The Dumb Dad Diary: Liar Liar

‘Liar, liar pants on fire!’ was a phrase believed to have been originated from a poem in 1810 by William Blake, but can be cited to a collection of different poems, one possibly related is from 1847, England, ‘What’s good for a liar? Brimstone and fire!’. And like the 1997 film of the same name, they refer to the consequences of lying. William Blake’s poem opens ‘Deceiver, dissembler, your trouser are alight’ and by paragraph reveals the pattern lying leads,

‘When you asked to borrow my stallion, to visit a nearby-moored galleon. How could I ever have thought you’d intended only to turn him to glue? …

What red devil of mendacity, grips your soul with such tenacity? Will one you cruelly shower with lies, put a pistol ball between your eyes?.

The moral is simple, liars have their comeuppance. The short term gains aren’t worth the inevitable fate lying leads us. But we now live in a hyper normalised society where we expect politicians to lie. We never hold them to account because its normal. And if we expect politicians to lie, what will we begin to expect from one another? Well today diary we expose how one lie creates a pattern which affects us all.

Early evening.

My sister enters the living room.

‘Eugh, I’ve had one of those days, can we watch a film later?’

Me: ‘Sure’.

Later that same evening.

Me: ‘Hey, I found a 780px stream of Logan (2017), it has Korean subtitles but dya wanna watch that anyway?’

‘Oh Yeh! I was looking forward to seeing that.’

‘It suppose to be a bit depressing but yeh it’s suppose to be good and I wanna see some violence after all the media bias against Corbyn this week.’

Our mother: ‘What are we watching?’

Me: ‘Logan, remember you wanted to see that?

Mum: ‘Oh yes, I like Hugh Jackman, I’d like to see him after the all the media bias against Corbyn this week’.

Opening titles roll.

Dumb Dad enters and lies with his feet resting on the coffee table at the end of an l-shaped sofa.

Dad: ‘It’s got Chinese subtitles!’

Rhyanne: ‘They’re Korean, god, ‘oh it’s Asian so it must be Chinese’’

Me: ‘Yeh, shall I try and find one without?’

I search for three more links but all streamed with the same Korean subtitles.

Me: ‘I can only find –‘

‘Why are we watching this now? I want to watch this!’ Says Dad.

Mum: ‘What are you talking about? You are watching it?’

Dad: ‘No, I’m going to be going to bed soon!’

Me: ‘It’s nine o’clo-’

Rhyanne with a short temper from ‘one of the days’ says ‘JUST GO TO BED THEN!’

My dad a bit flustered and having never been able to handle a child with a temper, tries to act responsibly, which comes across more like he’s thinking ‘what do parents say to naughty children?’ and acts on that. It’s really awkward to watch, why doesn’t he just talk to her like anybody else?

Dad: ‘I beg your pardon… (an afterthought).. young lady? What did you shou- you don’t spea- that’s not very nice!’

She rolls her eyes.

My dad continues, he usually just keeps going because he knows that when people ‘keep going’ in an argument it usually means they’re coming to a point, a higher clarification on the circumstances, so he keeps going. ‘I like to watch these Marvel films, you know, we all like to watch them, your mum likes Logan films and I want to watch these films, we usually save them for the weekend!’

Mum: ‘Ivor, can you take your feet of the coffee table.’

Ivor: ‘I’m wearing slippers!’

‘I don’t care! You go outside in them.’

Rhyanne: ‘Fine just put something else on!’

I begin searching for other films but to be honest I can’t really be bothered so I just flick between my tabs on Google Chrome.

My dad sits biting his lip, which is a sign of his frustration but it always looks intimidating, like he’s about to punch you. He throws his hands in the air and says ‘No, no, watch it! Go on, I’m not bothered!’ before slouching back on the sofa and putting his feet back on the coffee table.

Mum: ‘Ivor, you clearly are bothered.’

Ivor: ‘I’m not! If you guys wants to watch it, go ahead, I’ve got to go to bed anyway’ and the denial crocodile begins to rear his head.

