Why the need to cry "Lie"?

Hey, my first new thread!

It seems that certain people (both lefities and righties, Democrats and Republicans) are very quick to say that a politician “lied” when they say anything that either turns out not to be 100% true in all particulars or could be interpreted as being misleading or deceitful in even the smallest detail. For example, this current pit thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=484181

The debate: why is this? Why is it not enough to say that a politician is “making deceitful or misleading statements” or “is not accurately reflecting reality” or something like that? There are plenty of other ways to not be a good politician, and there are plenty of character traits that are not desirable in a person running for office other than a propensity to lie, but more often than not it’s “he lied, he’s a liar!”

One theory may be that calling someone a liar works not only as an attack against the current statement the person made, but sets up an aura around the person through which to later attack them. So, if I can paint X as a liar, then I can cast doubt on later statements X makes even if I can produce no legitimate argument against the later statement. This seems like an illegitimate debating tactic to me because each statement should be judged on its own merits.

Your thoughts?

I sympathise, being a pedant myself, but to most people “making deceitful or misleading statements” = lying. And one word is shorter.

That thread is an example of lying though, even by the proper definition.

And as a lawyer, you should know well that the arguments used in political rhetoric have no relation whatsoever to validity, only effectiveness.

I think it’s because in the past we have always (at least at the presidential level in my recent adulthood) been much more euphemistic about it, and the Democrats in particular are tired of dancing around it anymore. This time we’re not going to tiptoe around the issue; a lie is a lie, and we’re going to call it as we see it. As simple as that.

Right. The debate is: why so quick on the trigger to call any statement that turns out not to be true a lie?

Remember, for a statement to be a lie, it has to be the case not only that the statement turns out not to be true, but the speaker must have known it not to be true (or maybe a lower standard is OK too–i.e., the speaker must at least have recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of the statement).

I don’t think I’m being pedantic here. That’s what a lie is.

I think for campaign ads and stump speeches, which is where most of these accusations come from, people expect the candidates to check out the information. I suppose it’s possible McCain didn’t bother to check out if that Raines guy was actually an advisor or not, so he didn’t know he wasn’t while he said he was. In that case he’s an incompetent moron though, so not sure that’s any better.

ETA: I’d say putting something you “heard” in an ad/official statement/whatever is a reckless disregard for the truth. You should make an effort, and since people on the internet are finding out this stuff is bullshit very easily, they either made no effort or they knew it was bullshit.

Right. Why is it not sufficient to say “McCain is an incompentent moron?” Why the rush to call him a liar?

I think I’ve made the OP clear so I won’t belabor the point.

Well, in the example of that thread, Dio, technically, should have said McCain is either a liar or an incompetent twit. But we’re back to the pedantry here. It’s probably a lie, and neither is very flattering, so people just say lie.

Rand Rover, when I saw the thread, I thought you were going to pursue the argument you made (properly, I thought) in the other thread: why is something branded a lie without any evidence of such? IOW, that wasn’t even an instance of something borderline deceitful. It was a statement that was surrounded by the outraged mob here at the good-and-virtuous SDMB and pelted with bricks because it was assumed to be a lie because, well, just because. Dio said it later in the thread–that wasn’t even his main point. But it quickly became the standard, circular train wreck of outrage and roll-eyes in these political threads.

A different version of this is any instance where someone represents their opponent’s position in a headline or sound bite–that’s dishonest too, unless your own guy does it, then he has no other choice.

I think when a side reduces its position to a demonization of the opponent, it becomes the knee-jerk reaction. Of course, he’s lying. Everything he says is a lie. And so on. And when it occurs in an environment where there is a predominant bias, a pile-on occurs.

Well, in the case of the McCain/Palin campaign, when one deceptive statement follows on the heels of another, it soon becomes quite apparent that it isn’t some kind of a misstatement or a matter of competence. It has become clear that their m.o. is lying. So why not call them on it? Further, this will have been the third Republican presidential campaign in a row that the primary strategy was to lie and lie and lie. And this coming on the heels of 8 years of an administration that lied about everything and everyone. Don’t be upset if people get fed up with it and take note.

