The Importance of Being Honest

Let me first start by saying, hello, good reader.  Yes, it has been a while since I have written here.  Life in Morgantown is a bit more hectic than I would have expected and it is taking some time to adjust to my workload in my Ph.D. program.  Nevertheless, I wanted to take a bit of time to discuss a matter which has troubled me about politics, a matter I’ve entitled “the importance of being honest”.

Presumably everyone appreciates honesty to some extent.  With a few, rare exceptions, no one appreciates being lied to or being lied about.  And yet, in our political world, lies are not only abundant, but often considered expected, part of the natural process.

Of course, we all have different opinions regarding political philosophy, the desire for power to implement certain policies (and/or enrich ourselves and our allies), which candidates and politicians are good, which are bad, and what political party we belong to, if any.  Differences in these regards are common and certainly colour of view of the political world around us.

However, there are people, and I’m sure you know of quite a few, who are quite willing to lie to achieve their political aims.  They lie about policies and bills, they lie about politicians both to aid the ones they like and tear down the ones that they don’t. They lie about the state of public opinion as it relates to polls and other such methods.

In previous articles, I’ve written about politicians who lie to promote themselves in the hopes of achieving higher office or to degrade those who would oppose them and their ambitions.  Unfortunately though, rather than call out this behavior, too many of us shrug our shoulders and think little off it, declaring that everyone in politics lies.  Although it is true that all of us can and have made honest mistakes, reporting something that later turns out as false, or sharing statistics that aren’t accurate, it is quite another to willfully and deliberately spread information that you know is dishonest or to fabricate data which upholds your position.  As previously stated, we all have differences of opinions, of course, but when we distort the truth to fit with our agenda we became agents of propaganda.  Once we resort to these tactics, everything we say and do ought to become suspect.

Yes, we all have politicians that we like and those who we don’t.  Some people base this distinction entirely upon partisan labels.  However, differing partisan labels or not, it is not somehow acceptable to spread lies about one’s opponents in an attempt to undermine those who we disagree with, no matter the reason.

In academia, if a political scientist were to fabricate data to promote some theory, then he or she would be discredited and any future work by this individual would likely be considered rubbish until such a time as he or she has certifiably demonstrated a renewed commitment to honesty.  Why then, should campaigns, opinions, and political activism be treated differently?

There is a Russian proverb which says “Доверяй, но проверяй” or “trust but verify”.  When presented with information, especially political information, it would be useful to keep this proverb in mind.

When it is proven that a politician, activist, or writer spreads lies, we shouldn’t take the attitude that it is somehow okay depending on if whether he or she shares our political ideology, partisan affiliation, or even our point of view.  Whether we declare something honest or false shouldn’t depend on whether the person in question is a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent. Race shouldn’t play a factor either, nor should religion, gender, or a myriad of other factors.  We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to lies simply because they are being used against politicians or political causes that we happen to oppose.  In fact, I would argue that we ought to be more critical of those who are dishonest who also share our political leanings because ultimately these lies come back to reflect on us and our movement as a whole.

Therefore, it is our duty as an informed electorate to call out these lies and those who spread them.  We should never support politicians who are proven liars, nor should we support anyone else in politics who intentionally spreads misinformation.  We should strive for honesty in our own dealings and demand no less from anyone else.

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