Truth

I can assure you that the United States has no intention of using force to overthrow the Castro regime.
John F Kennedy

I am not a crook.
Richard Nixon:

Read my lips, no new taxes.
George Bush Sr.

I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.
Bill Clinton

Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.
Geoffrey Chaucer, 14th century English poet and diplomat

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive."

Stanza 17. Sir Walter Scott 

One of the most effective means of undermining a rogue regime is to give its people access to truth,
 open discussion, and reasonable dissent.

Lt. Col Gordon Cucullu, "Egomaniacal Monster, Frontpagemag.com 1/19/05)

The following was written in response to the plan to create a statue of the three fire fighters who raised the flag in the ruins of  the World Trade Center with different races than the ones who actually raised the flag.

"I'm all for symbolism. I love symbolism. But I love truth more. And the problem with changing the races of the men who were photographed raising the flag is that it's not true. It's not factual. It didn't happen that way. Why does it matter? It matters because truth always matters. In fact, it's all that matters.... Once you start slicing and dicing truth, there's no end to it. And once you become comfortable with little adjustments to truth, a tweak here and a tweak there, you begin not to notice when truth disappears altogether. Where truth is absent, tyranny reigns. Such, ultimately, is the loathsome promise of political correctness. But it's only a statue, you say, just a little thing no worse than a white lie (pardon the exclusion). If it makes people feel better, what's the harm? It's not the symbol, darling. It's what the symbol stands for, which isn't truth. If not truth, then what if not a lie?"
— Kathleen Parker

    I have a doctorate.  I was unemployed and searching for jobs and I was advised by a recruiter to remove the fact that I had a doctorate from my resume.  He said it would make me appear overqualified.   I followed his advice but after I had already sent out a lot of resumes with Ph.D. on them.  Now when I go to an employer I don't know which resume he has.  I am afraid to bring one with me because it might be the wrong one.  This is an example of how a simple omission of the truth has created a tangled web of problems for me.   Once we start telling lies we have to keep track of all of them and it can become very confusing.

    Most of us are taught as children to always tell the truth.  Many people as they get older tell little white lies thinking that telling those lies are better than telling the truth and that they will make their lives easier.  Lizzie Grubman mowed down 16 people with her SUV.  A key witness in her trial Tara Reid in an interview with the March 2002 issue of Maxim about how she deals with men said that fibbing makes life easier.  Now men know not to trust her.   Men are less likely to date her now that they know she's a liar.  In addition what she says at the trial in defense of her friend Lizzie Grubman won't carry any weight.

   Some of us lie to protect ourselves.  Are these changes the result of a more realistic grip on reality as we get older?  Lets consider lying to cover up something we don't want others to know.  If the truth comes out in spite of the cover-up than lying can make the consequences much worse. 

    President Bill Clinton's cover-up of his affairs is a classic example.  As a result the independent prosecutor Ken Starr dug up everything he could about the President's affairs and Starr's report was put in newspapers and on the internet (9/98).  In addition to the incredible humiliation of having one's sex life broadcast over the internet and the pain of having his wife and daughter reading all about it, President Clinton faces perjury and subordination of perjury charges.  If President Clinton had told the truth there would have been no reason for Starr to expose all the details.  President Clinton in addition to being humiliated has lost all credibility. One of the women with whom he had an affair, Elizabeth Ward Gracen was quoted in the New York Post as saying "How can any world leader believe him?" No one trusts anything he says.  When you have no credibility than no one believes you even when you are telling the truth. 

    The childrens story about the boy who cried wolf illustrates this point.   In the story, a boy who was in charge of watching sheep would cry wolf and all the villagers would come out to get the wolf who wasn't there.  One day the wolf was there and the boy cried wolf and no one came.  

    On December 19, 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached as a result of the perjury he committed. 

    Successful business and personal relationships depend on trust and credibility.  This is discussed further in the Policy vs. Personal Life section of this web site.


Is knowledge of the truth necessarily a good thing?  

    Sid Zion wrote about a case of suppression of the truth n the New York Post (Jan 25, 01).  Here is an excerpt of what he wrote:

Welsh was a Navy officer assigned to the National Security Agency as an intelligence analyst from 1972-1974. The story he told me raised my blood pressure and the few hairs still on my head.

