Comment of the Day: “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”

Every adult a lawyer: the politician's worst nightmare!

Every adult a lawyer: the politician’s worst nightmare!

The second Comment of the Day comes from Australia, as zoebrain flags an excellent example of deceit at work, in her comment to my post about the dangerous tendency to regard deceits as less unethical than straightforward lying, and yes, that’s quite an oxymoron.

One of the many points of contention between me and the lawscam crowd is that many of the aggrieved out-of-work and under-employed lawyers only obtained their law degrees as a means to achieve what they believed were guaranteed riches, and thus feel cheated that the current economic mess has shown that to be a false assumption. I, in contrast, assert that a law degree pays for itself over a lifetime regardless of whether or not it leads to well-compensated employment as a lawyer, and one of the reasons is that legal training inoculates you against the deceit of others. If nothing else, law students learn to pay attention to what words really mean, making it much harder for masters of deceit to fool them with carefully chosen weasel words. A nation of citizens trained in the law would not so easily fall victim to the deceit of politicians, those who peddle bad loans and investments, weight loss scams (“results not typical!”) and the predations of other con-artists….including, sadly, other lawyers.

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, “From ‘Psychology Today’: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit”:

“Here’s an example for you: testimony in an Australian Senate inquiry on same-sex marriage”:

Senator Pratt: But what if someone is of indeterminate gender? I am unclear whether they should have the right, according to the way you would argue it, to be part of such a union.

Mr Meney : People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically infertile or regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way. Many things about marriage require people to have the capacity to consent to what marriage is all about, so a significant mental incapacity might be something that might mitigate against a person being able to consent to a contract of marriage. But that is true of any marriage.

Every word true, as befits testimony from the Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Centre, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

“Although they are not mentally retarded, most XXY males have some degree of language impairment. As children, they often learn to speak much later than do other children and may have difficulty learning to read and write.”

——Understanding Klinefelter Syndrome — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

“Mental retardation is not a feature of Turner syndrome, despite such claims in older medical textbooks. Thorough psychological studies show that these women are normal intellectually, but often have a characteristic pattern of intellectual functioning. While their verbal 10 usually is average or above, their non-verbal IQ may be considerably lower because of problems visualizing objects in relation to each other. This difficulty may show up in poor performance in math, geometry, and tasks requiring manual dexterity or sense of direction.”

—–Turner Syndrome — Human Growth Foundation.

He didn’t lie: it’s true that “People suffering from Turner syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome and things of that ilk are typically … regarded as being mentally handicapped in some way.” They’re not, of course, as he well knows, but that’s not what he said, is it?

That was his defense when the Organisation Intersex International took him to task for this. He didn’t actually lie. As a good Catholic, he wouldn’t do that – it would be a sin.


Graphic: Financial Post

From “Psychology Today”: How To Be A Better Liar—And A Negligent Endorsement Of Deceit

Tommy Flanagan

“Psychology Today” has tips for Tommy Flanagan and the other aspiring liars out there.

Jeff Wise provides what he calls “The Ten Secrets of Effective Liars” on the “Psychology Today” website. I have some problems with his list, among them that despite his protestations to the contrary, it sure reads more like a handy-dandy self-help list for the George Costanzas, Tommy Flanagans and Bill Clintons among us.

My main objection, though, is to his #3 on the list, #3 Tell the truth, misleadingly. He correctly points out that a statement that is technically true will often be the most effective way of misleading others, but writes, “Technically, it’s only a prevarication – about half a sin.” I don’t know or care about how it ranks on the sin scale, but he is describing deceit, and deceit is a lie, period, no question about it. Wise is passing on a misconception himself, one that allows the most effective and destructive liars among us deceive routinely and then rationalize that they “really weren’t lying.” Spreading this common, popular and useful—to liars—myth does more damage than any of the supposedly beneficial results of his list could make up for.

Among the sinister results of promoting deceit as only half a lie, and therefore twice as forgivable as a “real” lie, is that it gives deceit masters (like Clinton) an effective excuse when they are caught. “Oh! Oh, I’m sorry! When I said ‘I didn’t have sex with that woman,” you thought I meant that I didn’t use my superior power and influence to persuade my young female intern to give me a hummer! I should have been clearer!” Right. Thus the liar switches the real blame onto the listener who was originally deceived. If that listener likes the liar and was inclined to trust him (or her), the rationalization that it was all a big misunderstanding will often be enough to allow the party deceived to keep trusting the liar…and be set up to be deceived again. Continue reading