ALLAN JEFFERYS: A Lie Holds Great Power in This Age of the Internet
One of the first things we are taught as a children is not to lie. One of the first things we learn as an adult is that lying is rampant.
The Clintons are prime examples. Bill Clinton was impeached when he was president, not for what he did with Monica Lewinsky, but for lying about it. Hillary Clinton has also been blatant in her lies -- most particularly when she claimed to have been under sniper fire.
The big problem is that they got away with it. Nobody emblazoned big glowing L's on their chests, nobody shunned them; they were simply forgiven for "misspeaking."
White lies have long been tolerated. It is considered OK to say no when your wife asks if "this dress makes me look fat." However, the line between big lies and white lies has increasingly become blurred. In truth (no pun intended), some lies might even be condoned. Should a president of the United States be condemned for not revealing our plans for D-Day? Of course not.
So what is wrong with lying?
Lying is a deliberate attempt to deceive, to sway, to cheat, to manipulate. Its biggest danger, now, is that millions of people can be deceived with one lie on the Internet. That goes far beyond the snake oil peddler or three shells on a streetcorner scam. And Internet lies are becoming the norm. Some call them urban legends, but they are all lies.
Recently, two popped up that are fairly innocent, but both disappointed many of us. The first was about that shark that was so grateful to a fisherman who untangled it from a net that he followed the fisherman around. Pure myth. A manipulation using Photoshop.
The latest was the "ball girl" gambit that showed a baseball being hit long into left field. Before the left fielder could even think, a ball girl raced up the sidelines, scrambled up about 10 feet of the wall and caught the ball. She tossed it to an embarrassed fielder. I bit on this one and forwarded it until I learned that this, too, was a lie -- concocted by computer-aided graphics. Too bad. Ruined a great story.
Where the lies begin to be dangerous is when they are designed to sway our vote. I have made no secret of the fact that I consider Barack Obama totally unqualified to be president of the United States. But I do draw the line where lies on the Internet are concerned.
Obama is accused of being a Muslim, being a racist, unpatriotic and anti-American. Purportedly, the proof of these accusations lies in his own words -- taken from his own books. The liars get away with this because they know most of us will never wade through his books enough to know the things quoted are pure fabrications.
These lies are counterproductive and unnecessary. Once you discover somebody is lying, you tend to disbelieve everything they say. And checking his voting record is all it takes to see Obama for the liberal that he is.
This has been said before, but I do think it bears repeating: Expect to see more and more out-and-out lies as the weeks unfold. Some will be "big lies." Hitler used that phrase to denote lies that were so outrageous that people believed them on the theory that no one would dare spout a whopper that big if it were not true. That kind of propaganda works, and it will work even more when it goes out to millions in a split second.
We will see more of these Internet lies as the campaigns head for home plate.
To be fair, not everything on the Internet is an urban legend and not every blogger is unscrupulous. Some, in fact, have more integrity than many of the so-called journalists in the major media. But caveats are needed. No credentials are necessary to label yourself an Internet journalist. Nor do you need the backing of a network or powerful transmitter or huge press to get your message out. You can sit at the kitchen table and type out your blurbs in your pajamas and no one will be the wiser.
If we are conscientious in our zeal to vote for the right person, we need information. We get it from newspapers and magazines and town meetings and radio and television, just as we have always done. But today we also get it from the Internet, which means from each other as we forward those blogs that pop into our in-boxes. I have been burnt a few times and now vow to forward nothing that I am not positive of. It is a start.
Sir Walter Scott put his finger on what it means to lie when he wrote, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave /when first we practice to deceive."
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. You can contact him at email@example.com
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