Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Political Lie

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  • Alex Coleman, in reply to BenWilson,

    Philosophers will say different things, but some of them can be right and some wrong.

    Sure! Let's vote on which is which :)

    I think the relevant philospher here might be Harry Frankfurt:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit

    Politicians often don't really care about the Truth with regard to statements. They aren't really trying to get listeners to have an opinion about the world, but rather an opinion about the politician.

    The media doesn't help, with it's focus on 'perception', which seems to be, again, what they think the listener might think about the speaker. Not much room for Truth to get a look in here.

    Which is why, I suspect, 'contradiction' is a bigger failing than 'lies' for politicians as they exist in the system we have currently fallen into in somehow.

    I'm not saying I like it. I just don't see how Truth is relevant, or how we might change the system to make it so.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    usually by way of a great many speculative untruths

    Hell yeah! It is one of the most fun things about science, coming up with possibilities and constructing them as hypotheses that then get tumbled by reality. Or in other words we create a lie and then go ahead and prove it is a lie and then we move on. If we do it well we eventually corral the truth inside a web of disproved lies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I think that many pollies actually believe that we can't see through their obfuscations and evasions.

    She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the scenes of the day, her lips often curling with amusement at the oddities to which her fancy added fresh drollery: people were so ridiculous with their illusions, carrying their fool's caps unawares, thinking their own lies opaque while everybody else's were transparent, making themselves exceptions to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow under a lamp they alone were rosy.

    (Also, honour and glory and admiration to Craig if he can identify the source of that quote. Or to anyone else of course, 'though I'm guessing that bookish types might have the best chance.)

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    This is probably as good a thread as any to post this up in.

    How can you tell if a policy is working? Run a trial

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Deborah,

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1943 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    I just don't see how Truth is relevant, or how we might change the system to make it so.

    A web of lies is much more fragile than a web of truth. On lie unpicked in the right place can bring the whole thing down. Truth is extremely relevant, if a very long process in the building. When perception is the only glue, the thing is bound to fall, because perceptions always change.

    I don't think there's any perfect system, we have to keep tinkering with it all the time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Or in other words we create a lie and then go ahead and prove it is a lie and then we move on. If we do it well we eventually corral the truth inside a web of disproved lies.

    Proof by contradiction was my favorite in maths too. Assume something, prove it's false, and thus the negation must be true.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yeah, though we have to be careful how much we can assume in the negation.
    If your results suggest that a null hypothesis is very unlikely,
    that just means “there may be something here that needs an explanation”.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1943 posts Report Reply

  • Toby,

    there are lies, and then there are lies

    pt chev • Since Mar 2011 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Wood, in reply to Russell Brown,

    "Edward's Slack Plunket - out of the mouths of babes..."

    Now back in Aucktown • Since Dec 2006 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    One lie unpicked in the right place can bring the whole thing down

    Classic example - "I didn't meet (or connive with) the Brethren". Doesn't seem to have harmed Key or Joyce's subsequent careers though. And lo, up pops the unrepentent Brash.

    I'd like to see the show focus on intentional lying, not promises or policy changes. English and Joyce mis-use figures deliberately and consistently and yet few journos are competent or confident enough to challenge them on it. And let's not even start with the hapless opposition performance over the last couple of years.

    Tolerating lying behaviour undermines legitimate authority. Worth refreshing our memory of what holding a liar to account actually looks like:

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19743 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to BenWilson,

    Middlemarch, Ch 33

    Google has taken all the fun out of being a knowitall.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to nzlemming,

    Google has taken all the fun out of being a knowitall.

    And made knowing nothing almost feasible.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to linger,

    Certainly care is needed - this rule only applies to the contradiction of a statement, not contraries. "Not yellow" is not the same as "blue". If a null hypothesis is unlikely, then the contradiction of it is likely. Eg, if it's unlikely I'm white, then it's likely I'm "not white". That's sound reasoning. "Not white" is not to be confused with "black", though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye, in reply to Baruch ter Wal,

    They didn’t really believe it, but it was a badge of their tribe.

