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When Can We Say Someone Is Lying?

Rob Tisinai

September 28th, 2012

Earlier today I accused NOM of lying when they said recent attacks on churches were motivated by the churches’ opposition to marriage equality. There’s no evidence to prove such a motive, and there’s considerable evidence against it, evidence they ignored in their statement.

It’s been pointed out to me that NOM’s problem might not be dishonesty. It could be incompetent research skills or a psychological inability to see anything that contradicts their worldview.

It was also suggested that they might know what the Chief of Police said, but suspect it’s part of a liberal media conspiracy to cover up religious persecution. Regarding that alternative, I told my critic, “To present their suspicions as fact is still dishonesty.”

Later, the irony of that statement hit me, and I realized I should take my own advice: I suspect NOM is lying. I acknowledge they could merely be incompetent or blinded by their bias.

This raises an important question, though, and because we strive for accuracy here, I want to toss out a question for the Box Turtle Community.

When can we reasonably say someone is not merely wrong, but is lying — essentially, at what point do we stop giving them the benefit of the doubt?

To aid discussion, you might also want to check out this post, which alleges a number of NOM lies, and think about which ones can be considered, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be actual deceit, and which could plausibly be mere mistakes. With what criteria can we reliably separate one category from the other?

I almost posted this in the sidebar, but I’ll ask Jim’s indulgence and put it with the main articles. It’s a question we can’t afford to ignore.

Comments

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JT
September 28th, 2012 | LINK

My criterion for defining a lie is when someone says something they know is not true, or they present something they don’t know the truth of as a fact and willfully abandon any attempt to verify it.

The difference between being mistaken and lying is intent. A mistake is when they thought it had been verified. A lie is intended to deceive.

NOM is a public figure that claims to be experts in everything gay-related. They have hundreds of thousands of dollars at their disposal to check facts. (For example, we know what the police chief said, why wouldn’t they except by willfully refusing to discover it. They were lying because they chose to present a statement that was full of incorrect information and made no effort to find the truth.

Mens sana
September 28th, 2012 | LINK

“When can we reasonably say someone is not merely wrong, but is lying — essentially, at what point do we stop giving them the benefit of the doubt?”

A person or spokesperson publishes a statement. The statement is proved to be factually false. The person or spokesperson continues making the same statement, despite being aware that the statement has been proven false.

TampaZeke
September 28th, 2012 | LINK

If this were any other group this discussion would be warranted but considering it’s NOM I think you’re WAY over-complicating things.

It’s really simple. You know they’re lying when their lips move!

Dante
September 28th, 2012 | LINK

There are two routes that NOM could be lying in this case, as usual:

1) they know the accurate data but purposefully present false data

2) they purposefully portray conjecture as fact

It seems that the most likely scenario is that NOM is lying in both ways.

Eric Mory
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Actually NOM probably isn’t lying, as in knowing the truth and saying the opposite.
They’re Bullsh**ers. Someone who is BSing doesn’t care whether what they say is true or not true. If it sounds good to them they say it. I suppose the polite way of saying BS would be, “reckless disregard for the truth.”

Andrew
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

I guess you really have to decide what you’re trying to do – and it’s not always clear here.

On the one hand, if you’re advocating, then basically you bash your opponent over the head with whatever doesn’t absolutely cost you your credibility. It doesn’t matter if they’re actually lying, it matters if it feeds a narrative that convinces the undecided.

On the other, if you’re striving to be an arbiter of fair-mindedness and truth, then you have to forego your advocacy (or fear being neither a successful advocate, nor an honest dealer of facts). You can’t accuse someone of lying without a “smoking gun”, typically involving print or a recorded audio tape. Saying something like “we intend to win by lying”.

This site does a good job of being an honorable advocate 99% of the time, with a fanbase that calls you on it when you stray too far into your own personal whimsy (see “Barney Frank”). So, my advice? Go with number option number one. Those NOM bastards are lying liars who would kill their mother if they thought it would win them an anti-gay constitutional amendment. They have no integrity, they have no soul, and we grant them no quarter. None. We wouldn’t cross the street to pee on them if they were on fire. Not even if they were into that, which they probably are.

