FactCheck.org has a recent entry called “RNC Ad Mischaracterizes Murtha” on an internet advertisement from the Republican National Committee that quite blatantly tells a lie about Representative John Murtha.
The advertisement is a lie. It is not one of those adds that take a truth and gives it a political spin that conceals the truth. This is a flat-out, no qualms, “We care absolutely nothing about the truth” type lie that tells us a great deal about the moral character of all of those who were involved in it.
The advertisement shows Representative John Murtha (D-Penn) saying, “We're more dangerous to world peace than North Korea or Iran.”
The quote is taken from a speech in which Murtha actually said,
Fifty-six per cent of the people in Spain think it's more dangerous, the United States is more dangerous in Iraq than Iran is. Every one of our allies think that the United States being in Iraq is more dangerous to world stability and world peace, every one of our allies, Great Britain, every single country, they think it's, we're more dangerous to world peace than North Korea or Iran. That says something.
The Republican National Committee could have used the fact that Murtha himself had lied. Murtha himself was not interested in giving his audience the facts about Bush’s policies. Murtha, instead, showed that he was just as willing to manipulate his audience with fiction as the Republican National Committee was.
Indeed, we can say one thing about the RNC that we cannot say about the liberal defenders of Murtha. The RNC did not engage in the hypocrisy of condemning those who distort somebody else’s record while they were, in fact, engaging in the act of distorting somebody else’s record. Liberal defenders of Murtha, on the other hand, are hypocrites for their condemnation of the RNC’s deception while they ignore Murtha’s deception.
Both Murtha and the Republican National Committee showed themselves to be liars.
This, as I said, tells us a lot about their moral character.
In this blog I have been defending the idea that morality is concerned with molding desires. Desires work to influence our actions even when there is nobody to watch over our shoulders. My dislike of pain helps to ensure that I will not put my hand on a hot stove even if I am alone in a room and I know that I can get away with it without anybody discovering what I did. My child’s dislike for liver will bring it about that the child is extremely unlikely to sneak off with a piece in a way that the same child might be tempted to some cookies hidden on the top shelf of the cupboard.
So, to keep others in our community from taking our property even when they are able to do so, we give them an aversion to taking property – an aversion, like the aversion to the effects of putting one’s hand on a hot stove – that will motivate them to leave our property alone even when they can get away with taking it. We give them a desire to help those in need so that, when they encounter somebody in need, they will give assistance because they want to and will not walk away even when they know they can get away with it.
If we want a person to speak the truth even when he can benefit from a lie, we do this by giving them a love of truth. We do this by molding his character in such a way that lying, even when it can produce a benefit, is personally unpleasant, much like putting one’s hand on a hot stove. A person who has this characteristic – a person with this moral virtue – is somebody we can trust. This is somebody of which we can say, “He is not telling us this merely because he can benefit from our knowing it. He truly believes this – because, if he did not believe it, he would be averse to saying it.”
When we see somebody display such a blatant disregard for truth as is found in this advertisement, we can know right away that we dealing with somebody who has no love of truth. He is somebody who views truth as a tool. He will use it when it benefits him to do so, and discard it for fiction when that will benefit him. Once we know that we are dealing with somebody who has this characteristic we know that only a fool will trust him. From this moment on, everything that individual says would become suspect to the rational person. The moral person, at the same time, will know him from that point on as a liar.
Assume, at work, an employee is discovered taking money from a co-worker’s purse. Once we catch him in this act we know that he does not have the aversion to taking the property of others that he should have. We know from this discovery that if his actions are governed at all that they are governed only by the fear of punishment. From this, we know that any time the fear of punishment is removed – any time he has a chance of getting away with taking the property of others, he is at risk of doing so. We know never again to trust him with our property. In fact, to restore a sense of security at the work place, we would insist that this perpetrator be removed (be fired), so that we can once again trust that the property we bring to work is secure.
