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KNIGHT: The allure of the lie
Cooked ‘studies’ and weasel words feed a compliant media
Question of the Day
Lying is no big deal. It’s just something that we Americans have to live with.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as much in Wednesday’s congressional hearing on the Sept. 11 Benghazi killings. Pressed by Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson about the administration’s two weeks’ worth of lies about the attack that cost the lives of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya, Mrs. Clinton complained, “With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
If you think about it, her answer calls into question any inquiry after the fact, including murder trials. Someone should have asked her: “So, lying to the American people is not a big deal, then?”
In a culture of lying, it probably doesn’t make much difference. Make no mistake. We are hip-deep in a culture of lying. It’s the coin of the realm for liberal politicians, the media and Hollywood, all of whom cover for each other. Since an accusation of lying amounts to fighting words, journalists reporting the lies tend to use softer terms, such as prevarication, dissembling, not forthcoming, not fully disclose, misleading, redirecting, etc.
Lying often is accomplished with euphemisms. Government spending is “investment.” Raising taxes is “revenue reform.” Torture is sanitized as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Global warming is morphing into “climate change” to accommodate obvious temperature departures from the warming scenario. Gambling is “gaming.” Defense of religious freedom is a “war on women.” There’s a slew of terms invented to validate sexual immorality. The sin of sodomy became homosexuality and then merely gay. Adultery became “finding oneself,” “open marriage” or “swinging.” Prostitutes are “commercial sex workers.” Two men — with no bride — are considered “married.” Pornography became “erotica.” Abortion — the killing of unborn children — is “choice.”
Then there’s the old standby that Mrs. Clinton employed: avoidance. She changed the subject and used pathos to cow her inquisitors, waxing emotionally about “those flag-draped caskets.” How dare they question her actions. I’m not saying she wasn’t genuinely moved, but it made the committee members look small just for doing their job.
After implausibly denying that she knew about emergency security requests from Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and other embassy personnel, she blamed “security professionals in the department” and then, indirectly — Congress. Budget-cutting had created a “culture of reaction.” Her people were “husbanding resources and trying to figure out how to do as much with as little as possible.”
Democrats, naturally, defended the administration and Mrs. Clinton. “Clearly, mistakes were made,” said New York Rep. Eliot L. Engel. Bad stuff happens, right? For those too young to remember, “mistakes were made” was one of Bill Clinton’s go-to phrases during the Monica Lewinsky affair. It was right up there with his pondering the meaning of the word “is.”
The culture of lying has become so entrenched in American political culture that any deviation is swiftly punished. People who question any part of the theory of man-caused global warming, for instance, are branded “deniers.” End of discussion. Question the junk science behind the “born gay” myth and you’re a “hater.” If you believe God created marriage as the union of a man and a woman, you’re not only a hater but a bigot. If you favor photo ID laws to thwart fraud, you want to “suppress the minority vote.” If you question the morality or wisdom of putting women into combat, you’re against “equality.”
Often, liberal policies are sustained by repeated citations of a single study or studies, however flawed.
In 1993, an article by Arthur Kellermann in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide 2.7 times. In an earlier study, he had claimed that gun ownership increased the risk of homicide 43 times, but later backed away from that. Both studies have major flaws, but they are the foundation of the liberal claim that if you own a gun, you’re more at risk than if you’re unarmed. What you don’t hear about in the media are the 1.5 million incidents annually in which guns are used to thwart criminals. The birth of the misleading term “assault weapon” is a story itself, as is conflating semi-automatic guns, which include nearly all legal firearms, with illegal automatic weapons, such as submachine guns.
In 2006, the George Soros-funded Brennan Center published a study, “Citizens Without Proof,” a survey of just under 1,000 people that claims that 25 percent of voting age minority Americans lack a photo ID. This is absurd. How do these people drive or buy a six-pack? Yet progressives (the current euphemism for liberals) cite it again and again to justify delaying or halting voter photo ID laws, ignoring studies by election officials showing microscopic numbers of minority voters lacking proper IDs.
One of the biggest lies in recent years is that there are no real biological differences between men and women — that masculinity and femininity are artificial social constructs. The latest fallout from this departure from reality is the Pentagon’s opening of the military to homosexuality and putting women into combat. We’re told that everyone in the armed forces thinks this is wonderful. Sure they do. It would be a career-ender in this culture of lying to say otherwise.
The culture of lying depends heavily on cooked studies, weasel words and a compliant media that parrot them without examination. It’s a house of cards that’s waiting for a gentle breeze of truth to blow it over. As G.K. Chesterton observed, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
A few hard questions had Mrs. Clinton on the defensive. A few more would have had her on the run.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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