So, I applaud you for the introspection – well done. Now get back to beating those SOB’s like a drum.

Bob Hammond
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Honest people don’t spend half a million dollars on a poorly executed study, hide the fact that they funded it and then present it as fact.

Honest people don’t travel around the country flaunting campaign donation laws.

Honest people don’t try to (and sometimes succeed) in having their political opponents removed from office.

Leo
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

An honest person or an organization run by honest people would publish a retraction or clarification once the details around a particular event are better known and understood.

Not only has NOM never retracted of clarified anything they continue to actively misrepresent events, from the upstate NY elections, to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association tax situation to the question of the slashed tires on their bus with impunity. Any benefit of any doubt that this group might have been entitled to has long expired. They’re liars.

Leo
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Oh and if they have resources to create and place millions of dollars of advertising they most assuredly have the resources, in this age of Google,to research any news item thoroughly.

Jim Hlavac
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

They’re tactics and words are a melange of lies, distortions, half-truths, omissions of facts, bringing in unrelated issues, false-comparisons, lousy logic, misstated quotes, partial quotes, misuse of statistics, etc etc — they mix it up so much we need a score card to keep track of it all. They are a factory that is spitting out every thing they can think of to disparage gay folks, and avoiding every single thing that is good. They skim the culture for the bad, and suppress the good. Because they have one and only one purpose: to remove gay people from civil society. They and the rest have made it clear. They don’t seek compromise, they don’t seek accommodation, they seek removal. They don’t care how; we change, get changed, we go back in closet, we get killed, they really don’t care. And they seek to rally society to their side.

They are psychotic in a way, for they know exactly what they are doing. To worry about if what they say is a “lie” or merely a “prevarication” is nuts. For then you are giving to them some sort of rational standing, you’re allowing them to be considered a valuable part of this “debate.” But they are not. They are simply psychotic. Worry not that they “lie” but that they are truly wicked. Instead of saying “they lied today,” no, “they were wicked again.” They are unrelenting in their condemnation; I don’t care if they “Lie” or they believe it to be true, or somewhere in between.

Ben in Oakland
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Rob, truth vs. lying may not be the best way to frame the question.

I was doing some research regarding Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, and went to a very conservative website to check out a link.

What made interesting reading was the Christianists websites that definitely underplay the number of REPORTED rapes. One one them went so far as to say (without attribution) that 15% of men are sterile, so takes 15% off the rapists as well. here was more, but it was all directed at the conclusion that abortion for tape victims was simply not required.

I truly can’t decide whether this stuff is written by an evil smart man to dupe the ignorant masses in order to lead them, or merely a stupid man to dupe himself AND the ignorant masses.

Though it’s right in front of my face, I truly can’t imagine in any empathetic sense what motivates them. What’s clear is that it is a marshaling of “facts” to support a foregone concLusion, without the slightest reference to actual fact, logic, experience, nuance, context, compassion, manners, or good taste.

Stephen Colbert has the perfect word for it: TRUTHINESS. It seems like it ought to be true, my gut says it’s true, it agrees with my agenda, so it’s true.

And your oppressing me if you don’t agree.

As Jesus might have said,

“Ye shall know the TRUTHINESS, and the TRUTHINESS shall bind others.”

Ben in Oakland
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Jim, what you have described is pretty much the Republican Party that you support.

Regan DuCasse
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Rob and I met because a frequent commenter at TownHall, deliberately lied about me and libeled me, and Rob proved it on the same site.
And Rob’s defense of my name and actions was him being the knight that he is.

We can safely say that our dissenters use hyperbole, distortion, omission and misinformation to defame and libel gay people as often as possible.
And we’ve witnessed attacks on individuals.

The fact remains that the biggest challenges the anti gay have had to deal with, is being revealed and sometimes litigation for breaching contracts of public accommodation.
Few of our dissenters have had to face serious or real physical threat, or vandalism to their property that resulted in complete destruction of it.
Even the CFA armed attempt at their HQ pales in comparison to the horrific tragedies of Aurora, CO and the Oak Creek Sikh Temple, or the execution style shootings of teen lesbians in TX.

