Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

First: Define “Lying”

with 2 comments

Yes, I know.  I said I was going to disappear for a while.  But it turns out I’m far too stressed to have nothing constructive to do, and these days I’m defining “constructive” very loosely.  At any rate,  what I really want to do is scream at some very specific people, and that probably wouldn’t be the best idea right now.

So, let’s get to this other thing.

The beginning of it is this:  how do you define “lying”?  If I say something that is objectively, provably untrue, but honestly believe it, am I lying?

How about if I report something as true that I believe is true but that is in fact an interpretation of raw data that is at least questionable?  Am I lying?

Cheryl’s report of the proposed change to the Canadian media law would have addressed that question by requiring you to prove that somebody knowingly told an untruth on the air. 

It was opposed, I can only presume, by people who thought that it would be much harder to convict and punish someone for “lying” if you had to prove not only that his statement was untrue (or an unlikely and tendentious interpretation), but that the speaker had known it was untrue.

Which brings us to our second question:  have I ever seen Rachel Maddow and/or her program?

The answer to that is:  yes.  Quite often.  When Keith Olbermann was still on the air, her show followed his every week night, and most week nights I watched the two back to back right before bed.   I’l admit I was a bigger fan of Olbermann’s, but then I like combatitive types, even when they’re not all that accurate all the time.

Maddow is, certainly, the calmest and most even-tempered of a very hotly tempered bunch.  And yes, she’s got that PhD and went to all the right schools and has all the right markers of high academic achievement that are so important to her audience–and for that matter, to me.

But precisely what one commenter found “better”–that Rhodes Scholarship, the PhD, the measured reasonableness–my working class relatives find repugnant and abhorrent.  They find her “smug,” “self-satisfied,” “snobbish” and “deceitful,” where they find people like O”Reilly, Beck and Palin “down to earth” and “regular people.” 

At the risk of causing a firestorm of howling and gnashing of teeth, I don’t think this makes my working class relatives stupid and resentful any more than I think those of you who think her attributes are “better” are self-satisfied and smug.

I think what we’re looking at here are class markers, pure and simple. 

And this time, by class, I’m not talking about money.  I’m talking about a web of attitudes, tastes and behaviors that cement us to that group we think of as “one of our own.” 

And no, I don’t think conservatives are less likely than liberals–or working class people less likely than the educated upper middle class–to be “accepting of difference. 

I think it depends on the difference.  The educated upper middle class will surely be more accepting of you if you are gay, and they’ll champion the institution of gay marriage, too–but their tolerance is likely to go south fast if you’re a gay member of Dignity who thinks homosexual sexual practice is objectively morally wrong and that gay people can only live morally by being celibate.

As for why I said I think Rachel Maddow lies–it again depends on how you define “lying.”  If you mean it simply as saying something that is objectively untrue, whether you know it or not, I’m good.

But here’s something else:  we all tend to feel that if X person claims Y is true and we “know” it’s false, that X must know it’s false, too, and the only reason X is saying it is for advantage or gain or spite or something…either that, or X is just too stupid to know what we know.

My first eye-rolling moment came during a week when Maddow presented a special set of programs on “right wing domestic terrorism” that were as silly, over the top, and skewed in their “evidence” as anything Glenn Beck has every presented.

(Well, as to Beck–that I’ve seen.  I’ve got a low tolerance for him, a larger one for O’Reilly, so I might be better off sticking to comparisons with the latter.)

Yes, of course, there are militias, and silly people who decide to “go sovereign” and drop off the grid, and these groups and people increase during liberal administrations.

And, exactly once, there were a couple of them (Nichols and McVeigh) who did something really bad.

But it takes a truly Herculean effort to distort the evidence to imply that these groups are as dangerous, as active, as well trained or as imminent a problem as al Qaeda and its various couins. 

Excuse me if I think that the reason one does something like that is to cut off discussion of the other side of an issue without giving it an honest hearing. 

The other thing I’d mention is the extent to which Maddow has bought into the conventional wisdom that “the only reason the Tea Party hates Obama is that it’s racist!”

