Thursday, June 26, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: The Art of Deception

Hello everyone. I’ve been thinking recently about what I’ll call The Art of Deception. Human beings deceive, distort and distract to accomplish their goals, whether selling a product, electing a candidate, or winning popular support for a policy. We even deceive ourselves. Naturally, we accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in a job interview or when selling a house. At what point does a convenient distortion become a poisonous lie?

I’d like you to read and think about political deception and post your comments accordingly. My hope is that you will be less susceptible to deceit and distortion. We wish to avoid partisan politics – every political party has engaged in deceit. Even so Abraham Lincoln, who spoke the immortal words on the subject, “…you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Perhaps it is best to begin with a synopsis of the research of Dr. Glen Newey, who concluded that “…some political deception is not only inevitable in a democracy but can be legitimate where it is conducted by elected politicians in the public interest where they have the tacit support of the electorate.”

Politicians being Economical with the truth is the price of a Healthy Democracy

Two other readings from opposing standpoints:

"Selective Intelligence" by Seymour Hersh, from The New Yorker magazine

“How Democrats Bamboozle Black Voters” from the Wall Street Journal

For more, search “Politics of Deception”.

Possible questions to ponder:

Where is the line that shouldn’t ethically be crossed in political deception?

Is the public entitled to the whole truth, all the details, all the time?

Can there be a successful, honest politician?

At what point is a mudslinging candidate hurt by her/his own negativity?

Does freedom of speech guarantee freedom to deceive?

What will it take to restore politics to an honorable stature?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts. I feel strongly that this is a critical issue that our society should address.

14 comments:

Alissa DuVall said...

The public cannot be informed of the whole truth, all the details, all the time. Some issues of national security would be in danger if this were the case, especially in times of war. Certain information is also withheld to keep from panic or scaring of the public. There are some things we are better off not knowing about. However, I believe that information is often used to manipulate and get results that certain politicians or parties are looking for. It is showed throughout history that the media, which has a great influence on society, can be manipulated to make us see things the way politicians want us to see them. When there is so much deception in a democracy, we cannot make good, informed choices concerning candidates effectively. If a candidate focuses solely on using deception just to make themselves look better and the opposition look worse they avoid the pressing issues. I would pay more attention to a candidate that talked about the important things going on in our world than one who knows the latest gossip about their competition.

Anna Gordon said...

It is impossible for a politician not to decieve on some level, because politicians are human beings, and human beings are imperfect. Some flaws should be accepted, but politicians are scrutinized by the brutal public and held up to unreasonable standards and when their flaws show, they are not elected. Therefore, in order to be elected, they must decieve. However, it is our job as responsible citizens to be aware of this fact and 1, not be so judgemental over trivial facts, like whether or not they inhaled marijuana smoke in their pasts, but 2, we should also be aware that sometimes what they consider trivial deceptions are actually horrible lies, like lying about the reason for invading a country. It is our responsibility as American citizens to stay
informed and be open-minded, and not to follow one politican blindly.

I don't think that it is possible to draw a line where 'ok' deception stops and 'bad' deception begins because there is a huge gray area in between. But there are certain matters which can be put on opposite ends of the spectrum as follows:

Decieving about personal matters such as smoking marijuana in the past or cheating on your wife with an intern should be on the 'ok' side of the spectrum. Not that I believe either of these are ok, but they are none of the public's business and do not factor into how well a politican can lead a country. Politicans should be able to tell the truth about these issues, and the public should be more forgiving, but the truth of the matter is that we are not, and do not let them get away with having a single flaw. So, decieving about these things is innocent because they
shouldn't be an issue in the first place. Watch the movie The Contender. It makes a very good case for this point.

Once these 'personal matters' start becoming hypocritical, like preaching against prostitution then having a call girl on speed dial, we start to get into the gray area and to the 'bad' side of the deception spectrum.

Decieving your country about reasons for invading another country falls into the most extreme end of the 'bad' side of the specturm. This is not just a small, trivial deception because it affects us, our economy, our friends and family who have to go and fight and lose their lives for the deception, and more than anything it affects the lives of the people of the invaded countries who are now homeless and living in a nightmare.

I don't think it's possible for a politican to have a perfectly clean carreer, every politician decieves to some extent because every politician is human. But whether these deceptions really matter is for each individual citizen to decide. I've given some examples of deception which I think are either acceptable or unacceptable. I'd be interested to hear what others think.

Jessica said...

It's human nature to want to expose the best and cover the rest, and although everyone does it, politicians and candidates are looked down on more highly for doing this because they're in the public eye. The public should not know everything that is a concern to their country because there would be total chaos and probable cause for bigger problems, but sometimes, there are important issues that should be discussed that are covered up and shouldn't be. It seems like everyone who runs for an office states tons of things that they'll improve when the people elect them, and how often do those things happen? Not very often. A simple example is our school government. Sometimes people promise to improve things that they have no control over. That's deceiving people. There could never be an honest, successful politician because everyone's opinions are different, and honesty isn't always what people want, which conflicts with the successful part. I believe that anyone who chooses to put out negative energy will get it returned and that always hurts the person. Freedom of speech gives anyone the right to say or withhold any information they want, which can be a huge problem. Every political party is engaged in deceit because they'll do anything to win. They don't want to tell the truth because the truth always appears ugly compared to a lie. People don't want to hear lies from the man or woman they're electing, but at the same time, if they found out after the fact that their candidate was deceiving them, they'd be just as angry. I think it's better for someone to address the bad and try to find a solution than to sit around and ignore the bad, or worse, cover it up with deception.

