Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Speed Of Lies

It seems lies are the new truth!

When I was a kid, the television told a lot of lies.  But for the most part, they were harmless lies, such as Brand X detergent will "get your laundry brighter!"  That's not a lie, as they don't say lighter than what?  Yes, it likely will get your laundry brighter than it would be, unwashed.  But we all kind of knew the drill and didn't believe really that "Hertz will put you in the driver's seat" or anything like that.  They were just slogans and jingles designed to create brand awareness, and I think we realized that.

There were laws back then against "false advertising" and they were pretty much enforced.  Since the advertisers on television were all major brands from big companies, they were deep pockets to sue, if they made misrepresentations.  So for the most part, television advertising was "clean" and respectable.

By the late 1970s, cable television went from a rural enclave to a mainstream necessity - bringing hundreds of channels into urban and suburban homes.  Since there were a lot of "empty" channels and bandwidth was cheap, the infomerical was born.  Advertising went from a storied profession to the gutter, nearly overnight.  Suddenly anyone could advertise anything, and they did.

With the internet and video streaming, it got a lot worse.  And it seems in recent months it has degraded further - or maybe we are just starting to notice it, as YouTube blocks our ad-blockers, at least for the time being.  The ads I "skip" are little short of scams.  One fellow implies that guaranteed basic income is right around the corner - what he is selling I do not know.  Another claims "Obamacare" can pay you up to $5100 with a benefits card, to spend on whatever you please.  Still another fellow tells me I am an idiot for selling on Amazon "the old way."  What these folks are selling, I do not know, as I click on "skip" as soon as possible.

But it struck me how sleazy these ads are - and clearly for some kind of con-job.  And it didn't used to be this way.  It seems everything is a lie these days and no one seems to notice or care.  I noted in a recent posting about how Sirius XM makes it difficult to cancel their service.  But everyone knows this and knows this business model, as it was pioneered by AoL in their final death throes and taken up by every other subscription service since then.  We expect the companies we do business with to be mean, underhanded and flat-out lie to us, and we can't imagine it any other way.

Now granted, this is not to say the 1960s were a utopian time when every merchant was honest and no one dealt in underhanded chicanery.  But I think, back then, it was easier to spot sleazy merchants as they were obviously sleazy.  Smilin' Sam's used car lot was known to be a den of thieves.  And back then, things like payday loans and stock buy-backs were illegal.  Spoofing the stock market with pump-n-dump schemes had been illegal since the days of Joseph Kennedy and the 1929 crash.  Today, there are entire online discussion groups dedicated to pumping up obscure stocks so that the pumpers can make a small fortune before they dump.  And no one seems to notice or care or prosecute.

In politics, the lie is the new norm.  Granted, politicians were always known for telling "little white lies" - vote for me and I'll balance the budget! (Hey, he didn't say when did he?).  Today, the nature and scope of the lies is much greater.  "We have evidence of election fraud!" they cry - for years.  But for some reason, they can never produce it or let anyone see it.  And a lot of folks go along with this "big lie" theory and even make excuses for them.

Joe Rogain mocks Biden for saying there weren't enough airports during the revolutionary war - or some such nonsense.  He's senile!  Unfit to serve!  His own staff correct him (they're fired, no doubt!) by pointing out that Biden was just repeating what Trump said to show that Trump has lost his mind.  Rogain's response?  "He musta mis-spoke!"

Even when confronted with the truth, they dissemble and equivocate and make excuses - because what is really important isn't the truth, but our side winning at all costs.  And speaking of lies, Mr. Rogain claims to be a neutral party and not a raging MAGA-head.  Lies, all lies.

It was not always thus.  The lies were not so... odious.  We did not have "alternative facts" 50 years ago.  We had them nearly 100 years ago, when the Nazis rose to power and played the "I tell you three times and it is true!" game - repeating lies so often that ordinary people assume they are just background facts.  For some reason, we are going down this same road again - with people, some say as much as 30% of the population, believing that God chose Donald Trump to be dictator for life and rule the United States like a King.

History doesn't repeat itself exactly, a wit once noted, but it rhymes. Or echoes.

So what's the point of all of this?  Not that the world is suddenly going to hell in a hand-basket - that is a trend that started decades ago and today we are just now seeing the fruit of all of these lies.  The Civil War wasn't about slavery, right?  And slaves were happy-go-lucky employees learning valuable skills that would serve them well later in life, right?  Hitler wasn't that bad - and the Holocaust never happened! The world is flat, aliens live in Area 51 and dinosaurs co-existed with cave-men 5,000 years ago when the world was formed.  There are people today who fervently believe these things.  And when, as a nation, we believe fantasy over fact, it never ends well - for any nation, historically.

Act rationally in an irrational world has been the mantra of my blog.  But increasingly, I am not convinced that is enough anymore.  Sure, it may help you get ahead, personally.  But when the irrational people take over the government and announce they are abolishing social security or on the other end of the spectrum, handing out $1000 to everyone in the country, well, bad things will happen to us all.

At that point, the only option is to leave.  Problem is, where do you go?  And can you afford to?

UPDATE:  Speaking of lies, the above quote attributed to Mark Twain is said to originate with Jonathan Swift. More lies!  But relatively harmless ones.