Lying with impunity – rage at the liars and frustration at being rendered helpless

Let’s begin with a disclosure.  I have told both lies of convenience and whoppers.  So perhaps a column on lying is an ambitious undertaking for me, nonetheless…

This week I flew from Dallas to San Francisco on Skywest (a partner of United Airlines).  The flight was more than four hours late due to a mechanical problem and that delay would force me to miss the last airporter bus to my final destination.  The airline’s agent in Dallas was sympathetic, and since the delay was caused by the airline he offered me a free taxi or shuttle ride home.  I asked how I could prove his offer when I arrived in San Francisco, and he proceeded to ostensibly type his promise into my passenger record.  He seemed sincere, genuine and I watched him type for a few moments.  When done he smiled and said, it was “all in the record”.

When I landed I asked the gate agent for the promised voucher.  She pulled up my ticket record, and I asked if she would print it for me.  She quickly left for her supervisor still in the jet way.  “KH” returned, looked at the computer and proceeded to type for more than a minute.  Then he too smiled but said, “it says no amenities offered in San Francisco.”  He spoke with no hesitation.  He added with a grin (perhaps of guile), “would I like to see the record?”

“Hardly necessary,” I replied.

So who lied?  One of these employees did lie.  Was it the helpful gentleman in Dallas who appeared to be sincere in appreciating my difficulty?  Or the harried employee in San Francisco, who at 2a appeared more interested in saving the airline any further expense or encumbrance as well as in sending me away.  I felt rage – not for the voucher, but for the lie.

Why’s this a media column?  Because so many readers, listeners, viewers feel the same helpless rage when consuming their media.  There are people who absolutely rage at talk radio and TV personalities who espouse views that are contradictory to everything they hold dear.  They believe these individuals are lying, or at least misrepresenting the facts.  Just hearing the news and information shaped in a way counter or contrary to their beliefs is enough to send them into fits of anger.

Lying or misrepresentations or bending facts to suit our particular needs of the moment are now so easy, and you just can’t quite catch the liar.  You believe, even know, you are being lied to, but you don’t always know who is responsible; you can’t catch them, you can’t make them apologize, and that’s where the anger begins and boils.

Skywest’s behavior was despicable.  But they got away with lying.  With impunity.

And by extension, is this also why so many news consumers stifle their anger and turn away from media, frustrated by what they hear and how they think it is mauled by truth-benders?  It isn’t just that stories are not credible as much as the misrepresentations send us into rage?  The rage is borne of disbelief, incredulity, as well as the sense that some one in the food chain has intentionally altered the facts and that leaves us helpless.

Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

4 thoughts on “Lying with impunity – rage at the liars and frustration at being rendered helpless”

  1. As ever, spot on. My belief is that it is not the whoppers told by CEOs in this country that are going ultimately to bring us down. It’s the everyday little lies and whoppers that ordinary people choose to be a part of that is rotting the fabric of this country. The CEOs typically get caught and pay some kind of price for their actions. Everyday Americans seldom if every suffer any consequences…except when you look at the big picture of corrosion that is affecting every aspect of our lives.To me there is actually something treasonous about what someone at that airline did to you…and likely many others. I get terrorists coming after us. After all, we’re not their “peeps”. But these folks chose to lie to one of their own. To make his life harder and cause a loss of time to a fellow American. They should be ashamed…in my opinion.

  2. It is scary to think of the number of people that will believe anything their leaders tell them. This is true with radio show hosts, politicians, and religious leaders.

    People of the Christian faith get angry when they think of countries that ban people from owning Bibles, saying it keeps them from being able to have access to the “truth”.

    They forget that the Catholic Church once banned followers from owning Bibles, and in some cases a person could be executed for doing so. For them it was about controlling their followers, where were purposefully uneducated. We can see this happening around the world today, even in the United States.

    The worst part of media today are the “news” sources that are purposefully slanted to one side or the other. People like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow worked hard to make sure media was as unbiased as possible. We have turned our backs on their hard work.

    Today and entire group of people are trying to bring us back to the mid 1900’s. It was a time when fear and hatred was celebrated in the United States. A time when people like Henry Ford were allowed to print horrifically anti-Semitic books and no one tried to stop him. A time when Charles Lindbergh was honored by Adolph Hitler for his work supporting the Nazi cause. And a time with the Catholic Church went after Hollywood and had put in place a production code that was based on stupidity instead of actually protecting the public from what they saw as the “Jewish” threat to our countries morals (All but a few studios were owned and headed by Jewish men). Again, no one said anything.

    And the next Joseph McCarthy is probably already in Congress. And there is no longer anyone with the guts of Murrow willing to take this person on. We are too afraid to call spades spades; racists racists; hate mongers hate mongers.

    Time to get some balls and start calling liars liars.

  3. Well said Peter….but I think it goes even deeper. It directs my anger not only at our media, but also at our citizenry (for being so gullible) and our representatives (for being bought off).

  4. My problem isn’t the liars. I blame the swallowers, the news consumers. People eat what tastes good, without taking into account where the news came from, or if it is wholesome.

    By wholesome I mean rich in perspective. My problem isn’t the liars, the entertainers. My problem is audience’s belief in a single, simple answer. Rarely do people know the entire story, rarely do they take into account all perspectives, and rarely do they make open minded decisions.

    News consumers have the responsibility to analyze and organize the array of perspectives that journalists/entertainers display on the news. They must draw their own TEMPORARY conclusions based on the information or points-of-view provided. But the audience doesn’t necessarily have the time, or the patience to understand this concept.

    It’s good to be informed, even if the news is false or opinionated. It helps people make decisions (right or wrong) and keeps the world spinning. For the long term, though, we must be open minded to new perspectives, and the possibility of being wrong.

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