In the Red Army, it takes a very brave man to become a coward.
Marshal Zhukov, to General Eisenhower, when asked about men being executed for cowardice. (Europe at War 1939-1945: No Simple Victory, by Norman Davies)
I was once at a party almost twenty years ago where there were the older adults, and then there were the “younger ones” who were the adult children of the old guard. I was in my late twenties and working as a journalist and professor, and I had an obligation to attend. The hosts’ two children — the son in his early twenties, and the daughter in her early thirties were in attendance along with several other people in our age group, including the daughter’s boyfriend.
The son was working at an x-rated video store, except no one was supposed to figure this out. Somehow the siblings got it in their heads that they were the only ones with street cred and no one at this large party could put two and two together. They had also marked me as some sort of Victorian rube who was as slow on the uptake as their parents who knew everything and complained to their friends, but their children thought they were the cleverest dodges in town.
The son was out to make trouble, and in front of the younger group, played a softcore video, which caused surprise for some of the younger guests, one who didn’t know the movie wasn’t a home movie, and asked out loud, “Hey, where is this?”, to which his irate wife responded, “Someplace you’ll never be.” She didn’t find my amusement all that funny, either.
The siblings and the boyfriend kept smirking throughout this party, until I asked the son whether they had posters of Janine where he worked. He said, “We used to until…” before breaking off, and giving me an expression of absolute shock that not only I was on to him, but that I had the knowledge to be on to him in the first place.
He suddenly lost his smirk, but his sister and her boyfriend were oblivious, until we had an exchange and I openly said that I knew where her brother worked. The guests were surprised, but the cocky smirks were not only gone — the siblings were quite vexed at me for the rest of the party, as I had committed the unforgivable sin of not being a Victorian rube they had cast me in their little demented play.
To add insult to injury, none of the older guests were even paying attention.
I spoiled their game. It is not fun when people are not as stupid as you imagine them to be.
I had, in fact, turned the tables on them. I wasn’t the rube. They were. They were the ones who underestimated one of their pigeons, making them the unworldly ones.
This was hardly the first or last time when this sort of game was played with me. I have had married people have affairs with each other, and get livid that I figured out that they were having an affair. I will not lie to preserve your delusion that you are a good liar. I have known people who were drug addicts who thought I didn’t know which drugs they were addicted to as if their physical and mental signs and symptoms weren’t screaming it.
I have also let people know that I knew they used a casting couch, that they have a criminal past, or that they cheated to get their position.
It is being like Sherlock Holmes, although I come off more as Patrick Jane from the show The Mentalist.
People think they keep secrets, but their muted confessions are loud and clear to me.
I don’t care. I don’t give lectures. People get angry, not because I am looking down on them — but because I can actually read them. They are angry because they have created an illusionary pecking order where they are far savvier than I am, but then I pop that delusion with ease.
Once I dismantle one delusion, I often have a second one to unravel: do not spin a narrative to make it sound as if I am some sort of staid church lady who is telling you that you are a bad person.
No, I don’t care about your lifestyle choices.
But I am not going to pretend that you are some sort of proficient liar.
It takes arrogance to lie. You think you are the smartest person in the room when you do.
People often do not say openly that they know you are lying. They lie right back, nodding, and making small talk before they run to their friends and let them know that you are full of it.
The origins of lies, however, is not arrogance. It is cowardice.
Fear and hatred. Lies are a psychologically violent act.
As Sun Tzu famously observed, war is deception.
And it begins when parents allow their children to lie because they are too afraid to confront them. It is a taxing job calling people on the carpet for anything. Often, parents are deceivers themselves, or are too busy with their own careers, egos, and paramours to actually bother to adult and parent.
It is not a fantasy world deceivers are building: it is war. They are hostile and are either hiding their weaknesses, or trying to destroy other people’s egos in order to wear them down to stomp over the perceived competition, or even to steal the attention and emotional resources all to the liar.
There is nothing intelligent about lying: it is a lazy man’s passive war that hinges on people believing the lie or giving in to the lie’s subtextual logical conclusion. Call it out and refuse to reward it, and the liar’s true reality is exposed.
Lies are the weapons of the inferior person. Truth is the tool of the superior person.
If you want to be a better quality person, stop lying, and you will know exactly where you stand, what you need, and what you must do to get there.
Journalism gave into too many lies to ever be taken seriously again.
But the alternative gets its energy from exposing lies and finding truths from reality.
But exposing lies means exposing everyone’s lies, regardless of their group affiliation: exposing half a lie is a lie in itself. Unless you expose everyone, you paint a false narrative, implying there is a hero and not just a cabal of villains who are clawing each other for some ridiculous paper crown.
People who gather facts are fighting a war. They must liberate truth from lies.
They must show the deceivers their true place, and it is not at the top. They are not intelligent. They are not brave.
People always try to spin narratives in order to make themselves seem superior.
The straight shooter tells you how it is, regardless of the consequences. They are your inner voice that drowns out the fear that resides within.
It takes a brave person to walk away from the lure of deception. It takes a smart one to see the lies of others and not get caught up in carny or hype.
Journalism let too many grifters tell their lies. They let PR firms dictate the story.
The alternative plays no such games, and finds the truth even when the best liars are put in charge of hiding it…