Post No.: 0564
Why is there so much bull**** and lying in this world?.. It’s because it simply evidently works to fool enough voters, prospective customers, potential mates and others.
Whether through visual appearances, posturing or acting, or through exaggerating or over-selling a desirable aspect of oneself; and whether genetically born with a deceptive trait that’s innate, or performed with learnt and conscious behaviours – fakery and mimicry happens all of the time in the fight of the ‘survival of the fittest’, in terms of both natural and sexual selection. This also applies to companies, commercials and products; governments, pledges and projects; as well as people, profiles and impressions – anywhere and anytime someone is trying to gain something from someone else where they want them to think ‘what you see is what you’re getting’, when they might instead be short-changed if they trust in only the surfaces or the hearsay.
We can sort of believe our eyes – what we mustn’t automatically believe in is what we assume from what we see i.e. the ‘therefore’ part of ‘I see this, therefore that’. For example, if you see a coin suddenly appear when a hand goes behind your ear, a coin did appear, but it didn’t necessary therefore mean that the coin came from behind your ear. Or if you spot a person in a security guard’s uniform then that’s what you can believe in – that there is indeed a person in a security guard’s uniform – but that doesn’t necessarily therefore mean that this person is a true security guard who works there. Or if a person has bulging biceps or big breasts then you are seeing bulging biceps or big breasts, but they don’t necessarily therefore mean those arms are proportionally strong or those breasts aren’t full of useless (for breastfeeding offspring) silicon or saline.
We anticipate and make assumptions of causality from what we see but it doesn’t mean we’ll always be correct because correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. Our eyes can override our other senses (e.g. when it comes to what we taste or what we hear) but it doesn’t mean they’ll always uncover the truth. Seeing is believing, but believing doesn’t necessarily therefore mean we’ve sussed out the truth. Science doesn’t care what we believe.
So we shouldn’t always trust such assumptions. Yet doing so is highly instinctive and intuitive when people choose mates or assess friends or foes, for instance. Sight is a sense that has been exploited by fakery for a very long time – both by things that are born fake naturally (e.g. fake venomous creatures such as kingsnakes) or things that are faked artificially (e.g. via cosmetic surgery). Most of the time we can trust our eyes so it saves us a lot of time and energy to jump to conclusions based on what we see. But if a decision is important, we should slow down, apply some critical thought and not judge merely according to the surfaces. Other senses are susceptible to being duped too (e.g. masking smells, or mimicking bird mating or territorial calls to draw birds out). The human world is more predominantly full of visual and verbal deceits.
People want to accentuate the desirable features they (perceive themselves to) lack, hence ‘flaunting it’ doesn’t necessary mean that someone has ‘naturally got it’ (especially if that thing is confidence because true confidence simply knows it is without having to flaunt it to receive validation from others that it is indeed it). So people often overcompensate for, or overemphasise, the features or attributes they lack but which they desire, thus revealing not so much who they really are but who they aspire to be. This means that what people try to purposely emphasise about themselves is often the very thing they’re precisely not (e.g. someone who flaunts their extravagant lifestyle might actually be in a lot of debt, or a company that flaunts its supposed green credentials through its marketing and PR materials might actually be a heavy global polluter). So if you’ve truly got something, you don’t have to flaunt it – only flaunt it if you need to convince, or fool, others.
If one can get away with pretending then one can achieve the same reputation as someone who is the real deal – but save oneself some time, energy and other resources compared to them.
Overall, deception – from camouflaging to cuckolding – is an extremely common strategy in nature. Even viruses use deception to infiltrate healthy cells. Constantly evolving warfare and counter-warfare is a fundamental part of life, and deception is a huge part of that. It’s hardly just a human phenomenon and it’s been going on within nature for eons. So, whether there’s freedom of speech or not, the bull**** won’t naturally self-correct itself out in every important case but can self-reinforce, compound or amplify. Deception is interwoven deeply into nature.
The media and general public also spreads a lot of bull**** too, as evident on social media – even though we’d rather like to point out the bull**** that people in governmental or corporate positions spread instead. Well politicians and businesspeople are just people too – it’s just that their fibs usually carry greater impact or they’re held to higher standards. Social media doesn’t create liars as much as reveals them more democratically to the world, for everyone can now have a global audience with whatever they wish to say.
But is the greater onus on the liar to tell the truth or on the audience to detect and nullify those lies? I think that it should lean more upon the latter in a practical sense because if some external body were to police lies and claim that all fabrications have been forbidden or fact-checked for us – should we just passively believe them?(!) Some fact-checking bodies do fantastic, crucial work and do genuinely seek the plain facts, but each of us still needs to individually take our own responsibilities to question things and cross-reference information. Remember – ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice (thrice, etc.), shame on me’.
