The Li(v)es We Keep
Lying is something that really pisses me off. Throughout my youth, I have been on both sides of lies and each scenario has ended the same way: hurt, disappointment, and lack of positive progress. To lie or not to lie defines who you are as a person. It speaks to your values, your authenticity, and ultimately your care for others. When others lie, it creates a deep rage within me because it makes me wonder why do they have to lie?
Today, I am intrigued, angry, disappointed, and simply shake my head regarding the many fraudulent claims, conspiracy theories, myths -- whatever you want to call them -- that are dominating our headlines. Mostly because I’ve realized that they cannot be ignored. This is even more momentous than the several hundred people who lived, and later died, because they believed that Jim Jones was a faith healer and they followed him to their death by poisoned Kool-Aid. Nor is this like the most recent group called Nxivm whose leader, Keith Raniere, was convicted of creating a sex cult group of hundreds of followers. But now there’s QAnon which has been around since 2017. This far-right conspiracy theory group believes former President 45 is defending the planet from a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, mostly democrats, who are running a secret child sex-trafficking ring. This would be laughable if not for the fact that we have people in our government who believe this.
And QAnon is definitely becoming more popular especially since Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, a QAnon believer, is a House Representative from Georgia. She also repudiates mass murders like the Sandy Hook and Parkside shootings and even other tragic occurrences Holocaust and 911 did not happen. Last fall, Greene shared on her Facebook a meme depicting herself holding an AR-15 style rifle next to photos of Democratic representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. She wrote that it was time for "strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart." Below the images read "Squad's worst nightmare." This is dangerous but she has the support of her colleagues in Congress as they refused to remove her last week. These are more lies.
And let’s not forget our former President Donald Trump for many fraudulent statements and unkind things he said about and to others. He’s uplifted right extremist groups like QAnon and the Proud Boys -- “Stand back and stand by” – and refused to denounce QAnon claiming they “love America” and stating, “I understand that they like me very much, which I appreciate.” This country has seen politicians’ careers ruined for far less. This guy has said all kinds of defamatory statements, lies, and yet he is celebrated as a leader. I mean Marjorie Taylor-Green is not an anomaly. She is the product of what happens when our leaders empower and validate lies.
According to a September Forbes article, 1 in 3 Republicans (33%) believe that QAnon is mostly true. Another 23% believe it is partly true. That’s 56% of Republicans who believe that what this organization claims through social media is being considered as a reality. And since the election, the QAnon fixation is not losing its grip. In another more recent NBC poll, an internal investigation by Facebook determined that QAnon had millions of members and followers on the social platform, and the Wall Street Journal reported that membership in ten large Facebook groups devoted to QAnon had grown by more than 600% since the start of the pandemic. This past August, Facebook announced it removed over 790 groups, 100 pages, and 1,500 ads connected to QAnon, while also restricting over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.
QAnon is a lie. But we have leaders who believe mostly or partially in their lies. Their lies are harmful and hurtful. Who cannot forget the gunman who went to a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. to check out whether they were harboring young children as sex slaves as part of a pedophile ring led by Hillary Clinton? The gunman shot into the pizzeria but luckily no one was hurt.
And then on January 6, we saw insurrectionists storm the Capitol all based on a lie. It was lies and fraudulent claims that created this horrific melee where five people lost their lives and hundreds were injured. The “Stop the Steal” crusade was based on a lie. At least 50 post-election lawsuits have been denied, dismissed, settled, or withdrawn. There’s nothing to steal when there is no data that supports theft. But this lie continues to be perpetuated even by leaders in Congress. But these folks have drunk the Kool-Aid (not to be confused with Jim Jones’ special Kool-Aid) lock, stock, and barrels of it.
We really need to seriously consider what’s going on here, y’all. This is becoming the new leadership in America and it is frightening as hell because they want to lead others on lies that are damaging the very Americans they claim they care about. And what is it that makes these lies the truth as they see it?
According to a few resources including a recent article in Psychology Today, when people are frightened they tend to feel helpless and pessimistic as they think about their misfortunes. But when angry people think about the same things, they feel a sense of control and optimism. One way to transform fear into anger is to perceive that some type of evil is behind whatever is causing people to feel frightened. And this coupled with the fact that only one-third of Americans, according to the US Census, have college degrees now helps me to understand why people believe in mistruths and lies.
Through writing this post and exploring lies, I have come to the conclusion that while there are a host of reasons people lie, fear is what keeps lies going Fear of the truth, fear of one another. A simple solution is to get to know one another and to mitigate the obvious fear we have of each other. But as we all know simple on paper does not mean simple in reality. So here we are and I’m asking the 100 million dollar question and that is how do we work to ensure that lies do not become truths? Where and why do people like the 45’s, the Greene’s, and the Cruz’s get the notion that as leaders mistruths speak loudly and become a part of the American fabric. And let me be clear that there is a difference between having different opinions and ideologies versus using language and ideas that intentionally harm others. I am speaking about the latter. It is dishonest and dangerous. One that is for personal gain and not purposeful change.
Using truth in our words is important. I loved what President Biden said a few weeks ago that “the words of a President matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.” This is what we all saw a few weeks ago: words that were lies used to incite.
These are critical times and good leaders are sorely needed. This stuff is not going away. Good leaders who investigate for truth and can apply truth to their own authentic selves as a leader. Good leadership is not about the intent to harm others whether through words or physical violence. It is important that we hold our leaders accountable for what they say especially if it is based on a lie. Lies are just as powerful as truths and frightening. The repercussions are huge not only just the loss of a friend but the loss of life. Speaking the truth is so much easier, friendlier and you’re not having to figure out how to live in a lie.
Dr. Jocelyn Briddell - our anchor blogger - continues to bring her passion to today's topics through the lenses of leadership, social responsibility, and humanity.