“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually, they will believe it” Adolf Hitler. If this is the case then, it would be safe to say then that most of the realities that we believe are actually established lies perpetually repeated. But what is it about this cunning deed that made it almost natural in the way it changes our perception of what is real and truthful? The answers could be explored once we deconstruct the concept of “lie” and identify the various ways by which it is being expressed.
Two of the more prominent personalities who have explored the different methods we lie are William Lutz of “The World of Doublespeak” and Stephanie Ericsson, author of “The Ways We Lie”. The instigators have provided different examples of which we are being deceived by lies told to us and how we ourselves have become natural agents to perpetuate these incorrect ways. For William Lutz, he established four categories of lies as expressed through doublespeak, namely: Euphemism, Jargon, Gobbledygook, and Inflated Language. Accordingly, “doublespeak is used as a language in such a way that is at variance with its real or purported meaning” (Lutz date). On the other hand, Stephanie Ericsson provided a more detailed and experiential list of the forms of lies we create with reference to her personal experiences. These are White Lies, Façade, Ignoring Plain Facts, Deflecting, Omission, Stereotypes and Clichés, Groupthink, Out-and-out Lies, and lastly, Dismissal.
The primary characteristic of William Lutz’ different guises of lie is one based on incongruity; all of which misleads and/or distorts the truth. Therefore, it can be surmised that there’s a certain degree of truth but because of the creative use of languages in doublespeak, the essence of truth ultimately becomes altered; hence, categorically becoming a lie.
Further, Lutz’s analysis of the different classifications of lie is distinctive from each other. This goes to show that each type has a specific character that makes it fall under a specific group. Yet, they are not mutually exclusive from each other. The lies could be used simultaneously in a given context, to which Lutz gave a few illustrations in the world of politics.
In contrast, Ericsson’s classification of lie is established by the use of rhetoric, always beginning with a quote of what specific lie she is going to explain. Her way of discussing her premise points out to the everyday life which has an introspective effect towards the reader. Unlike Lutz, Ericsson is vivid in demonstrating how we all have been one way or another victim or active agents of lies.
Further, Ericsson tried to maintain a distinction between the seven types of lies. Yet her classifications, by way of example, are not necessarily clear cut from each other. If you really look deeply, the principle behind omission, dismissal, and ignoring plain facts are the same but just used in different contexts – all of which “intentionally discounts” a certain reality or fact.
Though stated differently, both articles posit that the primary purpose of the lie is basically to alter or to conceal the truth to advance one’s own logic and interests over all others. To put that into context, it takes careful thought to be able to differentiate what are misleading information, half-truths and therefore half-lies as well, and absolute lies in our day to day life. Yet, though deeply embedded in our very own culture, lies are also functional as a means to protect our differences. Be it cultural or otherwise.
Ericsson, Stephanie. “The Ways We Lie.” 50 Essays ed Samuel Cohen. (2004): 120-129.
Lutz, William D. Doublespeak: From “Revenue Enhancement” to “Terminal Living”: How Government, Business, Advertisers, and Others Use Language to Deceive You. Harper & Row, New York. 1989.