People telling the truth sound one way. People who are lying sound another. Try as hard as they like, most liars give themselves away in real time. If the people hearing their lies know what to listen for? They’ll hear the confession for themselves. Experienced liars invest that “experience” into not looking like they’re lying. Makes sense. It’s the most obvious tell. The really good liars – the pros – have actually thought out their lies to a remarkable degree. But, even as they lay out the case for their innocence, one part of their performance craft sits just beyond their ability to fully control it: the sound of their voice. The best musical instrument in the world can’t deliver perfect sound if it’s even slightly out of tune. Lies – pretty much all of them – are the product of a conscience that’s gone “out of tune”.
Now, very few liars are actually good at it. Donald Trump is a profound liar, but he sucks at it because his lies are so obvious. That Trump (thus far) has gotten away with his lies isn’t a reflection of the quality of Trump’s lying, it’s a reflection on OUR inability to deal with liars and their lying – particularly if they’re rich and white. About 90% of bamboozlement really is the fault of the bamboozled. Bamboozlers are never the cream of any crop of liars. Even among liars, they’re considered lucky for getting away with so much for so long.
When Texas governor Greg Abbott began his “news conference” (it was a conference, I guess, but “news” was never on the agenda) on Wednesday, he admitted he was lying the instant he opened his mouth. That is, the tone in his voice that gives liars away was cranked up to eleven – and Greg was screaming at the world that every word spewing from his mouth was pure, unadulterated bullshit. Liars also lie via what they don’t say. That’s when you need to look them right in the eyes. Note: they’ll already be looking in yours – looking to see if you caught them – caught the fact that they haven’t mentioned the eight million ton gorilla sitting on everyone’s chest. That’s what colored the very first sound that tumbled from Greg Abbott’s mouth – and it set off the alarm bells inside the heads of everyone listening to him.
That’s EVERYONE – both the people who’d be shocked that a leader would lie so egregiously at a moment like this and the people who were counting on him to lie at a moment like this.
We all recognize the sound of lies on some level. Whether we choose to act on that recognition is a whole other conversation. How many lovers have tormented themselves because they refuse to recognize what everyone they know recognizes? Self-delusion, alas, seems baked into our human emotional architecture.
But, let’s talk instead about what to do when we hear that sound of lying. There are things we can do. We just have to commit to doing them in far larger numbers than we’re doing them right now. Lying gets harder when the truth intrudes. The liar can only paint themselves into a smaller and smaller corner as more and more details betray them. Or, more accurately, give them away.
Don’t we all love those scenes in stories where the liar gets caught en flagrante delicto mid-lie?
That’s what’s happening in real time to not only Greg Abbott, but to the putrid ideas he calls “governing” especially as they pertain to death machines – that’s what guns literally are – and their impact on the PEOPLE in his state. The tragedy in Uvalde is the perfect example of why the “good guy with a gun” theory is utter horse shit. The good guys with guns showed up outgunned. By an eighteen year old. With military grade weapons. Because, apparently, despite data that says these angry, young men (usually 17 or 18) often come armed with AR15’s, cops only train as if the shooter came armed with a cap gun.
When confronted with the truth – when Beto O’Rourke stood up and stood up to them – the (mostly) white men on stage doubled down on their lie. The solution to this madness? Harden even further: turn SCHOOLS into military bases. Anything other than look the problem – guns – right in the face.
Liars know they can’t look the truth in the face. They’ll crack. Even the best liars will eventually – if only because, having lied themselves into a corner, they’ve run out of real estate.
Liars are the problem. Solving that problem lies with us.
The easiest solution is also the quickest: say something in real time. The instant you hear that lying tone, stand up. Make the liar know you hear them – not the words they’re saying, but their lying subtext. You want them to be fully aware that a spotlight is on them. From the liar’s perspective, it changes everything. They now know they can’t sing and dance the way they’ve rehearsed. They’re going to have to wing it.
And every liar knows that anything can happen when you wing it.
Imagine for a second if, say, the White House Press Corps had drawn such a line in the sand at the start of the very first press conference they had with Donald Trump himself. Never mind what Spineless Sean Spicer or Princess Huckleberry said or did – they’re sock puppets. Liars count on respect they don’t deserve to shield them. Trump took a giant, steaming dump on our democratic systems every single day of his presidency (you’d think he’d had the sewage line from his personal White House toilet redirected there). We could smell it from wherever we sat. So could the White House Press Corps who – even as they held their noses – acted as if the putrid stench blasting at them was “normal”. All White Houses smell this way…
That’s why so many of us railed at our TV’s so loudly during those pressers. We weren’t screaming our heads off at Trump, we were losing our minds over the news media. Now, to be fair, a few, occasionally did try to push back and ask good follow ups. But invariably Trump would diss that reporter and turn to the next – who would then go and ask THEIR question – as if they were going along with Trump’s dismissal of it: “Yeah, that’s right, sir, enough of that nonsense – I’ve got something real to ask!” No! No, no, no, NO! The correct response by the second reporter needed to be: “Excuse me, sir, but before I ask my question, we need you to answer my colleague’s question first!”
Know how many times that happened during the Trump presidency? Zero.
That was our news media accepting lies instead of demanding truth. It made lying – so long as one wasn’t getting caught – a viable option. From a liar’s perspective? That’s an open invitation to go right on lying.
Which is what happened. It’s what’s still happening and will go on happening until someone stands up and says “NO!”
Beto O’Rourke showed us that only good things flow from such acts of literal and political bravery. Whereas lies sound one way, the Truth always sounds quite different.
That’s why Stacey Abrams catches our attention and our ears. The Truth in her voice is unmistakable. It’s not something she can “put there” – even with practice. Because Truth is always in the moment. Truth can always improvise with ease because it never has to invent anything on the spot.
In comedy as in life as in politics: the Truth will set ya free. We all know what that sounds like, too.