"We intercepted a communication from Arafat that an imminent operation was going down in Khartoum. We immediately flashed this to the State Department, with highest priority, for every indication was that our diplomats were in danger."

This was 28 years ago, and Jim Welsh hasn't had a good night's sleep since. "I wanted to break it right away, but I was told that if I did, I'd lose my clearance and would be sent to fleet-oiler duty in 48 hours."

He called me because of an article I wrote three years ago, when Ariel Sharon announced that the CIA had tapes that proved Arafat ordered the murders of our diplomats in Khartoum. "What took you so long?" I said.

Welsh said, "Finally I couldn't bear seeing Bill Clinton treating Arafat as a hero, I couldn't stand the picture of this killer [being] accepted in the White House."

It wasn't that Welsh hadn't tried before. He spent years trying to get those Arafat tapes, which he knows exist. "But even the best friends of Israel in the Congress backed off when push came to shove on these tapes," he said.

Why? "Because if Arafat is conclusively proven to have ordered the execution of American diplomats, the peace process is as dead as those poor victims. And nobody wants that to happen, even the Israelis."

So the truth is hostage to the most chilling words in diplomatese: "For reasons of state."

Of course, it never works. You can hide the tapes, but you can't change the killer.

   The Israelis don't want to face the reality of the implacable hostility of their Arab neighbors and keep giving them concessions in order to bring peace.  In fact they go beyond that, they turn against those among them who warn that concessions will bring war.  The left in the press slants the news to support their point of view to the point where they edited a film of a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu so that it appeared that he was inciting against the Arabs.  The only reason this editing was caught was because another film crew was filming the same speech.  So in addition to not facing the truth these people are distorting the truth in order to convince others to join in their delusion. 

   Has suppression and distortion of the truth bought peace?  Not at all.  Limor Livnat wrote in the Jerusalem Post (Jan 26, 01)

         Seven years after the signature of the Declaration of Principles between the State of Israel and the Palestine
Liberation Organization, Israel is fighting a guerrilla war with the PLO within her own borders; Israeli citizens and
soldiers are murdered by the weapons which Israel provided to the PLO; Egypt and Jordan have recalled their
ambassadors from Tel Aviv; official economic ties with Morocco, Tunisia, Oman and Qatar have been cut; Israel is
treated by the Western media as it was before the Madrid Conference, and the Middle East may be on the verge of a
regional war.

   The comment about the treatment by the Western media is especially interesting.  The Western media often portrayed Israel as a brutal occupying force.  After vast concessions for peace the Western media's hostility was as great as ever.  Israeli policies did not bring peace or love by the West.

   In the 1980s Gorbachev bought Glastnost or openness to the Soviet Union.  Leon Aron wrote in the New Republic 9/24/2008 that:

First and foremost, in the great glasnost moment, it was deemed imperative to create the political and social mechanisms that "would firmly block any tilt toward [our] self-exterminating past," as the leading literary magazine Znamya put it in the fall of 1987. Such mechanisms would not work without moral and cultural reform, which would consist in unflinching self-reckoning and selfdiscovery. Above all, the renewal of Russia required a sober and remorseless burning away (vyzhiganie) of any self-delusion. What we conceal and what we fear is one and the same, wrote a contributor to perhaps the finest collection of glasnost essays, Inogo ne dano, or There Is No Other Way, in 1988. If hiding the truth is a sign of fear, then the revelation of truth is a sign of the conquest of fear. The road toward a society in which the free individual flourishes, suggested a literary historian, lies "only through truth, through really honest self-learning (samopoznanie) and self-awareness (samosoznanie)." Could it be that all our misfortunes--including, of course, the horrors of Stalinism--are "because we have not learned to respect the truth, the truth of our history?" asked a leading political philosopher. If so, "we must stop deceiving ourselves.... We can no longer evade truth, engage in myth-creation. We must trust the truth."