The anti gay HAVE to lie, because nothing about the entire of the gay community is anything as they like to describe it.
And without the kind of real world, and intensive EXPERIENCE with actual gay folks required to be well informed, most of what they have to say is mostly in the ABSTRACT or conjectured and perceived, not REAL or actual.

Even if they aren’t lying, per se, their fantasies and fiction is catching up to them.

Hue-Man
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Regan, NOT CFA but the so-called “Family Research Council.” http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/15/one-month-after-shooting-family-research-council-is-undeterred/

I wouldn’t get hung up on the subtleties of how to describe lying liars; Call it as you see it. I do object when torture – destroying another human being’s body and spirit – is watered-down – literally – to “advanced interrogation techniques”.

Joseph Singer
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

A lie is still a lie whether it’s from omission or commission.

Reed B
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

Well, whether deliberately constructed by NOM or simply false information that is being passed along without checking, a lie is a lie is a lie is a lie (or, to take the Gertrude Stein spin off it, I’ll quote Alvin McEwen: “Lies in the name of God are still lies”).

Bernie
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

I like to use the word ‘prevaricate’, which means evading the truth, for that is exactly what they do.

Case in point, when David Barton, and his lackey, Rick Green were discussing the ACP(a uber-conservative, anti-gay pediatric group), Green at one point called them “the leading pediatric association”, that boiled my blood. Their only intent was to “mislead” their listening audience into thinking that the ACP was the real McCoy. That way they could garner sympathy, support, and money from their less educated, and impressionable listening audience. They bank on the ignorance and laziness of their constituents. Good ole Ethel in Decatur GA, is certainly not going to question the advice of the great mounteback, David Barton. It would never enter her mind to look up the ACP and find out who they are, of course not. Every word that comes from the Wallbuilders Radio Program is true! So, Ethel, upon hearing this, screams at her husband in the other room to send a check to Barton for $10 to help them fight “teh gays”. Their motivations behind this were mendacious and devious, and certainly not Christian by any stretch of the imagination. The bastards knew exactly what they were doing.

I was trying to be diplomatic at the time, in using that word instead of outright calling it “lying”. I think it’s high time that we take the gloves off, and stop being polite. I think from now on, when I expose another of these charlatans, I’m just going to use the word “lying”, expose their hypocrisy in the face of their so-called Christianity, and rebuke the shit out of them. It is only through this MO, that we can show the world what they truly are, and that their intents are the least bit noble.

Hunter
September 29th, 2012 | LINK

I’m rather fond of the word “mendacious” — it’s more far-reaching than “lying” and I think gives a more accurate picture of the NOM mindset: as someone mentioned above, the truth is irrelevant. They have an agenda and everything must contribute to its advancement. Anything that doesn’t is ignored. Thus, you won’t find any corrections on NOM’s website or any press releases issued to concede error in any particular statement. That does not further the message.

Blake
October 1st, 2012 | LINK

I haven’t read everything but I wanted to take a minute to weigh in, since I’m already late to this party, and say:

I think you nail it Rob in that all we ever have in these situations is the suspicion of NOM lying. Unless we’re in the room I’m not sure how you can suspend the benefit of the doubt and maintain your integrity.

I think we’re projecting more competence on NOM than they are due. They’ve stopped our rights from progressing so we want them to be better at what they do than they actually are; I think part of their blindness stems from just how much of the real world they have to ignore in order to convince themselves that they are doing is worthwhile.

And some of the time I think they’re making a shortsighted mistake that a lot of Christians tend to make when they get wrapped up in evil dealings: assuming that the adjective “christian” means “ethical”.

Anyway, I’m going to read what’s been written and get back.

Blake
October 1st, 2012 | LINK

First, NOM and the truth have issues. But I don’t think any of us can say definitively why. I think the easiest raison d’etre to eliminate is what Andrew spelled out:

Those NOM bastards are lying liars who would kill their mother if they thought it would win them an anti-gay constitutional amendment. They have no integrity, they have no soul, and we grant them no quarter. None. We wouldn’t cross the street to pee on them if they were on fire.