I’m sure there are some racists in the Tea Party, but if you really think this, you should go back and take a refresher course in the Clinton administration.   Clinton was white, and yet the hysteria over Clinton himself and his administration in general and the prospect of “Hillarycare” in particular was, if anything, far worse than anything the Tea Party or anybody else has managed to say about Obama.

No, they never accused Clinton of not being a United States citizen–but they did accuse him of hiring a hit man to murder Vince Foster, and an actual US Congressman from Georgia used to invite people to his home and shoot bullets into a pillow to demonstrate how the death of Foster “had to be” a Clinton-ordered “hit.”

And, while we’re at it, the left wing response to George W. Bush wasn’t exactly a model of reasoned thoughtfulness.

(Does anybody remember the Die ChimpHitler!  Die! Die! incident?)

For what it’s worth, I find all this enormously frustrating.  I make it a point to actually read both sides of the issue, or the spectrum of both sides.  I know what the actual objections to government health care reform are, and I know what the Tea Party actually means by “small government,” and I know the difference between the Tea Party and establishment (corporate) Republicans. 

And I spend day after da reading and watching people set up straw men and knock them down, and nobody discusses the issues.

I could do this from either side, but since I’m responding mostly to pro-liberal posts these days, let me pose a question for that side for the day.

I’ve spent a lot of the last fifteen years taking care of and/or dealing with people with terminal illnesses, and in the process I’ve arrived at a decision that’s very important to me.

At the end of my life, I want to be able to choose a hospital in which it is absolutely forbidden let patients “die with dignity.”

I want a hospital with an absolute, unquestioned, and unmitigated commitment to keeping people alive as long as possible.

I’m not being completely idiotic here.  I’m not asking to be kept alive on respirators and machines that make my heart beat.  What I am asking is that I be in a place where nobody will ever, under any circumstances, be allowed to cut off food and water to me as long as I’m able to ingest them. 

You can shut down the rest of the machines, but you can’t shut off my food and water.  And I want a hospital that would refuse to do such a thing to any patient inside its walls, ever.

Now, please note–I am not asking that all hospitals be like that.  I am not asking you to end your life in such a place, if you’d rather be in a place that goes by “die with dignity” rules.   Personally, I think the “die with dignity” movement should be called the “kill off the old people when they get to be too bothersome movement,” but you may not feel the same way.  You should have a hospital that runs by your rules in this matter, as long as I can have one that runs on mine.

ALSO note–it would NOT be acceptable to me to be in a hospital that says it “follows the patient’s wishes” and lets some people “die with dignity” and others hang on as long as they want.

Climate matters.  I’ve been around dying people and the doctors and nurses that treat them a lot in the last few years.  I know that there’s way too much of “she isn’t being reasonable, if she was, she’d know she doesn’t REALLY want to live like that.” 

I know that, when I’m sick and dying and not able to do for myself, the closest thing I have to protection against “she doesn’t REALLY want to live this way, she’s just not thinking straight,” and a grave earlier than I want, is an institution that does not compromise–no, not ever, period, no exceptions.

Now, if that is what is most important to me–can you tell me if, under a nationally standardized system as this new health reform bill aims to create, I would be able to find a hospital like that?

Or would every hospital be required to allow “death with dignity” and “living wills”? 

So that I’d be told–oh, don’t worry!  They’ll honor patient wishes!–even when I know that that isn’t true, and has never been true when such rules have been instituted, anywhere?

And if that is the answer, and this is the most important health care issue for me–should I support the new health care law?  And if I don’t, because of this, does that make me a “racist”?

I brought this particular issue up for a reason.  It’s what the “death panel” “hysteria” is all about, and on Rachel Maddow’s show as on Olbermann’s, all I ever heard about this “issue” was a disingenuous disclaimer that no such panels exist.

But saying that the people who were worried about that were just stupid or emotional, or that the people who targetted the end of life counseling as “death panels” were “lying” about them.

They were instead zeroing in on an approach to a certain problem that’s actually pretty well established–a “way of thought” that they recognize in the wider world and don’t like.

Oh, and one more thing.