The passionate quest for such a history began with the recovery of the true dimensions of the devastation wrought by Stalinism. This national act of acknowledgment and commemoration was thought to be more than a tribute to the dead. The horrors that Stalinism visited on Russia had to be recognized in shame and remorse, shuddered and wailed over, and, most importantly, redeemed by the creation of a state and a society that would never again allow the country to be ruled by terror. One must be "horrified to become brave enough" to condemn and forever break with the past in which most of one's life was lived, declared a letter to the flagship of glasnost, the weekly newspaper Moskovskie novosti, in 1988.

    Glastnost and freedom was accompanied by the breakup of the Soviet Union into independent countries and with large scale rebellion by Chechnya.  Countries that broke with Russia became pro-Western which was seen as a threat by Russia.  Widespread corruption and criminal activity  sapped the Russian economy.  Vladimir Putin is determined to rebuild the Soviet empire.  He has used the Russian oil fields that were developed with Western help to fund a military build up of sophisticated weapons rivalling if not surpassing what the West has in its arsenal.  He is forcing teachers to teach a positive view of Russian history that hides the truth about Russia's past.  Leon Aron wrote:

And now, to turn all this back, to reverse this great movement of honesty, to dash this splendid hope and retard this amazing transformation, comes the cynicism and the corruption of the past eight years--and this wretched war in Georgia, in which, for the first time, post-Soviet Russia appears determined to resurrect invasion and occupation as tools of its foreign policy. When Russia's historians come to compose their indictment against Putinism, as they surely will, the charges will prominently include Vladimir Putin's unforgivable interruption of his country's renaissance and the subversion of its attainment to moral maturity.

    Did truth help Russia?  Many Russians believe that Russia is better of under Putin than it was before.  It's better off economically.  Isn't it better for Russia that Russians have pride in themselves and aggressively prevent their neighbors from aligning themselves with the West? 

    One reason that Russia is better off economically has nothing to do with Putin.  The West developed Russian oil fields together with the Russian oil company Yukos. That alone might have made Russia wealthy.  The Russian government seized control of the oil and locked up Mikhail Khodorkovsky' the former head of Yukos.  Putin is probably behind the vast amounts of oil money that has gone into Russia's military and into weapons development, weapons which are then sold to dangerous regimes such as Iran for large amounts of money.  Although such weapon sales may bring disaster to the United States, who Putin sees as an enemy, Islamic fanatics armed with the best Russian weapons as well as nuclear weapons made with Russian assistance may bring disaster on Russia as well.  Russia is antagonizing all of its neighbors and that may bring disaster as well.  It has already brought disaster to Georgia who Russia invaded.

     What about in personal life?   Aren't there times when we will feel better if we don't face the truth?  One way to answer this question is to consider what happens when we don't face the truth.  Supposing a diabetic doesn't want to face that he is a diabetic and so doesn't control his diet.  The health consequences may include blindness and amputation of limbs. 

    According to these arguments it is important to face reality to protect oneself.  Does that mean that knowledge is a good thing?   There is a saying that a gun is neither good nor bad, it is the person behind the trigger who makes it so.  So it may be with knowledge. Knowledge may be good only when the person who has it is well intentioned.  Unfortunately those with evil intent can often gain the knowledge that the well intentioned have.   Americans developed nuclear weapons during World War II to stop the Nazis and the Japanese.  Other countries whose intentions are a lot less benevolent than the United States have acquired the knowledge developed with the best of intentions by the United States.  There seems to be a duality to the Universe in which whatever knowledge we attain to use for good, can be used for ill as well.  Knowledge of chemistry has led to the development of wonderful drugs that cure disease but also to nerve gas and street drugs.  Knowledge of biology has led to the development of cures for disease but has also led to the development of biological warfare.   Knowledge of psychology has led to therapies that have improved the lives of many people but has also led to therapies that have destroyed the lives of people (recovered memory therapy is an example).    Knowledge of physics has made available the energy of the atom for the benefit of mankind, but has brought the hydrogen bomb into the world.  Even the knowledge that allows the production fo the benign cassette tape has been used for evil by fundamentalists who have used cassettes to indoctrinate their followers.  Such indoctrination with cassettes contributed to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and to the power of Osama bin Laden.  The technical knowledge that has bought us the internet makes truth and valuable information easily accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection but it also makes hate propaganda easily accessible as well.  Hate groups use the internet to spread their hate music (Kids Finding a Download of Trouble, New York Post April 25,2001).   Examples of such songs are "Kill Whitey" by Wesley  Willis, "Kill All Them Jews" by New Hate, "Gays GottaGo" by Midtown Bootboys, and "Gooks Ears" by Ian Stuart and the Klansmen.  The lyrics of "Holocaust 2000" by Blue Eyed Devils includes:

We've heard your tales of persecution
and we've listened to your lies.
But this time it's for real
The final genocide.

