In his new film, The Invention of Lying, Ricky Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a pudgy everyman who lives in Anytown in a utopian world where lies don't exist — until he tells one.
"I said something that wasn't . . . what's the word for it?" says Mark, trying to describe that first fib. "There isn't a word for it. I said something that wasn't."
There is no word for "true" in that alternate universe, because truth is the everyday state of affairs. In other words, it's a Bizarro version of where we live right now, which is a place where lies are the lingua franca. Where, abetted by cowed or complicit media, politicians, pundits, and celebrities seem suddenly free to prevaricate with impunity.
In the wake of Joe Wilson's indecorous "YOU LIE!" interjection, for instance, the media focused largely on how rude it was. Followed soon after by headline-grabbing tirades from Kanye West and Serena Williams, it was lumped into endless editorials and commentaries lamenting the death of "civility" and "manners."
But what about "truth"? As anyone who's read H.R. 3200 is aware, President Barack Obama wasn't lying, Wilson was. Outside of the predictable lefty blogs and talk shows, few saw fit to mention that in the furor.
Meanwhile, Wilson, after his coerced and half-assed apology, continued to use his notoriety as fodder for fundraising, and tapped out tweets proclaiming that "I will not back down from speaking the truth."
The truth? What does the word even mean anymore?
From Time magazine glomming over Glenn Beck's serial fabrications, to diva of disinformation Betsy McCaughey penning anti-health-care-reform op-eds in the New YorkTimes, to the multiple places it's trickled down into pop culture, it seems anything can be "true," as long as it's said loudly enough. Few people are held accountable for what they say. And so, as TV Dr. Gregory House is wont to note, "everybody lies."
Right wing vs. reality
"I cannot tell a lie," said George Washington. Or at least that's what we've been told.
Yes, politicians and talking heads have always futzed with facts to suit their self-interest. But over the past 10 years or so, the right-wing noise machine has lied so blatantly and with such regularity that they've created a mirror-image dimension completely divorced from the "reality based" community.
For them, up is down and black is white. Witness Rush Limbaugh, after Congress instituted rules that forbade calling the president a "liar," harrumphing that the House has "formally banned truth-telling in its chamber." Or the attendee at the 9/12 rally in Washington who toted a sign: JOE WILSON FOR TRUTH CZAR.
We could use such a thing, actually. It's astounding the bald-faced falsehoods that are bandied about these days. Sarah Palin prattling on about death panels. Michelle Bachmann and her re-education camps and school sex clinics. Bottle-blond "birther queen" Orly Taitz sputtering that Obama is a usurper.
Once upon a time, the president's press secretary wouldn't stoop to acknowledge "made up, fictional, nonsense" (in Robert Gibbs's words) like the fabricated uproar over the president's birthplace. But this is the world we live in.
Recently factcheck.org put together a post titled "Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200." The only thing surprising was that they could find just 26. It's not for lack of trying on McCaughey's part.