Is House right? Do we all lie? According to some recent books we not only do it, it is now the norm in our society. Personally I’m a bit sceptical that it’s a new thing, but here’s what they have to say.
The Post-truth Era argues that “Deception has become commonplace at all levels of contemporary life” and that in this world “borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and non-fiction.” Oprah might agree with the last bit after her stoush with the author of A Million Little Pieces, a memoir that turned out to be fictional and which the author defended as being “subjective truth”. He’s not the first one though, his is just one in long list of fictional memoirs, some of which made their authors a lot of money.
Born liars described by the BBC as being ‘erudite’ looks at lying as an evolutionary necessity, part of our need to deal with social interaction. I noted when watching Robert Winston’s series A Child of Our Time that he chose the ability to tell a white lie as a marker of pre-school child development. Therein perhaps lies the room for confusion, because a white lie both upholds the social system and apparently contravenes the same system’s rules regarding honesty. Where do white lies start and finish? Is lying on your CV now considered a white lie? Does that matter?
Writing a review of the book for The New Republic Online, Gregg Easterbrook suggested that “whether something is believed has become more important than whether it’s true.” Possibly, but is that a new concept? – politicians has been at it for a long time.
In one of my favourite detective novels The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey uses her detective to expose the highly misleading bad name given to Richard the Third by the political lies of the Tudors. All history is lies, as they say.
In the end the point made by Dorothy Rowe in Why We Lie seems the most pertinent to me – that it is ourselves we hurt the most when we lie – a theme already endlessly explored through fiction over the ages.
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