By Anthony Deyal
There is a story about a Trinidad politician who people accused of being a bare-faced liar. So, he grew a beard. Then there was the one about a politician, a liar, and a crooked man entering a bar. He sat down and ordered a drink. There was another politician who sought to get public sympathy by claiming he had been shot. However, everybody he complained to was able to see right through him. What about the time when a liar, a cheat and a ‘racist bigot’ walked into a Washington DC. bar? “Let’s make America great again.” he said. And for my Caribbean readers, what does a politician sit on? Deceit.
One of the best liar stories I ever heard is about a youngster who lied so much that his father decided to teach him a lesson.
“I will give you a dollar,” the father said, “If you can tell me a lie right now without thinking. If you don’t, you will be punished every time you lie.” The boy responded immediately, “A dollar? But you just promised me ten dollars.” This is the context of an ongoing political debacle in Trinidad and Tobago.
The government allowed Venezuelan vice-president, Delcy Rodriguez, to enter the country with some of her colleagues at a time when many people, born in Trinidad and Tobago, were locked out and everyone else coming in had to be tested for the coronavirus and then spend at least two weeks in compulsory isolation. First the prime minister and his minister of national security claimed that despite the absence of the minister of health or any medical expert, the meeting was for discussions on COVID-19.
Then, after many changing stories, the explanation morphed into a serious diplomatic contretemps. For the first time in the country’s history, an ambassador, this time the American ambassador, contradicted through a news release, a statement made in parliament by a government minister whose version of a discussion with the ambassador did not gel with the ambassador’s recollection of events.
This has led to the question: “Is the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago one of ‘allies’ or ‘all-lies’?”
Would the Trinidad response be perceived as “lying”? Was it being “economical with the truth”? Was it that the Trinidad politician was prevaricating, equivocating, paltering, dissembling, or merely fibbing? Which of the men was mendacious?
Writer Deep Patel in an article in Entrepreneur Magazine claims, “Chances are, someone has lied to you today and, whether you want to admit it or not you’ve probably lied to someone as well. Research has shown that people lie in – one in five – of their daily interactions.”
Actually, Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception claims that we are lied to ten to 200 times per day.
Among the techniques for spotting a liar, Meyer includes that they repeat part of the question as a stalling tactic, for example, “Did I do it? Of course not.” They use formal language like “I did not do it” instead of “I didn’t do it” or “I cannot remember” instead of “I can’t remember.” They make sweeping statements like “I would never” or “I always”, over-emphasise their trustworthiness by insisting “To be honest” or “To tell you the truth”, “Believe me” and “The fact is.” They hedge – “As far as I recall” or “The way I see it …” The big one is dodging by asking, “Do you really think I would do such a thing?”
Even in matters of love, as Dorothy Parker pointed out, the lies are especially prevalent, “By the time you swear you’re his,/ Shivering and sighing./ And he vows his passion is,/ Infinite, undying./ Lady make a note of this–/ One of you is lying.”
Mark Twain advised, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” George Washington said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” I tell my clients that in this age of information, don’t lie because you will be easily and very quickly found out. My advice is to select from the truths available, those that best fit your side of the story, and stick to them. I also tell them not to draw attention to bad news by attempting to rebut it. Create a distraction that will not put you into further trouble and use the opportunity to fix the problem, but never lie. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
Looking at the Trinidad and similar situations, I ask myself why is it so difficult to stick to the truth when explanations held together with lies fall apart so easily?
In politics, as Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” Because politicians are always in the public eye and are inevitably judged by their actions and not their communications, their long-term survival demands they stick to the truth. As Barbara Bush pointed out, “Clinton lied. A man might forget where he parks or where he lives, but never forgets oral sex, no matter how bad it is.”
Of course, I am not saying this remark by the former First Lady Bush had anything to do with the visit to Trinidad of the Venezuelan vice president but in the absence of a credible rationale, there will always be speculation verging on the ridiculous. For example, if a liar says he’s lying, would that be a lie? Only if he’s standing up.
Of course, standing up for the truth is not as easy as it sounds, especially in parliament. For instance, a child asked his father, “Dad, do politicians ever tell the truth?” The father answered, “Only when they call each other liars.” There is the question, “How do you know a politician is lying?” His lips are moving. Then the end to end all endings, “What happens when a politician dies?” He lies still.
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that the only thing in the Trinidad and Tobago mess more shocking than the truth are all the lies being told to cover it up.