The Truth About Lies
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published August 7, 2016 by The Washington Times.
The whole idea of truth is getting an overhaul.
It’s not just the rise of moral and cultural relativism that is turning public dialogue into dueling monologues as people talk past each other; it’s a growing belief that truth no longer matters —- only cause and effect.
For example, the media are not content to let Donald Trump’s provocative statements speak for themselves; they are pulling out all stops to magnify outrage for partisan purposes.
When the famously thin-skinned Mr. Trump responded to criticism of him at the Democratic Convention by Khizr Khan, a Muslim whose son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayan Khan, was killed in Iraq, the press routinely left out Mr. Trump’s expression of sympathy to the parents. They reported mainly on his remark about Mrs. Khan, who stood silently by her husband as he attacked Mr. Trump by name and accused him of never reading the U.S. Constitution. Somehow, the press has managed to ignore Mr. Khan’s writings, including a book review lauding an Islamic cleric who places Shariah law over all Western law, including America’s founding documents.
Omitting key details is one way to lie. We still hear about the shooting of the “unarmed teen Michael Brown” in Ferguson, Missouri with no mention that he was attacking a police officer. Adding adjectives is another. In supposedly objective news stories about voter ID laws, the writers keep inserting “restrictive” in front of them in order to make them sound onerous. All laws are “restrictive” in some sense. They never do this with gun laws, by the way.
Even when the press gets caught red-handed, they just move on as if nothing had happened. Much of the ease in which so many in the media embrace dishonesty can be traced to their formative years on campus, where leftist academics taught them that truth is in the eye of the beholder.
Philosophy classes are supposed to convey principles and tools that help people discover truth, such as mastering Aristotelian logic and Socratic dialogue. But they can veer into absurdity very easily.
I had a philosophy professor who perched on his desk and rocked back and forth, challenging us to answer questions such as, “Can you prove that humor is an illusion?” He was endlessly amused as we scuffled around the edges of logic.
Then there was the one who pulled a chair out and gave a final exam with one question: “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.”
The students wrote furiously, offering up all sorts of convoluted explanations. One student scribbled only briefly and closed her bluebook.
She got the only “A.” When the other students gathered around, she flipped to the first page, which simply said: “What chair?”
That student was Hillary Rodham (Clinton). Just kidding. But it would fit.
Did she really assert that no classified material passed through her private email server? Yes. Did she insist that despite his damning bill of particulars against her, FBI Director James Comey found nothing really wrong? Yes, she did. Over and over.
The other day, President Obama insisted that Hillary Clinton was the most “qualified” person ever to be president. Really? More qualified than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and all of the rest?
As a college graduate with a law degree, Mr. Obama surely knows that he told a huge, easily verifiable lie, or at best, a wildly unsupportable assertion. But he knew he could count on the media to take it at face value.
There is another theory. Perhaps Mr. Obama is taking perverse satisfaction in actually undermining his former secretary of State by doing the opposite of damning with faint praise, which is to dish out fulsome praise.
Either approach calls attention to her record, which is not in her interest. That is, unless you like what’s happened to the Middle East after her vigorous support of the “Arab Spring” and the U.S. bombing runs that helped bring down Moammar Gadhafi and turn Libya into a budding terrorist state. Not to mention Benghazi.
But even Mr. Obama’s laughable comment pales with the claim by actress/producer Lena Dunham, who told the Democratic Convention that Mrs. Clinton was the protector and champion of women who have been victims of sexual harassment. I like the way conservative blogger Lee Duigon puts it:
“This was a denial worthy of a nut who claims to be able to shinny up a flashlight beam: Hillary Clinton, chief of the Clinton campaign’s famous Bimbo Eruption damage-control team; Hillary Clinton, who led the efforts to smear, discredit, and trash all those women harassed by her husband who ran interference for him as one woman after another testified against him. Dunham’s speech was a denial of reality seldom seen outside of a lunatic asylum.
“But even this was topped, just a few days later, by the editors of Cosmopolitan magazine, who called the Clintons, both the serial adulterer and his enabling wife, ‘great role models for marriage.’”
A former newspaper editor who has seen it all, Mr. Duigon said that a lie of this magnitude “takes your breath away.”
If past is prologue, we’d better break out the oxygen masks.