American politics, satire, humor, lies, lying, cover-up, unkind deeds i
| According to the American Dialect Society, truthiness is the “the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” As the Society’s 2005 word of the year, truthiness was popularized by Stephen Colbert, the political satirist, on his television show The Colbert Report.
Colbert was concerned that in American politics, there was widespread disregard for facts. He noted that there is a long-term belief that individuals are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. Yet, he said, that is exactly what has been happening. Facts no longer matter, but perceptions do.
He used President George Bush as a case in point. He said that people love the president because he is certain of the choices he makes, even when he does not have the facts to back up his choices. He wondered whether the American people think is more important—what they want to be true or what is true.
Colbert thought he had invented the term, but it had appeared in dictionaries long before he used it. What Colbert did was create new meanings. The meanings in dictionaries are variations of the word truth, which is far from what Colbert meant.
Truthiness and Spin
Spin is putting one’s own interpretations on events. The event themselve are not in dispute. Katherine Armstrong did some spinning when he said that the pellets that Vice President Cheney sprayed into Harry Whittington were “little bitty.” Those who spin typically do so with quiet sincerity and certitude that individual who do not agree are nitwit—or unpatriotic, such as individuals who are concerned about governmental wiretaping without court orders. Like truthiness, spin long enough and the spin becomes perception that that many people believe.
The difference between spin and truthiness is that with spin the facts are not contested, while those who speak truthiness overlook facts. In some cases, speakers of truthiness may be the only ones with knowledge of the facts, and they chose to withold them while pretending to tell the whole truth.
Truthiness and Prevarication
Suprisingly, neither Colbert, the American Dialect Society, or any other commentators connected truthiness to cover-up. Experienced enactors of cover-up have used truthiness routinely, even when they did not have a name for it. Clever Foxes are especially fond of truthiness.
Truthiness is akin to prevarication, which has a passing acquaintance with actual events but is ambiguous enough to cover multiple possibilities. Truthiness, however, is presented as if there is no ambiguity. Truthiness, or at least some forms of it, is wishful thinking expressed in a convincing way.
What’s more, some who speak truthiness may believe their own versions of the truth. Self-deluded, they often are gifted in their capacities to sway others to their versions of the truth. Persons who prevaricate are not self-deluded. They know the truth, but they want to deceive others.
True Believes have capacities for self-delusion, and they may use truthiness more than Reactors or Clever Foxes. In fact, Clever Foxes may be truthy with truthiness; that is, appearing to believe the truthiness they utter, but they know what they are doing and do not mistake truthiness for truth.
Summary and Discussion
In summary, related research and theory have a great deal to offer a theory of being a shit. To know what something is, it is important to know what it is not. Being a shit, for example, is not the same as humbug or bullshit because unkind deeds hurt others when they come to light, while humbug and bullshit do not.
Cover-ups are forms of lies, either of commission or omission. Cover-ups of omission involve the withholding of information that would be informative as to the deeds that enactors do not want others to know about. Cover-ups of commission involve misstatements of facts, such as, when eactors blame someone else for their own unkind actions. Prevarications is omission of important details but provide enough information to give the appearance of accurate information.
Truthiness is wishful thinking expressed with convincing certitude. Facts are not important, and what is important is how individuals wish things were. Many are swayed by it, perhaps because they wish that truthiness were truth.
Truthiness could figure into strategies of cover-up for Reactors who would actually believe their own cover-ups. Clever Foxes, on the other hand, might borrow ideas from definitions of truthiness, but they would know exactly what they are doing and would enjoy themselves while they are at it.