Jessica said...

oops. it doesnt look like my last name showed up on the last post so it was Jessica Meyers, in case you were wondering! =)

Ardath Osborne said...

When I think about politics, world news, and war, I have a tendency to get uptight and frightened. I get these feelings because I know that there are things hidden from me and from the public that we will never know anything about. I watch the news, I see updates of the war in Iraq, murder cases, missing person reports, and freak accidents, and know that I am not getting the full story. In a way, this bothers me, but I know that if the public was informed of every detail, of every leak in the pipe, we would be in constant paranoia and panic.
With that said, I agree that it is necessary to withhold information from the public in certain cases. After all, it wouldn't do much good if the public new everything the secret service was up to. It wouldn't be very secret then, would it?
Politicians use deception, it's a fact. Anyone who believes everything that comes out of their mouths is incredibly naive. Is it possible for a politician to be 100% honest?......not likely. If they were, I highly doubt they would be elected into office. Using deception doesn't make them bad people, ( we all use deception at some point in our lives) it's the way one chooses to handle to level of deception they use that defines them. I'm not trying to say that there are good liars and bad liars, I just want to point out that in order to win the hearts of voters, a politician tells them what they want to hear. Whether or not they carry out the things they say they will do is completely up to the politician.

Katarina said...

Personally, I think the idea of drawing a line to determine which lies are acceptable and which lies aren't is a little far fetched. Lies are lies. Even in the event of public interest or national security, where information is withheld to prevent mass panic, does it actually really help? In this country particularly, there are so many ways for people to get information, and other rumors/opinions about different issues in the world today. Depending on the scenario, sometimes, it might be more beneficial for the public to know the truth rather than believe other things they may hear. As for an honest, successful politician, I think he/she can still only be hoped for. Everyone lies at some point. And, in today's media, people dig deep into the past, especially when looking at potential opposing candidates, or those in the public eye. Secrets no longer remain secret, and I think that as a society, we pressure politicians so much, that they decide to tell us only what we want to hear rather than their opinions, which may or may not cause us to disagree and revoke our support. Nowadays, politics (i.e. presidential elections) seem to be more about things you've done rather than things you plan to do. Nobody's perfect, and until our country realizes that (and learns to let go of all the judgmental rumors) I don't think politics can ever be strictly limited to the platforms of the candidates.

Sandy said...

I totally agree with Ardath, she said everything so well! I agree that some information suitable for the public, but they withhold more information than necessary. The lines of communication between politicans and the public is distorted because the politicans aim to please the public. The politicans have to put on the perfect persona to gain votes, therefore its hard for a politicans to be completely honest. I mean, a politican can be honest, but the public has made it to where they feel they can't if they want to win.

MaddyMAe0915 said...

I agree with Alissa, Ardath, and Sandy. I think that the public can't be informed about everything. To prevent panic, some things have to be kept on the down low. Politicians tell the people what they want to hear, meaning they're not being 100% truthful. It would be hard for a candidate to win an election if he/she was. Unless, of course, their truth is what the public wants to hear. Also, I would want to hear candidates talking about the issues concerning America, not talking negatively about their candidates. But, there are two differnt kinds of mudslinging. If a candidate is speaking against their candidate in an immature manner, thats different than to point out conflicts with today's issues. For example, bringing out Obama's middle name was completely irrelevant. Just as another example... say McCain was supporting a 'Save the polar bears' campaign, but he had previously gone on a polar bear hunt. I feel like that is something to point out, but using irrelevant information against an opponent is pittiful. I think that freedom of speech does guarantee deceit because you can't prevent it. The world of media, politics, and the public is a never ending circle of deceit.

holly said...

Wow. I agree with alot of you. If the public knew absolutely everthing, the world would be in worse shape than it is now. Everyone would panic or be paranoid all the time. Some things are okay to hide from the public, but there are certain things I think the public has a right to know about.

Ms. Stotler said...

Holly, I'm interested to know what kinds of things you feel it's OK to hide from the public and what kinds of things it's good for us to know about. Can you give an example of each so we're more clear on what you're thinking?

Emily. said...

Human beings are imperfect, like Anna said, but human beings aren't completely oblivious too. I think its a shame that a journalist would have to literally DIG and maybe spend years in unsafe places to find out the truth about OUR government and politics. The conclusion of this is.. Americans are saved from too much, yet are hurt and scared from what they know. If they are told everything they will run and panic. No, we shouldn't be told more. However, may I ask how this country can be call a nation made to, for, and by the people if someone has to ask the question you have Mr. Gordon?

Jessica Meyers said...

Ooh, good one Emily! That is true, because I myself think of the government as a separate party than us, almost like two different groups, like the government isn't part of "the people".

Sandy said...

I just read what Emily said, and she made some really good points. I think I agree with her more than with what I originally said. The fact that reports do have to spend years in other places trying to find out the truth of our govt and trying to open the public's eyes when the public doesn't really want to know. I personally don't really want to know if our govt is doing something shady to con soneone (that someone possibly being the American public) or a situation. If I knew, then how could I be proud to be an American? wow, Emily, you really kinda changed my opinion.
And also, with what Jess said, I feel that way too. I don't look at our govt as one of "us". I see the govt as "them".

Chy Fox said...

When I think of deception, I think of Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind. You deceive and distort until you get what you want, but when it all comes down to it your going to have to confront your deception. Not only politicians, but all of us, will have to confront our deception at some point in life. Some people take decieving them as disrespect, but what if you do it for, possibly, acceptable reasons?