News & Politics

Lies, Damned Lies, and How Much Should Obama Lie?

A special message from AlterNet’s executive editor about AlterNet's approach to lies in the campaign.
Lies are everywhere. It's a veritable lying epidemic out there in campaign America. Yet, it was still surprising when corporate writer Farhad Manjoo suggested that Barack Obama's problem in the campaign was that he wasn't lying enough.

Perhaps it is quaint, but at AlterNet we are in favor of fewer lies, not more. And we won't lie. This article is in part an appeal to support us financially, to help us fight back against the recent plague of lies. More about that in a minute. But, if you already know you want to help us, click here.

Manjoo works for Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post Company, owner of Newsweek and a media empire that stretches from TV channels to children's schoolbooks.

Manjoo catalogued many of the lies strewn about by John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin, and by Obama. Manjoo concluded that McCain was out-lying Obama by more than 2-1, and that Obama had refrained from the big whoppers. Hence, according to Manjoo, "McCain has lied more often and more outrageously than Obama."

Take McCain's ad claiming that Obama's "one accomplishment" on education policy was to push "legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners." According to Manjoo, "It's difficult to find a single true word in the whole spot. The McCain camp's other sin is one of repetition. They keep saying things that have been proved untrue. In TV ads and at nearly every stump speech, Palin has repeated the line that she stopped the federal government's plan to build the 'bridge to nowhere,' a claim that fact-check sites and nearly every major news organization have shot down."

And here is Manjoo's conclusion: "This is exactly what's so puzzling about Obama's strategy -- why is he paying any attention to the fact-checkers? So far, McCain has seen little blowback from lying." Manjoo also states that 51 percent of the public wrongly believes McCain's claim that Obama will raise taxes on the middle class.

I feel I have to intervene on behalf of all of us and say no to Manjoo, and to the outrageous cynicism required to suggest that Obama should just lie more as a solution. Sure, Obama can get tougher, but he doesn't have to lie to succeed. AlterNet's mission is focused on stopping the lies. And you, our audience, have shown your appreciation of our mission by devouring our material.

In the past few weeks AlterNet has had the most visitors in our 10 years! In one week more than half a million people read our series about Palin's lies. AlterNet's job is blow the whistle on falsehoods. And that is why we hope you will support AlterNet with your donation today.

AlterNet is doing great. We deliver many dozens of articles, blogs and videos every day -- all for free. But, it does cost us money. No lying here. There is no free lunch. In fact, the more people visit AlterNet, the more we have to pay for servers to handle the load. In fact, our server costs are almost $40,000 a year alone. That's just one example of the costs of running a high-traffic, independent Web site. And of course there is rent, salaries, money for writers, insurance and the normal stuff necessary for success.

To wrap it up, Manjoo actually wrote a book about lying -- or, as he calls it, "the disappearance of facts." The book is titled True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. In it, he argues that "facts are a stock of faltering value." And that "media fragmentation -- the disintegration of the mass media into the many niches of the Web, cable news, and talk radio -- lets us consume news that we like and avoid news that we don't, leading people to perceive reality in a way that conforms to their long-held beliefs."

Well yes, the avoidance of facts is a problem, as we all know. Some voters practice denial. But, that is no reason to stop presenting reality, even when it is painful. Things are not going to change until we face the truth head on. We hope you will support us in our effort to bring more truth to this campaign.
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018