Now that I’ve come partially clean with my own history of grappling with truth, I’d like to move on to public figures, and treat it with the same sort of academic detachment. In other words, I don’t want to put any value judgment on politicians and lying, I just want to categorize things so we know what we’re talking about.
Let us, then, try to define the Four Major Types of Political Liars before we ask the bigger questions. I’d love to hear suggestions, but these are the ones I’ve come up with:
1. The Bald-Faced Brazen – I’ve discussed The Brazen™ here before, but put simply, it’s the pundit or self-proclaimed “attack dog” who gets on television in order to say something sensationally false. Facts are tertiary; the real agenda is to move the goalposts of dialogue further into their comfort zone.
I would also argue that the conservative variety of the Bald-Faced Brazen does not want to be liked; in fact, his/her agenda is the opposite. By taking the argument into coarse and mean-spirited territory, they further America’s disgust with the political process, and therefore government – and weakening government is their overarching purpose.
Examples: Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchanan, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Donald Trump, Allen West
2. The Winking, Nudging Dissembler – This is the liar who doles out their disinformation in precise doses with clocklike consistency; although falsehoods are common, their stock in trade is probably “quotes taken out of context.” While no specific comment, or law, or campaign speech point is enough to warrant scrutiny, the sheer magnitude of little lies is overwhelming.
The Nudging Dissembler is also nimble, meaning he/she can leap to the next talking point without getting bogged down in the one that came before. If cornered, they are known to backpedal, saying that they were taken out of context. As pundits, they can always retreat under the umbrella of “entertainer” – and as poltical leaders, they will resort to gamesmanship commentary like “politics is rough, so you better come ready to play.”
Examples: Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, Bob Novak, Tucker Carlson
3. The Machiavelli – The name implies a dark lord manipulating the masses, but there are plenty of other politicians who believe their ends justify all means. Foes of a woman’s right to choose will use whatever means necessary to impose their beliefs, and if it takes a lie or two to get there, they believe it’s worth it.
Machiavellis have an unstated goal, and use a secondary tactic to get it. They’ll proliferate bad science (to relax climate change legislation), religion (to energize their voting base against homosexuals), or fear (to give themselves sweeping powers).
They think big, and are in for the long haul.
Examples: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, William Krystol, Grover Norquist, William F. Buckley
4. The Cognitive Dissonant – Perhaps the easiest to understand, these are the people who have embraced the lie they tell themselves, because the alternative is unbearable. If we define a “lie” as a falsehood knowingly spread, the Dissonant is awfully close to not being a liar, just being wrong. But deep down, they know they’ve chosen a path beneficial to themselves without being beneficial to the world at large.
Unwilling (or unable) to let this bifurcation churn in their stomachs, they choose a philosophy that justifies their behavior, and soon, everything is viewed through that prism. Facts butt up against feelings, and feelings win every time.
Being presented with information that conflicts with their worldview actually strengthens their worldview. They are intractable, because admitting they might be wrong would actually destroy the elaborate sense of self they’ve spent years building.
Examples: Mitt Romney, the Tea Party
[next: but is any of this actually bad, or even unethical, my friends?]