    “Modern technology puts most of the advantages in the hands of the terrorists. That is the bottom line,” said Professor Michael Clarke, of King’s College London, who is director of the International Policy Institute. (The Sunday Times, Britain, 7/31/05)

    Is there some kinds of knowledge that is always good and some kinds that are always bad and some that can be good or bad?  Let us consider the following types of knowledge.

  1. Knowledge how to make weapons and materials for war.
  2. Knowledge how to make medicines and materials for peaceful use.
  3. Knowledge about who is good and who is evil

    There is overlap between the first two types of knowledge.  The knowledge that can be used to make medicines can be used to make biological weapons and the knowledge to make weapons can be used for peaceful purposes. 

    One can think of examples where the third type of knowledge would be bad.  If a criminal knows that his fellow criminal is really an undercover police officer then that criminal's knowledge of who is good and evil in bad.  In this case deception and lies are good at least on the part of the undercover police officer.   In a situation where the  government of country A is evil, and wants to conquer country B, the government is likely to use propaganda to convince the people of country A that country B is evil.  The propaganda of evil countries does not say "Lets be evil and join the Devil and destroy good people and take what is theirs" but rather "they are bad people, they are a threat to us, they are in league with the Devil, let us eliminate the threat they pose to us and take what is rightfully ours".  The evil government knows that  people in general appear to want to strike out at what they perceive to be evil and not at what they perceive to be good.  Since that is true than knowledge of truth about who is good and evil is a good thing when possessed by the majority of people. 

    Can there be a situation where this knowledge for a majority becomes bad?  Citizens of a country can be proud of that countries power and can want it to remain powerful even if it means conquering other countries.  Can an entire country become willing to destroy others for their own gain when they know it is evil to do so?  There are environments that encourage the development of criminal minds.  There are ideologies of conquest.  In these ideologies the idea that one's country is superior to other countries and deserves to rule them is promoted.  The idea that God wants the infidel to be conquered and converted is likely to be part of such an ideology.  The idea that such conquest will actually benefit the conquered can be part of such an ideology.  If the ideology is secular, for example a communist ideology, than that idea would translate into the belief the conquered will benefit from being part of the communist system.  If the ideology is religious than the idea would translate into the belief that the conquered would go to heaven if they became part of the religion.  Often these ideologies view the target of conquest to be bad.  Even in these ideologies of conquest there is deception about who is good and who is evil. 

    When people who engage in criminal behavior are interviewed they almost always have justifications for their actions.  Even criminals like to see themselves as good and their targets as somehow at fault. 

    Most people appear intrinsically to like to feel good about themselves and to want to contribute to the welfare of others.  This can conflict with the desire of people to become powerful and wealthy.  In order to obtain power and wealth in an immoral way people often deceive themselves that they are superior than the people they are taking the wealth and power from and that their targets are threats and evil and so on.  Here facing  the truth would make it more difficult for a person to act in a criminal manner.

   We have examples where knowledge is good and where knowledge is bad.   Does that mean that we should only tell the truth when we think it is helpful and tell lies when we think it will improve things?  That is what many people and organizations do.  Here is an example of lying to get Obamacare passed.

 

 

Isn't health care for all worth some deception?  Turns out Obamacare is not health care for all.  I know that first hand.  My costs for medical care and medical tests have gone up to the point where I won't go to the Doctor.  My monthly insurance payment is going to subsidize other people going to the Doctor.  One problem of lying in order to make the world a better place is often we don't know what will make the world a better place and if we have to lie we probably are making it a worse place.

