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.