|We Can Handle the Truth|
|by Dan Culberson|
Now, hear me out.
What do the following statements have in common?
"I'll tell you the truth." "Believe me." And "Have I ever lied to you?"
All three of these statements depend on the listener to believe in the veracity of the speaker.
Mark Twain (which wasn't his real name) is usually credited with the statement, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."
However, what Twain actually wrote was, "Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and
force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.'"
I have not been able to verify that Disraeli (either Benjamin, the former prime minister of
And for all we know, Twain might have been deceiving his readers intentionally or unintentionally when he attributed the statement to Disraeli, intentionally if he believed attributing it to someone else gave more weight to his statement or unintentionally if he believed wrongly that Disraeli had actually written that witty comment on statistics.
Our society inundates us with lies, which the dictionary defines as "an untrue statement made with intent to deceive."
Society also inundates us with true statements made with the intent to deceive. Does the word "advertising" strike a familiar note?
Or, as Twain also wrote, "Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."
Whenever I see a commercial on TV, my first reaction is that it is trying to deceive me. You might call that cynicism, but I call it my natural reaction to too many years of hearing about "four out of five doctors," "new and improved" and "fast, fast, FAST relief!" without any supporting evidence.
Or, as Twain also wrote as well, "There are people who think that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition; there are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it."
What do you think Twain would have made of the past ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals that political candidates can say just about anything they want about another candidate and not get sued, "because voters won't take it literally anyway"? In other words, we are now supposed to assume that politicians are trying to pull the wool over our eyes, and it is up to us to figure out when a political candidate is telling the truth and when one is simply using constitutionally protected speech "in the political arena"
where statements can't always be taken seriously.
Twain might have dusted off a previous witticism and said, "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." That would be his cynical response.
Or he might have dusted off another one and responded, "Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it."
Now, at first glance you might react with enthusiastic agreement about the value of truth. However, on second glance at the second sentence, is Twain being cynical and witty, or is he being honest and truthful? Why should we be frugal with the truth? Why shouldn't we be truthful and expect others--especially politicians--to be truthful on every occasion?
We are not children who at times need to be protected from the truth by adults who believe it is in our best interest to be shielded from the truth.
WE CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH! (Thank you very much, Mr. Nicholson.)
Let Twain be heard again: "It is not worth while to strain one's self to tell the truth to people who habitually discount everything you tell them, whether it is true or not."
Cynical, yes, but turn it around to put the emphasis on the audience, and it can come out as, "It is not worthwhile and certainly not in our best interests to elect a politician who habitually deceives us with false or misleading statements, whether we like the candidate or not."
If we expect lies, we'll get lies.
Demand the truth and clean up dirty politics.