If a child for whom I am responsible lies to me, and the lie is revealed for what it is, I hold myself responsible for reprimanding that youngster, creating consequences for her or his misbehavior, and for correcting the situation the lie created. That means lies of commission and omission and willful misrepresentations widely represented in the vernacular by a more pungent term.
Princeton University philosopher Harry G. Frank, in his treatise On Bullshit, distinguishes lies from BS saying, "... (it is) a lack of connection to a concern with truth -- this indifference to how things really are -- that I regard as of the essence of bullshit."
We challenge corruptions of truthfulness when they come from our children. Why do we require less of the Republican Party and their candidates than we do of kids? Childish Republican Abuse and Prevarication (CRAP) means that they will say -- and do -- anything (tantrums included) that will get them what they want.
Mitt Romney is the current mouthpiece for CRAP, echoed across the land in races for public office at all levels. Prime example: the fraud called trickle-down economics. The rich get richer, the rest of us get hammered. Or take the demonstrable lie about voter fraud.
It's alarming that too many Americans simply will not recognize CRAP for what it is: partisan twaddle. Lies from wrong-wing radio and cable talking heads strongly reinforce a genuine blindness to reality. Mainstream media continues to report this nonsense with straight faces, no questions asked ... or answered. They have abandoned their responsibilities under the First Amendment. I have now heard repeated assertions by regular folk that Obama has created an economic situation in which he has intentionally put people on the public dole so they are beholden to him and therefore will vote for him; that he is a socialist; that he wasn't born in America; that he is an Islamist. Perhaps he is the anti-Christ or, worse, a Democrat.
Complete garbage, of course. But these citizens really do believe the scenario. How can that be? Any marginally competent propagandist can answer that. However absurd, repeat a lie enough times and an alarming number of people will -- sooner rather than later -- embrace that lie as fact. Turns out, our brains are not wired for detecting lies. That makes us vulnerable to those who are as hostile to truthfulness as they are to evidence.
"The Lie Factory" is Jill Lepore's concise history of political consultants, reported in a recent edition of The New Yorker. CRAP did mesmerize America for a long time. But we really are capable of learning to understand even unfamiliar language or use thereof. Two examples of learning to listen critically might help.
Before Cecil B. DeMille was a movie mogul, he was so admired for his work in Europe that -- even though he spoke and understood no English -- he was lured by a lucrative deal to come work in America. Arriving in New York from London (where he'd stopped over long enough for a cram mini-course in the language). DeMille's youthful charm and savoir-faire eased him through nightly Manhattan cocktail parties where he picked up some very useful vernacular from the cognoscenti. But when the A-list folks headed home, Cecil B. headed to New York's famous all-night movie houses, becoming part of quite a different crowd (mostly derelicts).
DeMille later said it did not matter what film was showing, as long as it was American and it would be projected three times in succession. His recollection in his memoir: the first screening, he got clues from the visuals, nothing more. By the end of second viewing, he had a pretty good idea of what the plot was and could pick out a lot of the words. But by the third time, C. B. said he could almost mouth the actors' lines in unison with them!
Closer to home, we've been watching British murder mysteries over the last 3 seasons. For whatever reason, some of the same series have aired for second and third repeats. We're sufficiently hooked, we tune in. The first time we watched an episode, we'd end up knowing whodunit and puzzling over just about as much as we "got" of the plot. Second viewing, we'd decipher most of the words in their alien UK-style English (as heard from Yorkshire to Fleet Street, Wales to Dublin to Edinburgh). By the third time, we often can get to the punch lines before the actors do. Very little is now lost in translation.
So maybe it really does take three times to decipher Republican lies. The first time we saw the "trickle-down economics" flick -- starring a second rate actor then known around Hollywood for betraying his union and cozying up to Orange County's rich, secretive right-wing fat cats -- the whole notion was so alien that Ronald Reagan's eventual running mate George H.W. Bush really did call it "voodoo economics".
We should have understood the Republican lingo when it was dished out by Bush/Cheney -- losers of the 2000 election but winners of that year's judicial coup d'etat, followed by Ohio shenanigans in 2004 which kept them in place. Same tune-second verse came courtesy of the Great Recession brought on by irresponsible fiscal policies, a fanatical devotion to deregulation, corporate welfare, two wars they willfully neglected to put on the nation's financial books, and that damnable tax cut for the rich. The meaning of CRAP became decodable as the world we thought we knew came crashing down around our much insulted ears.
Now candidates Romney/Ryan and their Republican co-conspirators seeking federal, state and local offices across the land are selling the same CRAP economics, served up with a strong disharmony of isolationism wedded to truly dangerous sabre-rattling. Again. It's not even an imaginative deceit. Enough people have been lied to by wrong-wing radio and cable talking heads that there's still talk about a close election. The lies still have impact.
In the face of staggering money flowing from fake people (AKA corporations, another fabrication), real people -- the kind who teach their children not to lie or ignore reality -- must take control of our governments and communities back from big corporations and the CRAP-mongers. We must engage and re-engage with our neighbors and our friends and our acquaintances and, yes, strangers. Aristotle was right. Humans are political animals and if we are going to govern ourselves, we'll have to go out of our way to be part of the solution. I will never forget (or forgive) when disillusioned citizens in 1968 opted out of the electoral process and effectively handed the election to Richard "I-Have-a-Secret-Plan-to-End-the-Vietnam-War" Nixon, whom today's neo-Republicans would doubtless call a socialist. Samuel L. Jackson makes clear the danger of sitting on our hands ... or our butts. (Here for a scrubbed version you can, as they say, share at work.)
If we won't let our children lie or BS us and get away with it, surely Republicans should be held to the same standard. Cow dung has good uses, but not in political campaigns. Cut the CRAP.