Me: ‘What time do you have to be up tomorrow?’

Ivor: ‘Five thirty’ said sharply and staring intensely at me, I think he’s finally found that point, so he continues.

‘Five!’

Me: ‘Well is it five or five thirty? And are you sure you have to get up that early because you’ve been caught making these times up before.’

Ivor: ‘No, I have to be in London tomorrow for ten! Nine thirty Daniel!’ he gestures around to all of us now building up to another point.. maybe? ‘You guys can get up whenever you want, what time did you get up this morning Daniel? Ten?’

Mum: ‘Feet off the table!’

Me with my hands up, ‘I got up at eight with everyone else’. Why am I on trial?

When his point has been negated he just looks in another direction, in this case at the paused T.V. screen hosting the opening credits of Logan, and pauses until the time has passed for a response. Can you think of another form of denial greater than this example of sticking your head in the sand?

Rhyanne: ‘Dad, Daniel has a degree to do, I have A-level exams and Mum runs her own business, we all have to get up and do work-’

Me: ‘Yeah! Why do you have to undermine everyone else to make your own position appear-’

Mum: ‘Ivor, I said feet off the table!’

After putting his feet back on the floor, he jerks up and walks around the sofa towards the door.

Mum: ‘When are you going to get a personality transplant?’

Rhyanne rolls her eyes. ‘Mum that’s not funny.’

Me: ‘Mum! Now you’ve undermined the fact he actually does need to see a councillor.’

Dad: ‘No I don’t!’

Rhyanne: ‘Well we all need to see one-‘

Me: ‘No Rhyanne! I see what you’re saying, the world is depressed but he really does need to see one! He lies all the time and isn’t taking responsibility for his faults like his undermining of our work ethic now.’

Rhyanne: ‘Yeah dad, you should see one!’

As a form of deflection he exaggerates our point which in turn undermines our genuine argument with satire, denying a confrontation of the truth. Any good psychiatrist would tell you this, if only he went to one.

He throws his hand in the air again, only this time to jiggle them about with his tongue sticking out, ‘Yes, I’m a looney! Someone lock me up!’

Face palms for everyone.

Now in an age of individualism, it’s common sense to blame the individual, ‘That guy’s poor, he must not be working hard enough’, ‘That woman’s an alcoholic, she just doesn’t know when to say no!’ But behaviour creates an atmosphere implicit to an environment everything else lives in. That’s a rule, not a hippie ideologue. My dad’s recurrent denial and lying may come from in embedded form of shame, for not saying the right thing or not having the correct answer from childhood. Or it could be a deflection of responsibility, common to a lot of men who fear it and propagated by a free market economy encouraging singular immediate interest before ecological and ethical responsibility. We’ll let the councillor decide which. But this behaviour damages the trust and reliability of the relationships that exists together in one home. It is successful for him, he is managing to avoid arguing his position or answering questions but leaves the rest of us at a loss on how to move forward and find resolution. I think a key word here is leaves, not here, not engaged, disregarding, just not involved in anything public or outside the individual. We can, and often do, blame my dad for this behaviour, but that exposition of his faults is really us pleading for transparency and understanding.

It’s a disturbing habit of his, to reframe or just fabricate an argument which suggests his point is the reasonable and correct answer and your argument only victimises his position. No matter what shoes I wear, trainers, flip flops or actually shoes, they’re always ‘boots’ to my dad, ‘dirty boots’ that shouldn’t be worn once I’m in the house, despite the fact he mows the lawns in slippers. I believe a lot of lying comes from cognitive dissonance or confirmation bias, people are happy to manipulate the truth if it enforces their world view. It allows them to sleep at night. But what about the following night?

We continued the argument from the evening by referencing another example from earlier in the day: my dad told my sister off for not reusing the boiled water he had used when boiling potatoes, claiming very irrationally and nonsensical that she ‘always has the oven on’ and therefore ‘needs to stop wasting electricity’ ergo money. So she must re-use his dirty water. This was before he emptied a partially full small carton of milk down the sink, still in date, to then fill it back up with milk from a larger cartoon to take to work. He would not see the double standards and take responsibility for the fact he was really just clutching at straws trying to get my sister to do things his way. The argument was really about power and control, not efficiency or sustainability. And here is the Microcosm of lying and denial.

