The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying


Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.

A candidate couldn’t say one thing one day – like, for example, that they were opposed to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — and another thing another day – like they basically agree with an opponent who favors a path to citizenship. They’d be afraid of being called a liar in the papers, and that would actually matter.

But in the California governor’s race it now appears that we are witnessing the Death of Truth. From a cosmic perspective, this has come about because:

— The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically-sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.

— The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed  by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)

— It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

All of this feeds the corrosive cynicism that infects our politics, demonstrated most visibly in low voter turnout. Even among those who vote, healthy skepticism is often supplanted with a smart-ass, know-it-all facile sophistication that assumes all politicians are liars (they’re not) and that everyone in public life only wants to do well (we still believe there are some who want to do good).

Cynicism, of course, breeds further alienation and disgust, causing a downward spiral of disengagement from the process, leaving voting (and caring) to the true-believing wing-nuts who are certain they know the truth because they read or watch it at one of the ideologically-determined web sites or stations that conclusively confirms their prior held beliefs.

Exhibit A for the Death of Truth is Her Megness, eMeg Whitman herself.

Let’s be clear: Krusty the General (Gandalf) Brown and his Merry Pranksters in Oakland are guilty of their own special brand of spin. But it’s pretty much your normal, basic campaign (wink-wink) re-framing like you’d get from Gov. Schwarzmuscle, President Oybama or Golden Gate Feinstein.

Brown has failed to level with voters about how he’d deal with the state budget (we think he’d shift all the responsibility for services back to cities, counties school districts, with a local option to raise taxes, and get the locals off the state’s books), among most other issues. But his guy Sterling Clifford has a point when he argues that “Meg Whitman is trying to paper over her lies and deceptions with dollar bills.”

Indeed, when it comes to killing truth, eMeg is miles ahead in felony flip-floppery. The pro-Brown California Working Families tried to drive that point home last week with the release of an online ad titled “Lies.” detailing just a few recent examples of Megspeak:

— She was for double furloughs for state employees before she was against furloughs altogether.

— She was for a path to citizenship before she knew what it meant, and then she was vehemently against it, before she declared herself aligned with Brown, who’s for it.

— She was for sending state agents into work places to hunt down and arrest illegal immigrant workers until she decided she was against that (probably illegal) idea.

— She was against extending benefits to children of illegal immigrants (like admission to state universities and colleges) before she was . . . wait, maybe she’s still against that, but OK with letting illegal immigrant offspring get treated at a hospital.

— In the primary she said, “We have to prosecute illegal aliens and criminal illegal aliens in all of our cities in every part of California.” Now she says, “What has bothered Latinos for too long is the harsh rhetoric around the immigration debate. Too often, the debate has been tinged with hurtful words signaling intolerance or worse to many Latinos.”

If a candidate changes his or her position from A to B, he or she can be accused of flip-flopping (or changing his or her mind). What makes the Whitman campaign’s changes so special is that her paid mouthpieces are out there insisting that eMeg has NOT changed her position one iota. She’s entirely consistent and not a rank opportunist, they argue.

Calbuzz has been harping on this lack of truthiness by the Whitman camp for some time, and we’ve catalogued a partial list of prevarications. But where are the other non-partisan voices willing to hold Meg’s feet to the fire? Why isn’t every editorial page and columnist in the state thundering with indignation, instead of equating Brown’s admittedly infuriating avoidance of staking clear positions on policy with Whitman’s corporate style, black-is-white daily deceits and deceptions?

The beyond standard quantum limit nature of Whitman’s spending so far has enabled her, like no California candidate in history, to take advantage of Calbuzzer Mark Twain’s timeless dictum: “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”

So far, eMeg has circled the globe several times, while the too-often-timid California media are still struggling in the dark to find their trousers.

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There are 11 comments for this post

  1. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    Just visited the Hannibal, Missouri, located Mark Twain museum a few weeks ago. And that was after I spent a couple of days again in and around the American political home, the Capitol in D.C.. So, I have to admit you seem to be telling the truth about some lies

    I guess what you are really saying is that eMeg is a more powerful political liar than the other political liar, Jerry Brown. You are right on that but that does not make her all wrong. Let us not forget that old Mark Twain saying…maybe not… that all is fair in love, war, and politics.

    If your political lie is a straight black or white issue, such as a factual error, that politican flat must be called on it and, if lacking reasonable explanation, hung out to dry by both the opponent and the Media.

    If your political lie is somewhere in the grey area of truth, well, that’s what politics in a Democracy has been all about in recorded history. There the debate is endless especially if it is important to a group. Yep! It is at that point that you write a long column about political lies.

    And, as an aside, why did Samuel Clemens know so much about lies? Well! His daddy was the Hannibal town lawyer.

