky's student were there. It was a pretty cool experience.