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Fake News: The uses and abuses of lying

Liar liar pants on fire, half way up the telephone wire. People assume that lying is bad, however is a part of our lives. I’m sure everyone remembers that friend at primary school who told overly elaborate stories, (a personal favourite: ‘My swimming lessons are in a pool with a shark in!’). We’re taught from an early age that lying is wrong, but as you get older, it all becomes a bit greyer – think of Father Christmas… Our lives are populated with untruths, we all know that there are times when lying is preferable to saying ‘yes, your bum does look big in that’, and other times when we electively choose to report facts as otherwise for our own selfish benefit.

Over the last year, we’ve had our radars confused and rattled with untruths leaving people angry and disappointed. During the Brexit campaign, the NHS was promised £350million which, it turns out, isn’t going to be given; Donald Trump claimed that Obama wasn’t born in the US, which is simply a lie; and whilst we’re on Trump, let’s discuss the record numbers at his inauguration.

By looking at the photos, you’d think it was a record for lowest attendance, but according to Trump’s press secretary, it was the ‘largest audience ever to witness an inauguration’. This statement was spun as ‘alternative fact’, but all these examples highlight a deceptiveness in our figureheads which has left a large number of people feeling uncomfortable in the power given to them.

At the other end of the spectrum, the French playwright, Moliere, once wrote a play in which the main character could only tell truths. This, as you can imagine, landed him in a whole lot of trouble as he openly insulted people and crossed social conventions (sound familiar?). This is a good example of how being totally truthful can be equally as damaging as lying.

It’s taken for granted that lying is wrong, but there are times in our lives when we need to lie. A few years ago, I embarked on a very unsuccessful hunt for a summer job. The main reason for my failure was my honesty; foolishly, at the end of every job interview, I naively told my prospective employers I was going on holiday for a few weeks just after the job start-date – not a good move. It seemed to me in this situation I needed to have lied, or at least not told the whole truth to have secured a job. Similarly, in marketing and advertising, Trump’s idea of ‘alternative fact’ comes into play – not specifically lying, but bending the truth, or seeing it from a different perspective in order to make something appealing.

Lying is an inevitable part of our everyday life, so we should learn to use our lies wisely. A lie can be good or bad, so let’s be careful when we use them, not making huge claims which will certainly come back to bite us; learn to make good use of your lies.

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