Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lies and the lying liars who tell them

Ideally, this would be the end of the story when it comes to Stephen Harper's callous and desperate attempt to claim the Terry Fox Foundation's reputation for his own. But there's reason for serious doubt that will happen - and indeed the Cons may end up treating the story as a case study in how to get what they want in politicizing issues and institutions which want nothing to do with them.

The crucial part of the latest from the Foundation is this:
The foundation said it would have no further comment about Sunday’s announcement or any federal campaign issues.
So what's the problem with that stance?

To start with, let's note that there are two ways for lies to overpower truths in the the court of public opinion.

The first involves immediate impact: a lie spreads quickly enough to be seen as true before anybody has a meaningful chance to assert otherwise. Thankfully, that hasn't happened in this case - and indeed the Cons have likely been dealt at least a temporary blow in credibility.

But the second involves volume and repetition: in the absence of a counterweight, a statement repeated often enough seeps into the public consciousness with little regard for its source. And while it's easy to understand how neither family members nor the Terry Fox Foundation want to have to respond to daily questions and statements, here's the risk involved in that course of action.

We know the Cons have no scruples about lying about how they've dealt with the issue. And we can thus fully expect them to keep doing so.

So let's say Stephen Harper keeps asserting as a matter of course that there's some connection between his party and the Terry Fox Foundation.

At best, someone in the media might use a precious question to challenge that assertion, resulting in some balance in a day's reporting. But Harper will still know that he'll get the most opportunities to speak at any given event, the support of his partisan-screened crowd, and the last word in responding to the question.

More likely, the issue will simply be dropped. And the Cons' lies would then go unchallenged for their present audience, and for anybody who hears about it second- or third-hand.

In fact, the Cons may now see themselves having an incentive to push the envelope with increasingly wrong claims to test just how committed the Fox family and Foundation are to offering no further comment.

Which means that for the rest of us, there's only one reaction to Harper and his party which can do the situation justice.

While it's worth pointing out that there's no institution so far above politics that the Cons won't drag it into the mud, and no cause so noble that the Cons won't try to turn it into a political football, the ultimate issue comes down to three words worth emphasizing while the issue remains in the public eye.

Stephen Harper lies.

And if he'll lie on matters of public record involving the Terry Fox Foundation, then we shouldn't merely ask him for an apology or clarification. Instead, voters and media should recognize - and we should emphasize - that Stephen Harper's words simply aren't worth the air used to emit them.

Because at this point, the only way to keep Harper from using his party's war chest to drown out civil society is to make sure people tune out the Cons' falsehoods on first contact. And if we lacked enough reason to do that before, we surely have it now.

1 comment:

  1. That's how I see it too. They'll lie and hope that less people hear the retraction.