So, what does it say that we find Murtha and the Republican National Committee engaged in these most obvious lies.
One thing we know is that, in their dishonesty, they do not even fear the possibility of discovery. This is not like an employee sneaking money out of co-worker’s desk. This is like an employee walking to a co-worker’s desk in full view of everybody, taking her purse, taking what he wants from it, going back to his desk, and boasting, “What are you going to do about it?”
This is the behavior of a pack of schoolyard bullies who know that the teachers will turn their backs. These are people who know that they have nothing to fear from others who might otherwise stand up and say, “This is wrong!” With no restraint coming from a moral conscience, and no restraint coming from social consequences, they flaunt their power precisely by giving people a live demonstration that, “I can do whatever I want, even that which is blatantly wrong, and nobody will touch me.”
They strongly believe that nobody will touch them.
Yesterday, I wrote a post on the need to avoid “fiction-based policies.” Murtha fed us a fiction about the effects of Bush’s decision. On the basis of this fiction, Murtha is recommending a change in policy. However, he is advocating a change grounded on fiction if it is foreign policy.
We are so heavily surrounded by deceivers these days that the job of calling them to task seems overwhelming. Yet, the situation may be like living in Baghdad, where the citizens are so heavily surrounded by murderers that there seems little to be done in holding them accountable. Yet, this is also the only way to put an end (or, at least, to reduce the commonality) of these moral crimes.
The example that I gave above of the employee sneaking money out of a co-worker’s purse does not fully apply here. A better analogy would be of an employee who goes up to a co-worker who is sitting at her desk and takes money from her purse in full view of other co-workers and the manager. This, let us assume, happened on Monday. Now, it is Friday, and still nothing has been done. So, the thief now swaggers up and down the office halls making every employee aware of the fact, “I can do whatever I want to you, and nobody is going to do anything about it.”
So, he does whatever he wants.
In this case, the Republican National Committee swaggers across the airwaves telling their political foes, “I can tell whatever lies I wish about you – destroy your character and turn others against you – because there is nobody out there willing to stand up against me.”
The office bully in my analogy requires only the passive cooperation of the manager and other employees. He requires that, through fear and intimidation, that others do nothing. The liar, in this case, actually requires the active cooperation of others to succeed. For example, the RNC requires a group of followers who are willing to accept and live by the rule, “Our rule is to repeat whatever the RNC says, with no regard for the truth, with no aversion to the fact that what the RNC wants us to repeat involves bearing false witness against others. If the RNC says that Representative Murtha believes that we are more dangerous than North Korea or Iran, then you must all agree to act as if it is true even though it is clearly false.”
Without the active participation of those who spread and promote lies of this type, the lies themselves will have no effect.
In case of the RNC, a large part of those who assist in these campaigns of deception (and, in fact, a large percentage of those who engineer, approve and fund these campaigns of deception are those who claim to believe that there is a God that prohibits them from bearing false witness against their neighbor. The condemn a number of biblical transgressions (including many that I would hold were falsely believed to be wrong 2,000 years ago but were not wrong in fact).
Yet, they do not condemn the bearers of false witness (a moral transgression believed to be wrong 2,000 years ago and wrong in fact). In fact, they choose to have themselves represented by these bearers of false witness and, indeed, to engage in the practice of bearing false witness with these representatives. This, to me, strikes the same moral cord as having these people not only choosing to have themselves represented by a group of homosexuals but agreeing to engage in homosexual acts with those representatives.
I find it so odd that these people find such energy and devotion to enforcing what those 2,000 years ago falsely believed to be wrong, but so clearly allow themselves to participate in moral crimes that even primative people 2,000 years ago were able to understand to be wrong in fact.
They cannot, in fact, completely escape the charge of hypocrisy.
The rest of us, in the mean time, would be well served to adopt a standard under which, when asked to choose between a loyalty to truth and a loyalty to party, will have the moral fortitude to choose the former.