Deception Point

The art of living requires untruths, but elegant ones.

Updated: May 11, 2014 11:48:25 pm

Leher  Kala

While most of the TV watching nation was riveted by the Narendra Modi interview  to Times Now, Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha posted this tweet: “I missed Mr Modi’s interview. I have seen him at a stretch. I don’t know if he’s a liability or a liar-ability.” We can surmise two things from this — a) Mr Jha simply isn’t interested in anything Mr Modi has to say and has better things to do with his time. Which would be perfectly acceptable if he didn’t have a strategically important role, of defending the Congress. Or b) “liar-ability” might be an equally appropriate term for him. Because, you would have to be living on Jupiter to have missed the relentlessly advertised, tweeted, SMSed, BBMed, Facebooked and WhatsApp’d Modi interview. According to (May 8, 2014) it was the most-watched political video from India on YouTube this week. But Mr Jha, undeterred by snarky jeers and taunts calling out his lies, stuck to his guns, following up an hour later with another tweet: “Guys, honestly, I rarely watch Mr Modi’s interviews or speeches beyond a few minutes. He is either too dodgy, contrived or plain boring.” On that, many of us might agree, the interview with Rahul Gandhi being infinitely more entertaining.

The Twitterati can broadly be classified into two groups — people talking about themselves and people shamelessly plugging their own agenda. In fact, Twitter has institutionalised bragging and perverse half-truths. Out of Jha’s 65 lakh followers, only about 30 responded to his claim (sarcastically) of not watching the Modi interview, so from his point of view, it was still worth it.

Jha’s tweet appears to be an attempt at contemptuousness while asserting a baffling grandeur. If you’re the underdog, doesn’t common sense suggest it would be wiser not to refer to the interview at all? It would be naive to think honesty is always the best policy especially in election season, but silence usually is. Even if all of civilisation is held together by a delicate thread of essential half-truths or as Oscar Wilde phrased it, “Lying is the telling of beautiful, untrue things for the proper aim of art.” So if one must lie, let it be on a glorious scale to serve a larger purpose. And of course, so cleverly, that on no account should one have to suffer the indignity of appearing laughably ridiculous.

Politics has always been inseparable from lies but in America, 20 states actually outlaw campaign distortions. It sounds more like an Orwellian fantasy but if candidates exaggerate claims and make false statements, there are criminal penalties. Websites like Politifact and monitor Twitter feeds and Facebook pages and store information on politicians’ promises made and and tally them with the ones kept. About time somebody started that in India. Every voter knows they are skilled fabricators, capable of seducing people with whatever reaffirms their world view and whatever gets them elected. Why just politicians, research suggests that most adults can’t have a 10-minute conversation without lying once. In a poll of 700 people between the ages of 20 and 35, 40 per cent admitted to lying or exaggerating on their resumes.

Teenage girls lie more than any other group as do those looking for a partner online. Immanuel Kant, the philosopher and ethicist, came up with a theory to justify a lie: balancing the benefits and harm of the consequences. The dirty truth about lying is that it is invariably, necessary to survive. Besides, nobody can be sure that if lying was suddenly eliminated from mankind the world would be a better place. Chances are, it would be crueller.

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