The Social Psychology of Good and Evil

By Arthur G. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
THE MANY FACES OF LIES

BELLA M DEPAULO

It is rarely difficult to interest the American public in the topic of lying. Occasionally, though, the interest becomes obsessive. The talking heads on television start screaming, every newspaper and magazine is stuffed with stories, it is the buzz around the water cooler and the dinner table, and for a while, it seems that no one can get enough of it. One profoundly important instance of this national preoccupation with lying occurred as the Watergate story unfolded and a stunned citizenry learned that a massive campaign of lies, crimes, evasions, and cover-ups could be orchestrated from the highest office in the land. The Watergate scandal may have marked the end of American political innocence, but it did not mark the beginning or the end of lying in public life.

Lying famously reemerged as political spectacle in the fall of 1998, when President Bill Clinton, under increasing suspicion of having had an affair with the young intern Monica Lewinsky, looked into the camera and sternly declared, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

At that time, one of the nightly television programs hosting impassioned discussions of the issues of the day was Hardball with Chris Matthews. I sat next to former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker as he insisted that “one thing that really has to be thrown out with the rest of the garbage here is people that think that all politicians lie. They do not.” Referring to Clinton's response to his accusers, Weicker added, “If we accept what's going on here we'll admit that lying is a normal part of life in this country.”

In so proclaiming, former Governor Weicker revealed two fundamen

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