Hard News by Russell Brown


The Political Lie

The theme for this week's Media7 show is the political lie. It strikes me as remarkable that while "misleading the House" is a political sin with real consequences, we basically expect that elected members will take liberties with the truth when they speak to us, rather than each other.

Of course, opinions will vary on exactly what constitutes a lie. If circumstances change so that a promise must be broken, does that make a lie of the original promise? Or should we simply accept that minds change when the evidence does?

Sometimes the lie is so prodigious that believing it becomes part of the social order; or so preposterous as to render its disbelievers impotent. The Blair government's "dossier" making the case for war in Iraq was both. Anyone who does not now believe that it was compiled to justify the government's decision rather than guide it is delusional.

Here, we have seen Helen Clark sign the painting she didn't paint, Don Brash disclaim his meetings with the Brethren, and John Key deny his shareholdings. More recently, Jon Stephenson's work has been met with ministers' statements that are disingenuous at best and malicious at worst. Political journalists get more exercised about some lies than others.

Sarah Daniell is interviewing UC Berkley's Dr Martin Jay, author of The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics by satellite for the show, and I'll be joined by a formidable panel: the greatly-missed Sean Plunket, media trainer Brian Edwards and former Prime Ministerial speechwriter David Slack. You, too, may join us at tomorrow evening's recording. Just come to the Victoria St entrance of TVNZ between 5.15 and 5.40pm. As ever, try and drop me an email to let me know you're coming.

In the meantime, please feel free to explore the topic here. I have a very, very busy next day and a half, and any light you can shed will be of service come showtime.

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