The Jaws of the Bocca della Verità


This dreadful looking pagan visage is said to bite off the hands of liars.

I am hot on the trail of a conceptual demon – the obscurant, lie that appeals to cognitive bias through suggestion.

I caught an article over at The American Scholar about lying and liars, why we do it, and why we bask in the glory of having caught one in a lie.

Obviously we all lie and have lied, but that doesn’t make us liars. Children lie often. Why? I think it’s fueled from imagination (innocence) and defense (lying to an elder is their only defense against punishment).

The article itself discussed the well publicized Brian Williams fiasco where he was time and again shown to have lied. However, the author spared Williams scorn by suggesting there’s a “much more interesting phenomenon: unintentionally misrepresenting the truth.” What the author means by this can be explained using his own words: “If retrieving memory is a process—and recounting it a performance—then there are numerous ways its accuracy can derail.”

Firstly, one would have to be in the mind of Williams to know if he “unintentionally” misrepresented the truth. How did he determine there was no motive or profit for Williams to lie? He is after all a high-profile personality in the media, which is nothing more than a sensationalism-churning industry for an audience whose memories are no longer than a news cycle. He’s a product of his own environment, a creation by his own design and a willing accomplice in an enterprise of half-truths, bold face lies, and narratives. So I tend to throw “unintentional” out the window.

Secondly, Williams’ tall-tales had nothing to do with memory and everything to do with purpose, a purposeful lie to transport himself from viewer or reporter to subject in order to receive the same sympathy as the victim and the same admiration as the hero. Simply, he lied for personal gain. One does not create entire stories in vivid detail out of thin air unintentionally.

As for liars, people don’t hate liars. On the contrary, people grudgingly accept a good liar in a sly-like-a-fox kind of way. They do, however, despise a bad liar. And a bad liar is one who gets caught.

Political season will soon be up on us and I can promise you this. All will lie except when they are talking about the other politician.



2 thoughts on “The Jaws of the Bocca della Verità

  1. The best liars become movie stars. They can assume personalities that are different than their own, and make us believe we are seeing authentic behavior! Politicians are pretty easy to see through by comparison.

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