And what I’m objecting to is that you’re furthering this narrative, Ron, (that our opponents are soulless demons who lie because they’re evil) when you suspend doubt and speak for them.

We are not facing off against evil incarnate. We’re facing off against well-meaning folks who are ignorant, mislead, or blinded by their prejudices into believing that WE’RE EVIL INCARNATE. Let’s not blind ourselves in the very-same way that our opponents are blinded.

Regarding their past non-corrections of misinformation please consider what Ben in Oakland pointed out: In ways that may be inconceivable to us they have twisted reality to fit their prejudices in much the same way a large portion of our country has twisted reality to support the unsupportable notion of “Legitimate Rape.” Or Young-Earthism. Or Evolutionary-Denial. Or papal infallibility. Or all out denial of Global Warming. Or the Birther position. Or Regan Deification. In fact, NOM draws their staff from groups of folks who believe at least one of the above list. Not exactly the most rationally governed group, eh?

So why should our language matter?
Well the sooner we acknowledge their humanity the sooner we can start pointing out the ways their blindness forces them into immoral positions while allowing them to still think of themselves as moral.

If we say to not-violently-anti-gay-but-convinced-by-NOM Allison: “NOM’s a bunch of liars.” She’s going to instantly think that NOM HAS to be defended because otherwise she’s a dupe. And not only a dupe on issues but a dupe on judging people.

Most likely she already thinks she’s good at seeing evil people as evil (and what person do you know, on their side (not to mention folks on our side like Priya), who already KNOW what Good is what Evil is that they are experts on spotting it and there’s no way, save hell or high water, you can change their mind). So in order for Allison to acquiesce you are forcing her to admit that she’s not the person she tells herself she is. You’ve made the argument existential. Or at least, you’ve complicated the argument by adding existential considerations.

Plus there’s no reason under the sun that NOM’s immorality has to be a personal failure on her part. Think of Joe Wilson: How many of us, myself included, became instant defenders of all things Obama simply because his character was unjustly maligned? I know that I found myself defending things that Obama did that I didn’t even agree with.

If we simply allow NOM the benefit of the doubt, however, the dynamic becomes much much more conducive to conversation. Benefit of the doubt allows us the leeway to leave Alison’s personal judgments about people out of it. That way she no longer has to accept that she’s a personal failure but rather that she’s a victem of bad information from well-meaning people. Much easier to accept on a personal level. Don’t get me wrong; it’s tough to convince someone of as much but it remains worlds easier than to try to convince them that they’re a bad judge of character or anything remotely that personal.

What you’re doing by making an accusation is framing an argument by keying us in to the conclusion you’re going to reach. When you set the argument as “The other side is willfully lying” you’re being self-defeating. Not only have you invited a number of personal considerations into an argument where they don’t belong (if I’m opposed to your position) but you’ve also framed an argument that you cannot win. Because how do you know they’re lying? We don’t have a smoking gun. We don’t have an eyewitness. We don’t have corroborated evidence. We have our prejudice to dislike them and our inability to understand them. Is that lying? Perhaps. Is that willful lying? No. Not ever.

Look to Jon Corvino; not Dan Savage.

The bold is an effort to help skimmers see the bits I think are the most important. Please don’t interpret it in any other way.

Priya Lynn
October 1st, 2012 | LINK

Nice try Blake but its not remotely credible that an organization which tells obvious falsehoods as often as NOM does is not. Its obvious you desperately want to avoid seeing them as bad people but its time to face reality, there’s a very high percentage of bad people in society.

Priya Lynn
October 1st, 2012 | LINK

That should have been “Nice try Blake but its not remotely credible that an organization which tells obvious falsehoods as often as NOM does is not lying.”

Priya Lynn
October 1st, 2012 | LINK

and yes, I mean “willfully” lying (not that there is any other type).

Andrew
October 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Blake, I can’t disagree more. They know exactly what they’re doing.

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