When Trump argues ‘alternative facts’ and blames ‘fake news’, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and now senior advisor, has to explain his blatant lies to the media. What we enter into is a discourse of deception. Kellyanne Conway is an artist at dodging hard questions. In an interview last December, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asks Conway an actually rather simple question:

‘Why does Donald Trump falsely claim voter fraud cost him the popular vote?’ he says ‘That claim is groundless, isn’t that irresponsible for a president-elect to make false statements like that?’

Conway: ‘I think it’s groundless — talk about fake news — the fake news is that somehow the popular vote is more important than the Electoral College vote now.’

Stephanopoulos tries again.

‘No one is questioning the victory. I said is it appropriate, is it responsible for a president-elect to make false statements like that?’

Conway: ‘Well, first, many people are questioning the victory; you’ve got people spending millions of dollars wasting time and money in the Clinton and Stein Camps…’

Now Conway is deceptive in that the debate she holds is not mutual. She’s not looking to answer the questions with a form of clarification or knowledge but in fact looking for an opening to which she can turn her bias, the administration, into the victim. She achieves this by finding keywords associated with concepts she can redirect once the discourse turns to her. She repeats the words, which in a synchronous discourse sounds as though she acknowledged herself as the recipient being questioned, but in reality is redirecting the dialogue towards her agenda. For an interviewer to have to constantly insist on the same question, ignoring her response, they would be regarded as rude, successfully victimising Conway and her bias, the Trump administration. And when Conway really is pushed for an answer, she just makes something up. There is no mutual beneficiary in this debate.

The exploitation of politeness may seem like an effective strategy, a win-win formula for the tactical politician. And we can agree it is more effective than Theresa May’s blatant redirection of dialogue by simply ignoring the question she’s been asked, to then just repeat her ‘strong and stable leadership’ campaign slogan. This may seem successful for the individual but this dialogue, the conversation which occurs between another person and the debate that serves the wider public, is a nightmare. There is no way you can conduct a successful interview or argument, that is to seek clarification, understanding or truth, from someone who deflects, denies and lies to protect their self interests. And we have to only ask ourselves, why avoid these question in the first place?

Any strong argument or leadership can and should be held to the highest of scrutiny. Only then can we be sure of it’s credibility and integrity, as Jeremy Corbyn welcomes his own economic strategy to be highly scrutinised. When it is more effective to deflect questions then in fact answer them, we must trust our suspicion that anyone using this tactic is deliberately propagating a very flawed argument, and not wait to hear it from the horse’s mouth. This tactic is almost insidious in how effective it becomes in misleading a general population who eventually give mandate to the victim of questioning, the same victim who does not invite scrutiny if it undermines their own grab for power and control.

Hypocrisy is often unavoidable, but it’s the approach to answering that contradiction which really reveals the strength of an argument. Willingness to become transparent against scrutiny facilitates truth and builds a resolution to an argument. The discourse belongs to the public, successfully reconciled by an individual but never owned by them. Deception and avoidance only regurgitates gradations of the lies beneath a weak argument argued by a weak individual.

We watched Logan without my dad last night. This morning he came into my room to collect one of his shirts from the wardrobe. It was seven O’clock. Avoidance and denial is not effective politics, it’s the consequence of a feeble, weak and disorientated leadership. Be suspicious of deception and hold it to the highest scrutiny. When not everyone in a debate benefits from the discussion being had, where knowledge is imparted and resolutions developed, which all successful debates can easily be measured by, we must digress the true consequences of the debate. Who benefitted? We have to avoid the seduction to deceive and lie for personal gain, because the majority of the time you won’t be benefiting from a system of deception, you’ll only be the victim of one.

sources from VOX.com analysed by debate champion, Seth Gannon, Partner, Speech labs.