A political or religious organization may lie to make its cause look better.  The rationale is that since the cause is right, anything action that will further the cause is right as well.  If people should believe religion A the reasoning would go, why not lie and say you saw some miracles so that people will believe it.  If people should support holy war against the enemy, why not spread lies about atrocities committed by the enemy?  The media, including newspapers, TV and so on, have great power in influencing public opinion.  Those who control the media may feel obligated not to print the truth, but rather what they feel is good for the public to hear.  Supposing a foreign aggressor A is committing aggression against country B and the media of country C doesn't want C to get involved.  In that case the media of country C may be tempted to print justifications for the aggression of country A against country B.  The  media of country C may choose to ignore a lot of the aggressive actions of A and not print them at all.  If country B takes any actions in self defense the media may portray those as acts of aggression.  There are a vast number of  situations where the press reports what it is best for people to hear.  The assumption that the press is making is that it is superior in judgement to everyone else and that people will not arrive at the correct conclusion if told the truth so they must be lied to. 

    Is this correct?  Do the editors have superior knowledge and understanding than everyone else?  They must have been more intelligent than a lot of other people to get their job and they must know a lot about foreign affairs.   Ability as an editor and knowledge about news does not necessarily make for correct judgements and certainly does not have anything to do with objectivity.  The world is full of intelligent knowledgeable people who disagree with each other.  Sometimes gut feelings may be more accurate than intellectual rationalizations. The majority is more likely to be motivated to act in its own interests than an individual editor.

    Another aspect to that the editor is abusing power by slanting the news.  An editor does not have the right to control people and by slanting the news that is what the editor is doing.

    When we decide to lie in order to improve things in our personal lives we are being in a small way like the editor that is slanting the news.  We too are making assumptions.  They are:

  1. We know what the outcome of lying is and we know that the outcome of lying is better than the outcome of telling the truth.
  2. The person or people we are lying to do not have the wisdom we have so must be lied to in order to do the right thing.
  3. We are right.

    The problem is that we may be wrong.  If we have to lie to get people to agree with us then we probably are wrong.  If a religious leader has to lie about having seen miracles in order to convince people to join the religion than the religious leader should think about why he hasn't seen any real miracles and should question his religion not lie to other people.  If a political advocate has to cover-up abuses by his political party in order to get support, he too should start questioning whether his party should be in power. 

    This applies to personal situations as well.  If a man is cheating on his wife, he may feel that it is better if he not tell her, in order not to hurt her feelings and save his marriage.  The wife has a right to know she is being cheated on.  She has the right to make the decision whether to stay with this man or not under these conditions.  The man by deceiving her is violating her rights.   The outcome for the wife might actually be better if she finds out because she may then find someone else who is faithful to her.  The man may actually be better off telling the truth.  His wife may then either leave him or force him to stop the affair.  Either action of hers, although painful to him, would be good for his personal growth.

    Lying creates many problems one of the most serious is that people discover lies and no longer trust the liar.  A reputation for integrity can be very valuable.  Nothing is more damaging to a friendship or a romantic or business relationship than a loss of trust.  When people break up romantic relationships they are unlikely to tell the person they break up with the true reason why in order to spare their feelings.  What if they did tell the true reason?  A lot of good might come out of that.  If the person they are rejecting has some annoying habit, and they are told that habit is causing the rejection that person could learn to change.  If the person who is doing the rejecting is up front about why, the person who is being rejected might be able to explain their annoying behavior and the relationship might be saved.  The person who is being rejected might be able to point to behaviors of the person doing the rejecting that is destroying the relationship and both people might improve.

    When it comes to personal happiness their may be situations where in the short term, false positive thinking makes one happier, or where rationalizing justifications for bad actions helps one feel less guilty but in the long run facing reality and working to improve oneself will make one more able to cope with one's environment and will make people like oneself more.  Often the causes of unhappiness are exaggerated negative beliefs and facing reality eliminates those. 

    There is a lot of peace of mind and dignity that comes from being honest.  If one lies and manipulates there is something dirty about that, and it creates feelings of guilt and low self esteem. 

If the majority of  the time we face reality and tell the truth, our lives and the the lives of the people we touch, will be better off than if we don't.  The main exception to that is revealing truth to those who have bad intentions and would use it for evil purposes.

    This topic is discussed more on the Facing Reality Page.

   

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