Special note: Today’s column deals with political lies, and the language lying politicians use to cover those lies. While it may seem I’m picking on one side, I assure you I’m more than aware that neither side of our political debate has a monopoly on truth or untruth.
So, a typical gathering of pundits on one of the news channels was talking about the president lying the other day, when one of them, a supporter of the president, emphatically stated, “He (the president,) doesn’t lie. He exaggerates and spins.”
Ain’t language a hoot?
Other ways of putting it being …
“He doesn’t lie, he prevaricates.”
“He didn’t lie, he obfuscated.”
“He wasn’t untruthful, he just got all mendacious up in it.”
The simple fact is if you prevaricate, obfuscate, get all mendacious up in it, or exaggerate and spin, it’s all the same: You lied. The fancy language is merely planting roses around a cow pancake.
I’m reminded of showman, PT Barnum, who realized people were loitering too much in his sideshow tent. Barnum knew the fewer people going through the tent, the less money he would make; so he installed a sign, with an arrow pointing toward the back of the tent, which read, “This way to the great egress.”
Interests piqued, people would rush out the back door, to find another sign outside that read, “You just passed through the great egress.”
(‘Egress’ is a flowery word for exit.)
So, I had to smile when I heard, “He doesn’t lie, he exaggerates and spins.” He prevaricates and obfuscates. He’s mendacious and untruthful. He modifies and alters veracity. (Just keep planting those roses, dude.)
Speaking of which, way back in 2017 (which now seems like a lifetime ago), presidential aide Kellyanne Conway proudly announced on CNN that the then new Trump Administration would deal in “alternative facts.” Um, what are ‘alternative facts?’ “’Alternative facts,’ are the roses, and “lies” are the cow pancake.
Had Conway said, “We’re going to lie a lot,” she knew even the most ardent of supporters would bristle. Soften the language up a bit, though, and all of a sudden you have a political mantra.
In all fairness to President Trump, though, he’s neither the first politician to plant roses around political cow pancakes, nor is he the politician who now does it most. He’s just the most visible, and frankly, he and his defenders are the most awkward at it.
I mean, really. “He doesn’t lie. He exaggerates and spins,” is clumsy. It lacks rhythm. It has no elegance.Let’s see if we can help the president, and plant a better bed of roses around that particular political cow pancake.
“He doesn’t lie, he manipulates facts.”
No, that won’t do. “Manipulate”has negative connotations all its own. Also, it’s entirely more of an admission of dishonesty than an attempt to cleanse impure behavior with flowery prose. Let’s try this…
“I wasn’t dishonest, I pulled the strings of truthfulness.”
It’s better, but politicians talking about pulling strings insinuates skulduggery. How about this?
“Well, that depends on what ‘is,’ is.”
Eww. Too Bill Clinton. We can do better.
It occurs to me the real mistake of saying, “He doesn’t lie. He exaggerates and spins,” is using the word, ‘lie’ in the first place. To most people, when someone utters the words, “I don’t lie,” it means the speaker does indeed lie, and the next lie is coming soon.
How about this…
“I did not mislead, I was fanciful with the construct at hand.”
Now that’s a bed of roses that would draw nourishment from the cow pancake it surrounds and thrive!