Lies and the lying liars who hear them
It's said all the time on the left, and even by many liberals: Bush lied. Bush lied through his teeth, especially about WMDs in Saddam's Iraq.
I don't even have to provide the links; we all know what a recurrent refrain it is. Thread after thread, on this blog and others--even when Bush and WMDs aren't really the issue at hand--have been taken up with the argument.
But this post isn't about the issue of WMDs and lying. That's been hashed over time and again, to no avail, so often that I'm convinced it's an argument that goes beyond logic and beyond facts. I'm more interested in what's behind the argument; what drives it.
So, why "Bush lied?" Wouldn't it be enough to say that Bush was mistaken, misinformed, stupid, duped, misled, lazy, deluded--oh, any number of other criticisms of Bush that could so much more easily be argued than lied?
After all, "Bush lied" is fairly easy to refute. The usual counterargument goes like this: almost everyone on earth, including most of the intelligence operatives in the US and Europe, believed that Saddam had WMDs. In fact, there's a theory that perhaps even Saddam himself was fooled into thinking he actually had WMDs.
But no matter; Bush lied.
I've become convinced that the key to this assertion is a relatively new and fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the term "lied," an error that has its genesis in the growth of narcissism (please see Dr. Sanity's fine series on the affliction).
In truth, the hallmark of a lie is that its locus is in the speaker. To be lying, the speaker must be aware of the falsehood of the utterances. So whether or not something is a lie has nothing to do with the listener, and everything to do with the teller.
But many listeners in our day and age have lost sight--not just of truth vs. relative truth, or objective vs. subjective truth--but of any truth-falsehood distinction outside of their own perceptions. So the new definition of a lie has become: something that fooled me. Something that I heard and thought was true, and then discovered wasn't true. It made me angry to be jerked around like that. So it's a lie.
Such a listener lacks awareness of any need to ascertain the state of mind of the speaker in order to define an utterance as a lie--it is simply irrelevant; it does not compute in the equation. In fact, the so-called liar is actually often either mistaken, misinformed by others, in denial, or deluded. But that doesn't matter to a listener who hears everything only in terms of him/herself and how something makes him/her feel.
Thus, a lie is born.