I am, in spite of my reservations on this particular issue, a big supporter of a single payer health insurance system.

I do, however, understand why most of my working class relatives are not, and I understand what they’re afraid of, and I don’t think they’re being hysterical, stupid, or led around like sheep by the evil minions of Wall Street.

I’d be interested in a program where the two sides actually discussed this particular issue without just assuming that their opponents or evil, stupid or venal.

But if we’re going to go by the Canadian law’s definition of lying–which apparently doesn’t include the requirement that the speaker know that what he’s saying is untrue–well, Rachael Maddow isn’t the only person who has lied about this issue.

Written by janeh

March 3rd, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'First: Define “Lying”'

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  1. Jane wrote “I make it a point to actually read both sides of the issue, or the spectrum of both sides.”

    That is the way to do it but, frankly, I’ve given up on US politics. I don’t live in the US, don’t vote there, and don’t pay taxe so why bother? Yes, US foreign and economic policies do effect me but I can’t do anything about them. Worrying about them is like worrying about earthquakes or hurricanes.

    None of the names Jane mentioned mean anything to me.
    We do have Australian “current affairs” programs but they are so one sided that I never watch them.

    As to hospitals, Australia has public hospitals which provide free care to any Australian resident.
    They are overloaded and have long waiting lists for “elective surgery”. And if the hospital has 10 ICU beds and 11 patients needing ICU, someone has to make a decision. I’ve never seen it publicly discussed but there must be a procedure for deciding who gets the scarce resources.


    3 Mar 11 at 6:28 pm

  2. Well, the ICU decision can just as easily be moving someone out into a corridor or ward or somewhere, where they might die sooner than they would in an ICU, or they might get better. I’ve known of terminally ill people being kept on life support in ICU for very long periods of time until the families agreed that there was no more point – not only was the patient incapable of eating or drinking, she couldn’t breathe on her own and couldn’t be roused from unconsciousness and…, well, it wasn’t a ‘mercy killing’.

    And I’ve known of someone, awake and alert but seriously disabled and ill besides, and who wanted desperately to live, who had medical people day in his hearing to his family that it would be better to ‘let him go’.

    I’m with Jane on this one. I haven’t signed any kind of ‘living will’ because I’d rather take my chances with my next-of-kin than some doctor’s interpretation of such a document. I’d be perfectly capable of deciding against accepting, say, cancer treatment if a careful consideration of the pros and cons of that particular treatment for that particular cancer led me to decide that the likely results weren’t worth it – but I don’t want to be finished off by someone, no matter how well-meaning, because I’m depressed or in pain or disabled.

    The Canadian who murdered his disabled daughter has completed his prison term, completely unrepentant and convinced that fathers have the right and duty to kill their daughters. A lot of people agree with him, because the daughter was disabled and had to suffer painful medical treatments. They’d probably disagree with fathers having the right to murder daughters who have moral but not physical problems. Personally, I don’t think parents should murder children, or doctors patients or any person another human being under any circumstances whatsoever.

    It’s true too that many people on all sides of any debate don’t understand their opponents and don’t particularly appear to want to do so. It’s so much easier to simply assume that of course all right-thinking people agree with them. I’ve had a few tendencies that way myself, and have certainly been in lots of situations in which I’ve said things that don’t fit with the other person’s view of what any reasonable person thinks, or of what someone in some group that I appear to belong to should think. Logical discussion of the issue rarely ensues.

    I think this is why I dislike the inclusive/exclusive type of terminology. I noticed very early on that the people who argued most strongly for inclusive behaviour, groups, etc., were the same people who most strongly insisted that certain people or ideas had to be excluded. So if I decide that A & B have, in the past, been excluded from something and must now be included, I’m very likely to go on to decide that C & D, who were previously included, now must be excluded. If a reason is demanded, it’s usually along the lines of blaming C & D – rightly or wrongly – for excluding A & B.

    Ideally, of course, A, B, C and D, should always be included, but in practice, they often aren’t, and the logic of calling an arrangement that includes A & B ‘inclusive’ and one that includes C & D ‘excluding’ is never questioned.


    4 Mar 11 at 7:45 am

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