Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Deception and the Culture of the Right

We have another piece of evidence today that the culture of the right is a culture of lies. It comes (not surprisingly) from Fox News, which edited a clip of Joe Biden speaking so as portray him as saying, "the fundamentals of the economy are sound."

As the Think Progress demonstrates, the Biden clip was taken from a campaign speech made in 2008 in which Joe Biden spoke critically of McCain's statement that "the fundamentals of the economy are sound." He repeated McCain's statement in order to criticize it. Fox News took the clip out of context and not only portrayed Biden as uttering the statement as a matter of personal conviction, but uttered the statement as a part of a recent Obama strategy to speak positively about the economy.

See: Think Progress Fox News Edits Clip To Suggest That Biden Recently Declared 'Fundamentals Of The Economy Are Strong'

I mention this as being a part of a culture of lies. The culture of lies is not demonstrated by the fact that some members of the culture of the right lied. This is demonstrated by the fact that the members of the culture of the right, for the most part, do not care that this is a lie.

We can ask, for example, what type of reaction that those who perpetuated this lie would expect if they got caught. If they were working in a culture that valued truth and honesty, the should expect their lie to be met with criticism and condemnation. They would not only risk embarrassment, but they would risk their jobs at the hands of an establishment that flatly condemns that type of behavior and those who would engage in it.

Yet, I dare to suggest that culture of the right will not take any steps to criticize and condemn the deceivers. This only suggests that deception is not an act that the culture of the right holds as being worthy of criticism. Instead, lies and other forms of deception are to be ignored for the most part, and perhaps praised when it proves to be effective in promoting the interests of the liar.

This is not to say that every member of the culture of the right is a liar or, at best, indifferent to acts of deception. That claim would involve the fallacy of division. What it does say is that members of the culture of the right who have and who hold that others should have an aversion to lying are such a small and ineffective minority that they have virtually no cultural influence. The culture of deception can safely and easily ignore the minority that think that lying is wrong.

Of course, the values exhibited by any particular culture are the values that they pass down to their children – and to yours (if you have children). An act of condemnation is not meant just to convince the person being condemned not to lie. It is meant to tell anybody and everybody within earshot not to lie (or, in the modern age, within webshot).

When children hear liars being condemned, those children learn an aversion to lying that they can carry with them into adulthood, where we can expect them to be more honest and trustworthy than they would have otherwise been. However, children who grow up in a culture that, at best, ignores acts of deception and, at worse, embraces them as a virtue, then those children are more likely to grow up seeing lies and deception as acceptable – with no aversion to engaging in those types of activities.

This may allow those children to grow up to become fit employees for a company like Fox News. However, they do not grow up to be the kind of people that we have reason to as our neighbors and co-workers. These are certainly not the type of people that we want to engage in trade and other forms of commerce with – simply because we cannot trust them.

A culture of lies is a poison to society.

If Fox News has an interest in denouncing a culture of lies, they should publicly issue a formal apology to the public for deceiving them and to Vice President Biden for misrepresenting the facts. They should demonstrate their moral objection by finding and firing those who are responsible for this and any other instance of deception. They should announce and engage in a campaign to reinforce among their new team the moral principle that truth and honesty matters.

But you should expect to see nothing of that here, because, in the culture of the right, truth and honesty do not matter.


anton said...

Great post, Alonzo.

Because religious congregations are conditioned to never question the guy behind the pulpit, the extremists of this culture of the Right operate as if their proclamations are being made from that same pulpit . . . and anybody who dares to object "ain't one of us!" That's alright because they are preaching to their own choir and certainly are not increasing their numbers. I still like the ancient practice of the middle east . . . liars who did harm had their tongues cut out! And, if the audience thinks this is barbaric, I would suggest that it was a great example to their young people! It wouldn't take the loss of too many tongues to make inroads for the truth. And, there wouldn't be too many words from the pulpit!

NAL said...

Fox News apologizes for dishonest splicing of Biden clip.

Hell just froze over.

Kevin Currie-Knight said...


You are right that Foxnews needs to be called out when guilty of lying by taking a quote out of context.

I am not sure why, though, you are so quick to take this example of dishonesty on the part of a news agency and abstract it as proof that the right is a culture of lies. Also, I am not sure why you would confine this behavior to the right, and not to politics/political news in general.

I have no allegiance to the political right (and did not vote for either major candidate in the last presidential election), but am disturbed by those who are quick to point to the flaws of one party (or viewpoint) without any inclination to suppose that the other "side" does not employ the same tactics.

Sheldon said...

"I still like the ancient practice of the middle east . . . liars who did harm had their tongues cut out! And, if the audience thinks this is barbaric, I would suggest that it was a great example to their young people!"

Come on Anton, did you think that through?! Who would it have been to have made the decision as to what was a lie and who should receive the punishment? Likely those in authority, who would be the biggest liars, and in the end persecute truth tellers.

anton said...

Believe it or not, some countries used to have honest leaders -- at least honest by today's standards. And, is that form of justice any more flawed or suspect than what is often practiced today in US America? At least the ancient punishment deterred others from doing the same.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for Kevin Currie.

Anonymous said...

Anton - it primarily deterred others from saying anything that those in power may not like, for fear of being accused of lieing.

Dan Gilbert said...

NAL, it's interesting that Fox News apologized by saying they "inadvertently" used the clip. So they inadvertently went to the effort to find, edit, and include that particular clip into the report where the clip bolstered the point they were trying to make.

Sounds like they're lyin' about lyin'. ;-)