Suppose you’re going after a job. It would be ideal for you in so many ways: it’s work that you really want to do, great company and setup, reasonable hours, no commute, having that job would enable you to complete a pending home purchase or marriage, etc. And, for whatever reason, you’re not having luck in other job offers – for now. Truth be told, you are desperate for this particular job.
It’s time to negotiate salary. You don’t want your employer to know your desperation. That would give them the edge. You want them to feel desperate. So, you drop hints about your many alternate offers and plans.
You don’t lie outright – for example, you don’t say “I have four other offers that I need to answer by Monday.” Because you know that would be false. You say things of a general nature whose implications could easily become true by next week or next month, such as “I have my shingle out there of course, and you can imagine some of the great responses coming my way.”
The distinction is that you’re saying things whose implications are not true at this moment, but not impossible either. You’re saying things that are potentially true, if you yourself were to invest more time or effort. Are such statements lies? Are you a fraud or sleazeball for making them?
I’m asking this for a political reason, not a personal one. After I see a few comments, I’ll write the second half of this post. 🙂
I appreciate the comments. Here’s the second half.
First off: The strict definition of lying is that you make a false statement with an intent to deceive; that is, an intent to have someone believe or do things that they otherwise wouldn’t believe or do.
It’s clear that some lies are worse than others. We can make a scale, from saying
- false things that could easily become true (and you are working super hard to make them true); to saying
- false things that could become true (and you might work to make them true – if you feel like it); to saying
- false things that could become true but it’s unlikely (because you won’t be working on it and/or it’s out of your control); to saying
- false things that can never become true (because reality makes them impossible, and you know it).
We all say “liar!” when people do 3 or 4. Ted B. pointed out that 1 and 2 are more of a gray area; people will make allowances for themselves or their friends to do 1 or 2, but will say “liar!” if an opponent or a stranger does 1 or 2.
All politicians lie, and some of their lies are worse than others.
- Hillary saying “there is no classified materials” on her bathroom email server was a 4. Reality contradicted it. (There were lots of classified materials on her bathroom email server. And she knew it. Oh wait, she scrubbed the materials with BleachBit – was it a 1, after all? 🙂 )
- President Obama saying “My plan will lower costs” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” would seem like a 1 to his most persistent supporters. But it was a 4. Because his plan made it economically impossible for costs to go down or for very many people to keep their doctors. And evidence emerged, that he and the architects of his plan knew it all along.
Now, what about President Trump? Kurt guessed correctly that I had Trump in mind, with all this. I’ve been reading his 1987 book. The guy has made a career out of doing 1, with occasional forays into 2.
To give an over-simplified example: time and again in a construction project, Trump needed financing and approval. He told the banks that they should trust him and move quickly because the approval would be coming soon, and he told the approval people that they should trust him and move quickly because the financing would be coming soon. Neither was quite true; but he was working on them together and, if they both came through, he would get the deal and proceed to deliver on the construction.
It does make me wonder what he’s been up to, with various world leaders and Washington power players. But I don’t think he’s doing anything worse than Obama. Because, again, Obama was a colossal liar – and didn’t deliver on much. The difference with Trump is that so many world leaders and Washington power players perceive him as an opponent, and therefore won’t make the allowances that they made constantly for Obama.
As for Trump’s alleged “I hope” statement to Comey the Leaker: Sorry lefties, but from the book, it does seem that Comey was being a drama-queen Mind Reader. When Trump wants you to do something for him, he asks you in terms that are so definite, they’re almost an open threat.
Namely, he tells you what leverage he has to assure your compliance. He’s the kind of guy who would tell a waiter “I’d like that drink right away, and I’m know you’ll be good about it, because I can enlarge your tip if you are, or shrink it if you aren’t.” Explicitly, leaving nothing to the imagination.
Comey’s “I hope” story doesn’t begin to approach it. What I make of that story now, is that Trump was just trying to tell Comey “I hope you’re a decent human being, not a vindictive asshole like you’re beginning to seem.”
Trump’s book is an easy read and I recommend it, if you want to get a sense of who he is. Naturally, some critical “reading between the lines” will be required.