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      Do you have any idea how enabling and dissembling you sound? “If your political lie is somewhere in the grey area of truth …” Jeebus! This is exactly what’s wrong with the modern Republican Party.

      Here’s something else Mark Twain said for you to ponder: “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

      While people have the right to their opinions, they do not enjoy the right to manufacture pre-fabricated stories out of whole cloth and present them as their version of the truth.

      The GOP’s perennial dependence upon misrepresentation, innuendo and race-baiting makes me truly wonder if the party itself has not become so completely divorced from truth, and so totally untethered from reality, that I might never again be able to bring myself to vote for another Republican in my lifetime.

      And speaking as a someone who grew up in a Republican family and whose grandfather once proudly served in Gov. Earl Warren’s administration, you can’t begin to know how sad I am to say that. But then, I also console myself with the thought that no doubt, Earl Warren’s candidacy would never have survived a 2010 GOP primary.

      To paraphrase Mark Twain, today’s Republicans like Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina would do well to keep their mouths closed and let people simply think they’re fools, than to open them and thus remove any and all doubt.

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    I suppose there are some who think that the lies are justified because party is more important than leadership. Or they believe that Whitman is so marvelous that she will fix everything and then it won’t matter so much how she got there.
    But neither she nor Brown knows how to get California back on track.
    In truth, it can’t be done with our current system of governance, our current crop of politicians and their political interests, our disconnected citizenry, or our disgraceful excuses for news operations.
    Getting the truth is a complicated and often futile effort these days. Kudos to Calbuzz and maybe a dozen reporters around The Golden State who still value the truth, but that still doesn’t leave us with much hope.

  3. avatar Bob Mulholland says:

    What’s the question? We’re talking about Meg Whitman- she’s a billionaire Republican, who could not find her polling place for 20 years, despite a driver and limo, the Chairman of her campaign is Pete Wilson, the father of Prop 187, her campaign is being run by the Schwarzenegger campaign people (how did that work out in the State Capitol) and she pushes people who get in her way. Whitman wants to lie & buy her way into the Governor’s office. After all, she wants ” to run the state government like a business,” so we can assume she lied all the time at eBay. Just ask Craigslist who are in Court against her accusing her of lying to them.

  4. avatar SezMe says:

    I add another factor into the Death of Truth phenomenon: the Dunning–Kruger effect.


    When you’re too stupid to know you’re wrong. Another way of describing the low (or no) information voter.

    • avatar StoneHutGirl says:

      I used to believe that stupidity was simply a lack of knowledge, or information. Then I turned 12 and realized that stupidity consists of a system of interlocking and mutually supporting defenses against the truth.
      What we have now is militant stupidity, born again stupidity, stupidity ascendant; it’s the cheapest drug of all, and many voters are addicted to it.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      “militant stupidity” is a great term . . . don’t be surprised if Calbuzz steals it

  5. avatar RN4MERCY says:

    Meg Whitman’s website prominently features an anti-CNA quote attributed to “Alice Hansen, RN”
    Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but her name doesn’t turn up on a search of the BRN’s website using the online license verification. Apparently she doesn’t hold an active, inactive, or restricted license in this state. However Whitman’s people should be more careful. In California, it’s against the law to hold yourself out as a registered nurse if you are not an RN. In California, only an RN or LVN can use the title “nurse”.

    Press reports have said that she’s a “retired nurse from Los Gatos”. If she’s a retired nurse who doesn’t hold an active or inactive license, their website should explicitly say so. Otherwise I believe the claim that Alice Hansen’s an RN is, at best, false and misleading; at worst, deceptive, illegal, and fraudulent, (without modifiers such as “retired” or “former” between her name and the initials, RN.)

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      I’m shocked, shocked to learn that the Whitman campaign would be so sloppy as to invent false credentials for the fictional person providing the quotes they invented.

  6. avatar StoneHutGirl says:

    ‘Alice Hansen RN’ is like ‘Joe the Plumber’; whose name wasn’t really Joe, and he wasn’t a licensed plumber.
    You see, facts are just details when espousing the deeper enduring wisdom of visionaries like McCain and Whitman. Once you understand that, you will be properly inspired.
    Think of ‘the little engine that could’; or in this case, The Powerful People Who Coudn’t (tell the truth).

    • avatar Alice Hansen says:

      Re: post saying “Alice Hansen is not a Nurse”

      Ask John Burton DNC where he found located information to send nurse related emails.

      On file in Meg Whitman’s HQ and State of CA

      Norton Memorial Infirmary School of Nursing; University of Louisville, Louisville, KYK. Registered in KY, IN, NY, CA. Worked at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, NYC; Stanford University Hospital, Stanford, CA; Deaconess Hospital, Evansville, IN. Volunteered, American Red Cross and Los Gatos High SAchool nurses office.

      There was life before Google.

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