Blogs > Liberty and Power > Lying is Acceptable for Some

May 25, 2006 4:18 pm

Lying is Acceptable for Some

Wednesday's Washington Times ran a column on global warming by Cato's Patrick Michaels in which he quoted Al Gore as saying, "I believe it is appropriate to have an overrepresentation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience."

As a public service I will now translate this politically obtuse statement into English; It is alright to lie to people in order to scare them into doing something that is against their own interest. I feel qualified to present this rendition, as I am very familiar with the concept expressed by Gore, because the main focus of my studies has been the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs.

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Keith Halderman - 5/26/2006

I disagree. When head of the Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, went around in the 1930s saying marijuana use caused violence and insanity even though he knew about the British Indian Hemp Commission Report and the U.S. Army's Panama Canal study, which both said that there was not really a problem with marijuana use, he was lying by omission. When Al Gore only talks about things that support his global warming doomsday scenario he is doing the same thing. Now this may be standard operating procedure in some circles but that does not make it right and it certainly does not advance debate. How can anyone make a value judgement on whether it is worth someone losing their job to combat global warming when the true cost of global warming is deliberately distorted?

David Gross - 5/25/2006

You could also interpret the statement as "when trying to initially win people over to your side of the argument, it is wisest to include more of those facts that support your side of the argument than those which are ambiguous or against it in what you have to say."

This is not necessarily dishonest, but is the standard operating procedure of advocates, pundits, and just about everyone else. Only in very rare circumstances do you see a genuine venue for carefully considering all of the facts impartially and objectively and trying to come to a conclusion based on these facts - this is a wonderful thing, indeed, but it is not the only way to constructively advance a debate.