And Stratocaster, you can try to dismiss it as knee-jerk reaction, but that dog won’t hunt any longer. If I were you guys, rather than try to work the people who are being lied to, I’d let the people doing all the lying know that I’m ashamed of them and won’t support them anymore.

Unless of course you aren’t ashamed and will support them. If so, don’t bother complaining about it to me.

The judgment call you’re ignoring has to do with “disingenuity.” If McCain says that he heard something and now will publicize what he heard, your presumption may be that he simply (and innocently) is reporting something he believes to be true and is in error about that truth. I, OTOH, given his character and repeated lying, am going to presume that he knows perfectly well that it isn’t true, that he heard it from someone with an agenda, that it will forward his own agenda whether it’s true or not, and that it will take a few news cycles to establish firmly the falsity of his claim. That adds up to disingenuity and therefore, by my lights, a deliberate lie.

This is exactly what I’m talking about.

So not ashamed then.

Because the difference between that, and the word “lie,” is too slight to be bothered with.

And this is exactly what I’m talking about. You will no longer be able to dismiss as some sort of personality conflict the fact that lying has become the raison d’etre of the Republican party.

What haven’t they lied about in the past eight years? We were told significant lies about the war, the need for war, events during the war. Niger and yellowcake, aluminum tubes, WMDs, Valerie Plame, Pat Tillman… We’ve been lied to about the lead up to 9/11, about things like the air quality in Manhattan just after 9/11. We’ve been lied to about the state of Social Security. The Republicans kept power by lying about Al Gore and about John Kerry.

Now they’ve got a ticket that lies not only about Barack Obama, but also about everything there is about Sarah Palin, and even about John McCain and his record. They’re lying about bridges and earmarks and trooper firings and sex ed for kindergarteners and teleprompters and so on and so forth. That’s not even counting the disgraceful smears they’ve let fly.

So yeah, I’m not particularly concerned about whether your ears don’t find the word “lie” to be pleasant or not. Again, if your concerned about it, you’re going to get further by stopping the lies than stopping the observers.

This is a given for you, it’s beyond debate, it’s a settled matter. That’s what I’m talking about. Do you realize that there are millions of people who disagree with you? Are they delusional? Does this board honestly believe that?

Probably yes, for some, anyway. And if yet another election is lost for the Dems, it will be one more chorus of how the liars triumphed, the base tactics prevailed. Couldn’t possibly be your ideas–that’s yet another given, the angels are on your side. You do concede that debate is not even possible starting from your premise, correct? Is that your aim?

Back later. I’m off to smoke a cigar, which I will light with a $100 bill I plucked from my Exxon profits. I’ll be using a homeless person as an ottoman, in case anyone’s interested. Ta-ta!

I’m not seeing why it’s so hard to believe that this was a lie. Seems to me it’s just as likely a lie as not, and simply adding the words “I heard” doesn’t make something more truthful.

ETA: Best be smoking that cigar in the corner, Stratocaster. :wink:

Because they have access to real information. If they come out with misleading or false info ,it qualifies as lying. They really do know better.

I WISH we could get to the point of having a debate about the issues. If anyone is deluded, it would be those who think that the last two presidential elections were won on the basis of who had the better ideas. If 2008 is a repeat of 2006, what conclusions will you draw from that? (If I were a concerned Republican, I would note that lying and corruption go hand in glove, and start to clean house. As a Democrat, I’m just as happy to see the Republican party were consigned to the dustbin of history. Instead of Thelma and Louise, just imagine George and Dick driving off into the wild blue canyon.)

What seems to be beyond debate for you is whether the lying of the Republican party should be noted, let alone changed.

The trouble is an excessively narrow definition of a “lie” effectively renders the term meaningless.

i.e. since we can never have 100% knowledge of what exactly was going on in the presumed lier’s head, we can never be sure that they actually believed what they were saying. If they really believed it- no lie existed.

As Discordia said:

I guess I’m just like most people - not smart like Stratocaster