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It’s Like Catching a Three Year Old With a Cookie

In developmental psychology, lying is actually a milestone that some children develop as early as the age of three. To be proficient at it, a child has achieved two important abilities. The first is theory of mind, or the ability to understand what another person is thinking. The second is executive function, or the ability to plan and curb unwanted outcomes.

Obviously, these are skills required to navigate the world effectively. If they are absent it is one diagnostic criterion for the Autism spectrum. And luckily, early attempts to use them to lie can generally be detected by parents and caregivers so these new talents can be put to better use, such as compassion for others and making good decisions.

Because lying is not okay. Even if every husband knows it is best to do it when those jeans actually do make his wife’s butt look big. Repeated and significant lies destroy both the trust and credibility of the individuals and organizations who do it. It is particularly disturbing when it is done by individuals and institutions with power and influence. Even more damning when it is blatant.

Yet it seems to be increasingly apparent that our representatives, institutions and legacy media are willing to engage in blatant lying with all the skill of a three-year-old who forgets they have an observant parent. I am not even talking about spin. We, of course, expect that. I am talking about blatant, repeated and obvious lies which seem to be happening more often.

They even have a phrase for when they get caught. “Republicans Pounce” has become code for when members of the political right and center point out that something a politician or media outlet says is factually or otherwise blatantly false. Perhaps an attempt to silence dissent, it has just become a predictable meme that we all understand.

In recent days this has become even more glaring.

  • Representative Rashida Tlaib made statements about the Holocaust and founding of Israel. She was widely criticized which prompted leading Democrats to demand Republicans apologize for mischaracterizing her comments.
  • Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said she was “just kidding” about her 12-year climate deadline and anyone who believed she was serious had the intellect of a sea sponge.
  • Multiple news outlets and public figures claimed Georgia’s Heartbeat bill would result with women being charged with murder and possibly punished with the death penalty.
  • The Judiciary Committee in the House voted to hold AG Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
  • A full court press is on to make sure we all know there is “nothing to see here” regarding the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Former leaders of the institutions in question are making the rounds to ensure we all know those who have questions are just being vindictive or ignorant.

It’s as if they don’t know about the vast internet of things that many of us engage with when we hear something so shocking it makes us curious. Kind of like following the trail of crumbs when your toddler snags the cookies that were forbidden and hides in the closet.

As it turns out, it is also not hard to figure out with a little bit of curiosity that every one of the items cited is a bald-faced lie. Not even the “No! Those jeans look great, honey,” kind.

  • Talib’s comments were glaringly inaccurate and she has a long history of anti-semitic comments and associations. most of the criticism quoted Tlaib’s own words directly.
  • AOC and the organizations that she supports have been insistent about a 12-year deadline to bring carbon emissions to near zero as justification to push a “World War II” level mobilization of resources.
  • Georgia law actually prohibits prosecuting a woman for having an abortion. The repercussions are levied against the provider.
  • To comply with the Congressional subpoena, AG Bill Barr would have been breaking the law regarding the disclosure of grand jury information.
  • There are so many questions regarding the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and the Steele dossier, every American should want to have them answered.

Once you find one lie, you become suspicious and look for more. If you find them, trust continues to plummet and eventually you just stop listening. Perhaps that is why Dr. Jordan Peterson titled Rule 8 “Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie”. It is so much harder to regain someone’s trust than it is to lose it.

It is not clear exactly how much further measures of trust in the media and our institutions can fall before the consequences are much more serious than Rachael Maddow’s ratings plummeting because she lied to her audience for two and a half years. But continued outright lying is going to increase the severity of the eventual reckoning. A house so divided that can not even agree on objective facts will not stand.


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