A Character of Lies

TimeWatch Editorial
June 13, 2017

Quite often, we underestimate the power of lies. We frequently consider the liar as attempting to escape some difficult circumstance in their life. We forget that many structure their plans based entirely upon spreading a false narrative. In his book entitled Telling Lies, Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, “Paul Ekman introduces the subject using Adolf Hitler as an example;

“IT IS September 15, 1938, and one of the most infamous and deadly of deceits is about to begin. Adolf Hitler, the chancellor of Germany, and Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister of Great Britain, meet for the first time. The world watches, aware that this may be the last hope of avoiding another world war. (Just six months earlier Hitler's troops had marched into Austria, annexing it to Germany. England and France had protested but done nothing further.) On September 12, three days before he is to meet Chamberlain, Hitler demands to have part of Czechoslovakia annexed to Germany and incites rioting in that country. Hitler has already secretly mobilized the German Army to attack Czechoslovakia, but his army won't be ready until the end of September.” Paul Ekman Telling Lies, Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage,” page 15.

The destructive nature of deception quite often produces the kind of personality that built upon dishonesty. Adolph’s depravity would have begun sometime before it became evident to the world.  The tragic elements that created the goals and aspirations found root in which he became. For him the negotiations he set about to make were not identified as deceptive, but rather nothing more than means to an end.

“If he can keep the Czechs from mobilizing their army for a few more weeks, Hitler will have the advantage of a surprise attack. Stalling for time, Hitler conceals his war plans from Chamberlain, giving his word that peace can be preserved if the Czechs will meet his demands. Chamberlain is fooled; he tries to persuade the Czechs not to mobilize their army while there is still a chance to negotiate with Hitler. After his meeting with Hitler, Chamberlain writes to his sister, ". . . in spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word. . . ." Defending his policies against those who doubt Hitler's word, Chamberlain five days later in a speech to Parliament explains that his personal contact with Hitler allows him to say that Hitler "means what he says." Paul Ekman Telling Lies, Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage,” page 15.

Ekman then continues to compare the concept of verbal lying with the concept of facial expressions. The practicality of purpose that is revealed in the body language of those who color the truth reveals a certain attitudinal constancy that makes it difficult to identify the lie. We look around us today and see that many have absorbed into their lives a dishonesty that has become a vital part of their personality, until it is totally impossible for them to truly identify truth. For them, truth is simply what they believe, and what they believe is what has been assimilated into their consciousness by whatever means necessary.

“When I began to study lies fifteen years ago I had no idea my work would have any relevance to such a lie. I thought it would be useful only for those working with mental patients. My study of lies began when the therapists I was teaching about my findings—that facial expressions are universal while gestures are specific to each culture—asked whether these nonverbal behaviors could reveal that a patient was lying.3 Usually that is not an issue, but it becomes one when patients admitted to the hospital because of suicide attempts say they are feeling much better. Every doctor dreads being fooled by a patient who commits suicide once freed from the hospital's restraint. Their practical concern raised a very fundamental question about human communication: can people, even when they are very upset, control the messages they give off, or will their nonverbal behavior leak what is concealed by their words?” Paul Ekman Telling Lies, Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage,” page 16.

It is clear then, that when we sit and observe politicians lie there is no apparent embarrassment upon their faces. They have so adjusted their characters that when they speak, the words are indeed who they are. This part of the population is then by far the single most dangerous of all.

Cameron A. Bowen 


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