    This really fascinates me. I read something by Brendan Nyhan referring to “symbolic beliefs” (mostly wrt contemporary US right-wing propaganda such as Obama’s religion, & death-panels). Do you have some other suggestions of where I can read more?

    I’m especially interested in how this impacts the left/right split in political stances that are otherwise unrelated – for example, in Bush’s presidency, the people that believed climate change was real & man-made were pretty consistently against the iraq war, and vice versa.

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    we basically expect that elected members will take liberties with the truth when they speak to us,

    Do "we" do this? Or somehow have elected members given themselves the permission to do this lying thing. Im just not sure where the blame lies, if blame is to be apportioned such.
    It just is completely bizarre to me when, at a time when there a lot of facts(not truth) are available for say the effects of human habitation on this planet. All sorts of people resort to claiming they have hold of a "truth".
    Holding fast to "truths" seems like a road to ruin. But then I'm a pessimist.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Sacha,

    Tolerating lying behaviour undermines legitimate authority. Worth refreshing our memory of what holding a liar to account actually looks like:

    Yay for journos who press the point!! At least long enough for a lying politician to dig a good deep hole.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    In biology it's not usually a yes/no situation, it's more a case of "it might work using this regulatory signal" ... nope ... "how about this way of controlling the response" ... nope "ah then it must be this" ... well half right ... eventually by trying possibles and working out why they aren't real you end up at reality.

    Interestingly one of the problems we see now in science is falsifying data, lying, and in most cases it's caused by people not willing to spend the time being wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to andin,

    Do "we" do this? Or somehow have elected members given themselves the permission to do this lying thing. Im just not sure where the blame lies, if blame is to be apportioned such.

    I sometimes get the impression from people that they don't want to be bothered by the details of actually how the country is run. So they don't much care what the politicians are actually saying. Instead they focus of "how the politician sounds". Since a lie is about the content then politicians discover that lying doesn't matter.

    Hence it doesn't bother folks that Key lies about being 100% pure, instead they care that he smiled nicely while being interviewed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Bart: interesting reference to what you mention in your second paragraph on page 8 of the new Scientific American ("An Epidemic of False Claims").

    Since Nov 2006 • 212 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Hence it doesn’t bother folks that Key lies about being 100% pure, instead they care that he smiled nicely while being interviewed.

    His smile vanished when he realised where the interviewer was going :-)

    And of course NZ isn’t 100% pure. Only a very silly person would try to claim that was factually true. A place could really only be 100% pure if humans had never been there, and even then, what do we mean by “pure”, exactly?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    That hardtalk interview really does show both sides of the issue.

    Key simply isn't concerned about Truth there. The actual state of the rivers is completely beside the point. 'You've got your academics, and there are others.'

    Whether or not there really are 'others' is beside the point.

    That line is a piece of Frankfurtian 'bullshit', ( it might be true that there such academics, it might not be true, but either way it serves his purpose to say it and it's probable that Key didn't know if these 'others' exist*), all that matters is getting through the interview without being caught in a contradiction.

    With the SAS story, the bullshit is about what does 'detaining' mean. Oh no, we just happened to be near by when others detained people. After that we get 'he said/she said' and the other side is left Explaining, which is Losing.

    In the US, it was about 'what is torture really?', 'It's no different from SERE training' and 'That stuff we do that isn't torture works, and if torture works shouldn't we do it anyway?'

    *if he did know of any he would have mentioned them, but instead he makes a general case that academics are like lawyers, therefore, what is the truth? meh. Come down for a swim sometime, you'll love it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    In biology it's not usually a yes/no situation

    heh, the first example you used was a yes/no. They occur everywhere. Narrowing down from many choices using multiple yes/noes. Science doesn't need funky logic, the old stuff still works.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    A place could really only be 100% pure if humans had never been there, and even then, what do we mean by “pure”, exactly?

    We mean what Key meant. Nothing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • JLM, in reply to linger,

    Of course, Mary Garth. I knew it sounded familiar.

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 241 posts Report Reply

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