The Truth About Lies 4

From the Sydney Morning Herald

Truth or fiction? This lighthearted book shows you how to spot the difference.

Author: Andy Shea and Steve Van Aperen

Publisher: ABC Books

Lord Carlile, Britain’s independent reviewer of terrorism laws, said last month that lack of public trust in the intelligence and security services over the terrorist threat was directly related to the way the Blair Government advocated war in Iraq.

“The trust issue,” he said, “has been very damaged by the intelligence information connected with the Iraq war which is perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be inaccurate.” Thus Carlile touched on a fundamental issue of our age: the public has an uncanny knack of fingering a liar, no matter how much spin is deployed to cover uncomfortable facts.

Andy Shea and Steve Van Aperen are experts in distinguishing truth from fiction. Shea is a former London police officer and Van Aperen is an FBI-trained polygraph examiner. Their book provides a light-hearted examination of the trade and provides skills to determine whether a loved one, politician or journalist is lying. The authors ask readers to acknowledge that we all lie at various points in life, but only some lies are truly damaging. Context is everything.

Research at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh has found that women are better liars than men, principally because women are more fluent speakers and more confident in getting a message across. I wonder what would happen if more female politicians rose to power in Western nations. Aside from a necessary balancing in the daily running of affairs, would women lie even more effectively than their male colleagues?

In Britain, there are moves to ensure politicians promise to never lie while in office. The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, says that the public demands politicians “tell it as it is and own up to mistakes”. Taking a country to war on a lie would, I hope, classify as a “mistake”.

The book reminds us that “deceit … is not solely a wicked human character trait”. Rather, it is part of our “natural instincts” and is utilised by many other creatures. For humans, however, lying is often simply a way of getting ahead.

In a study conducted in Britain in 2001, for example, 29 per cent of people admitted to misleading their current employer when they applied for the job.

The Centre for Policy Studies in Britain released a study last month that alleged the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had manipulated the threat of terrorism for political ends. “Few people now believe what the Prime Minister, the security services and police tell us about security matters,” it concluded.

Just one month earlier, documents emerged that revealed a hidden strategy by the Blair Government to suppress debate about the country’s involvement in the “extraordinary rendition” prisoner transfer program. Undoubtedly Shea and Van Aperen would conclude that such spin is eroding the public’s faith in government and leading to a dangerous crisis of confidence.

So how do you spot a liar? Confusion between tenses when recalling a story is a telltale sign. “Once you hear somebody using past and present tenses within the same statement,” the authors write, “you know you’re stepping onto pretty thin ice when it comes to telling the truth.”

Paying attention to a person’s non-verbal behaviour is also a key. Van Aperen recently told a national newspaper that it is easier for a person to confess to a crime if they can justify it to themselves. “In 14 years with the police,” he said, “I saw all methods of interrogation and I can tell you the most effective method of interviewing is not blaming the person for their behaviour.”

Hitler famously said “the great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one”. The man certainly knew about persuasion.

This book provides a timely insight into our “relaxed and comfortable” age. George Orwell would have been appalled.

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4 thoughts on “The Truth About Lies

  • Richard II

    Don't know how much truth there is in this article – possibly a lot!

    I haven't got time to check this, but here's an "old" article, and, if true, makes Blair look a complete pillock – that is, if he doesn't look like one already.

    "Bush Taking Anti-Depressants to Control Mood Swings"

    "We have to face the very real possibility that the President of the United States is loony tunes…"

    Related link to a book:

    "Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President"

    Scroll down, and read a review entitled "We are in BIG trouble", which begins:

    "I'm 56, a grown woman descended from a long line of Republicans, including a

    multi-term Republican State Senator…"

  • Richard II

    The key sentence in the above mentioned article is this one:

    "President Bush is an untreated alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies."

    Seems about right. What else can explain how Bush could state, with not a bead of sweat on his forehead, that no one expected a breach in the levees when, in fact, the issue was not a breach in the levees, per se, but that a major storm was about to hit New Orleans with potentially devastating consequences, and Bush had promised to do all he could to prevent loss of life.

    Plans should have been put in place to cover all foreseeable eventualities. The breach of the levees WAS a foreseeable event.

    And Bush does, indeed, admit this. On 12 September, Bush said: "Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment."

    Bush claims the news reports he was listening to gave him the impression New Orleans had "dodged the bullet", so his administration relaxed at what turned out to be a critical moment.

    You can hear Bush say exactly this here:

    Bush saw the consequences of his inaction, yet isn't bothered in the slightest. He was criminally negligent. He ought to be arrested for murder.

    If Bush were a CEO, and was told there is a very real chance his corporation will go bankrupt if something isn't done, and then Bush did nothing, and the corporation went bankrupt, he'd be arrested for a serious breach of his fiduciary duties.

    But when the public die or are put at risk, no one cares, because it's just a great opportunity for corporations to make fat profits from reconstruction contracts.

    There's a video of Blair bumping into Bush at some conference for heads of state. Blair turns around and his face lights up like a 2000 watt neon sign saying "I love you, my darling!"

    Both Blair and Bush belong in a lunatic asylum.

    If prime ministers and presidents really ran countries, we would all be in serious trouble.

  • Richard II

    Please note that in a BBC online article dated 2 March 2006 (… ), it fails to mention that Bush later admits that a breach/break in the levees was indeed anticipated.

    The BBC should have known what Bush had said on 12 September, 2005. Instead, it cites a video conference Bush attended prior to the storm, and tries to get Bush off the hook by stating:

    "Earlier the Associated Press said Mr Bush had been warned of the levees being breached in the video…[but AP later admitted] the president was warned about water overrunning the levees rather than breaking them.

    "The Army Corps of Engineers considers a breach a hole developing in a levee rather than an overrun."

    This is very misleading because Bush admits that there WERE plans to deal with a breach/break in the levees, which means HE WAS warned.

    Lies all over the damn place!

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