So, for example, if there’s a politician who constantly evades the truth yet continues to receive votes and support in democratic elections – we’ve got to question those who are voting for and backing her/him. Such a politician is only doing what is selfishly rational for her/him – lying because she/he’s getting rewarded for it. A problem is that too many people automatically vote according to party loyalties rather than according to whom and what one’s local political representatives and their policies are. This is similar to when it comes to brand loyalties rather than buying products according to their own individual merits and costs – it saves cognitive effort and energy compared to critically thinking, but it’s lazy, and the true best, worst and inbetween aren’t being properly rewarded or punished. Lying isn’t going to self-correct out of the system if people, under their own volition, keep rewarding those who deceive us.
We therefore cannot solely blame the liars if lots of people keep believing them; yet if we try to blame the electorate then this’ll likely backfire – certainly don’t call those who won’t vote your way dumb or deplorable(!) (I’m not selling any policies or products here so I’ll transparently blame voters and consumers as appropriate!) It’s also perhaps no use being correct if no one listens to you and would rather listen to someone who doesn’t care to spread the truth and only the truth. But could it ever be ethical to use sneaky tactics to beat deception – to use fire against fire?
It’s certainly never down to truth-tellers to act more believable if we fail to believe them. It’s down to us to become better judges of deception and character. We shouldn’t request more from people than to tell the truth. (This includes cases such as when women are told, “You don’t look like you’ve just been raped”!) It’s like it shouldn’t really be down to web content creators being conscious about SEO but down to SEO algorithms being better at identifying naturally valuable content.
People are more likely to believe in a lie if they want to believe in it. This can be seen when the vulnerable are exploited, like those who are looking for cures for their ailments believing in quick fixes as long as they appear plausible, or those who want to stay connected to a deceased loved one believing in spiritual mediums for a financial price. Groups will find it easy to trust in anything that supports their existing political worldviews and self-interests, such as any prejudicial propaganda against the outgroups they oppose. In this way, politicians who lie can remain popular. (Weak oppositions or political apathy from the public can also allow politicians to lie with impunity.)
Lies are frequently self-serving – for personal gain, for protecting/boosting one’s reputation or for avoiding punishments. Everyone is biased to believe that they lie less than they really do. Most falsehoods we give are white lies, such as trying not to hurt someone’s feelings, or small lies. Small lies can escalate over time though. So like most problems, it’s best if they’re addressed when small.
But, depending on the context – when at the edge of getting caught for lying – we might first try to double-down on and stick with our lie in order to protect our reputation and not be labelled as a confirmed liar. Better to be assumed as a liar than confirmed as one.
This is of course risky because the deeper one fails to admit to lying or tries to cover up one’s fibs with even bigger ones, the worse the damage to one’s reputation if one does later get caught, and the worse the harm that can be done to others too. The courts recognise this and punish accordingly to how early one confesses to the truth.
If white lies are considered acceptable because they’re rationalised as being beneficial to spare other people’s feelings, then more untruths will be rationalised as being beneficial – including politicians saying whatever it takes to get elected into power because they believe that it’ll be beneficial for the country if their personal vision is carried out. People can have an amazing (or dangerous) ability to rationalise unethical acts as being for the sake of their children, their country or overall good.
We should all understand that when some cake (yum!) and some faeces (yuck!) get mixed together, the combined result is something disgusting rather than something delicious. Hence similarly, when the truth is mixed with a lie, the combined result is a lie too, not a truth. Half-truths should therefore really be categorised as basically lies. Non-fiction mixed with fiction makes fiction.
…In summary, the reason why lying doesn’t get selected out of nature or from our cultures but instead persists or even thrives at times is because, sadly, it works on those who believe that what they see or hear is what they’ll get. It’s unethical but it works in many contexts. And although we can blame the liars for lying – if they think they can get away with it then they’ll try, and if it continues to work for them then they’ll rationally continue to do it. It’s therefore really down to all of us to not simply believe in what we want to see or hear.
And we should really only judge people and things according to what they do, rather than by what they ‘look like’ they could i.e. by their actual behaviours or performances, rather than their looks or exteriors. We are really trying to judge a function from what we see, but one doesn’t necessarily therefore mean the other.
Meow! In a world with so much shallow image obsession, there’s naturally going to be so much fakery – but those who can see beyond the surfaces better, by sceptically asking more questions and applying more critical thinking, will bring to light the truth better.