Friday, August 31, 2012

A Subtle Difference

I was taken aback when I read throughout the blogosphere headline after headline after headline, story after story, setting-fire-to-hair opinionating from Joan at Salon, screaming "Ryan Lies in Speech."

I thought the Washington Post described the speech perfectly today (in an article about fact-checking and the candidates):

the Republican vice presidential nominee repeatedly left out key facts, ignored context and was blind to his own hypocrisy.

I find the accusation "you lie" to be less damning and more easily dismissed than the more critical, and discerning, description offered by the Post.

 I read pieces saying "Ryan lied about" that went on to describe a technically accurate Ryan line -- and thus not a "lie" to many, if not most -- without critically explaining the real misleading character of Ryan's statement.

I'm sure others disagree.  The purported strength of the word "lie"

 (and after all, don't we have lots of gentler, obfuscatory ways of accusing our mendacious friends of misstatements and falsehoods? With so many softenings, "lie" must be powerful. . .)

seduces a lot of writers.  But the repeated exaggerations of all kinds of candidates and their surrogates  has invited many observers to think that "they're all liers." The accusation seems easily dismissed, at least by me.

I thought blind to his own hypocrisy was a devastating, discerning observation (and criticism).

I probably won't be commenting much on this election (yeah; right). I'm thoroughly revolted by the campaigns of the two major parties, and find myself physically affected by them.  I'm going to try not to get any of it on me.



Lupner said...

Thank you for pointing out this interesting and maddening distinction. The word 'lie' -- though admittedly not a good thing -- sounds so direct. It comes off, in its blatant direct-ness, sounding less damaging than the manipulation of language so prevalent in the rhetoric of political everybodies, which is what shapes their dishonesty and lying. The feeling I get is that they are doubly dishonest (and despicable) by thinking they're getting around and therefore away with something, making suckers out of the people in their audience. Those would be the people they are supposedly so hot to nobly represent. This is also practiced willy-nilly by irresponsible media, which makes me even more crazy. Don't wanna be lied to or manipulated, but given the choice, the lie feels less overall offensive. To me, anyhow. Which is my rambling way of saying that I get what you mean.

Could it BE mere coincidence that the numbers in captcha are 666? I think not. No lie!

¡barangus!™ said...

Well I am certainly glad you were not impacted by them otherwise there would be hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

I strongly disagree that Ryan was "blind to his own hypocrisy." He seemed quite aware of it and quite determined to conceal it, which is why I think people are feeling justified in reaching for the "L" word.

mister muleboy said...

I don't think anyone had to reachfor justification to call him a liar. I just think it's ultimately -- or maybe I should write "it's now"-- less powerful a word, and less useful a tool to damn him. Especially because it's freely used about all of the statements he made that ignore what he has espoused for years, but may be technically accurate, further raising the obfuscatory noise in the back and forth

I became more convinced over the weekend when I read or heard people calling him out for lying about statements that didn't sound like lies. A couple used shorthand with the supposedly damning "lie" only to be called on it by a moderator or panelist, slowing the crituc's indictment and making it sound petty when it he criticism wasn't petty, just more layered and begging for explication.

I guess I also intended to say that, just like grade inflation (where an A isn't what an A used to be), liar doesn't seem as damning to me as other criticism. Your mileage may vary, and all that. It's not objectively demonstrable, but it's how I hear Tge discussion.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

I agree that to call someone a liar is not an effective rhetorical tool, because it places the burden on the accuser to not only prove that the statement is false, but that it was knowingly made, which is usually not possible to do. I would never call someone a liar in a summation (if I could, which I can't, under NY state law). It's much more effective do point out that your opponent is factually incorrect and prove why.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

That said, it is simply incomprehensible that Ryan didn't know when the Janesville plant closed, that Simpson-Bowles didn't issue a final, urgent report, or that he US S&P credit rating was downgraded due not to the president, but threats made by Congressional R's.

Or that he didn't run a 2:50 marathon.

mister muleboy said...

That's because he

Which doesn't change my thoughts on what I was saying.

My thoughts on how to criticize opponents actually goes well beyond whether to hammer lies or to hammer other things (abandonment of principles, betrayal of party, flip flopping, I have no idea what other criticisms), and may well be rejected by most. But I just post blog entries; I'm not publicly working through my Unified Theory of Politics.

I'd lose my six regular readers.

I also thought that the downgrade occurred because intransigence demonstrated a lack of political wilL or willingness to address our fiscal peril. I will have to go back and see if S&P called out the Republicans as the lone intransigent player.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

I also thought that the downgrade occurred because intransigence demonstrated a lack of political wilL or willingness to address our fiscal peril. I will have to go back and see if S&P called out the Republicans as the lone intransigent player.

Are you calling me a liar??


Here's what S&P said at the time:

To avoid a downgrade, S&P said the United States needed to not only raise the debt ceiling, but also develop a "credible" plan to tackle the nation's long-term debt.

In its report Friday, S&P ruled that the U.S. fell short: "The downgrade reflects our opinion that the ... plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics."

S&P also cited dysfunctional policymaking in Washington as a factor in the downgrade. "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

I would not expect S&P to call out Republicans as the lone intransigent player. However, I remember August of 2011 quite well, and...Republicans were the lone intransigent player. They threatened to not raise the debt limit unless all of their demands were met. That, I believe, is what S&P alluded to with their reference to "brinksmanship."

The administration made no such threat. I remember the administration making a very reasonable offer of a grand bargain, mixing deep cuts with modest tax increases for the wealthy - the solution endorsed by virtually every economist in the world.

In other words, the administration put forward a "credible" plan with deep concessions by the left, while the GOP engaged in brinksmanship with, of course, makes our government seem less "stable" and "predictable."

So, no matter S&P's diplomatic wording, it is quite clear that GOP action created the crisis that caused the downgrade. Do you see it as otherwise?

In any event, Paul Ryan didn't say both sides were to blame. He said it was all Obama's fault.
That, I believe, is what S&P alluded to with their reference to "brinksmanship."

He knows better. Therefore, he lied.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Sorry about the weird typing. I...haven't been myself latey.

Or lately.

mister muleboy said...

Thanks for the S&P pull.

I didn't think there was any meaningful debate that Ryan lied about quite a few things, was there?

Fred C. Dobbs said...

You're welcome.

No, of course not.