The Culture of Lying

There's no price to pay as long as your self-described mission is noble

By Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: September 6, 2003

The Culture of Lying

A season of untruth is upon us. It is so pervasive that it's fast becoming incorporated into our national culture. This culture of untruth includes lying (obviously), exaggerating, fudging, misrepresenting, misinforming, silencing, censorship and "invisibilizing."

As an example, in California's gubernatorial recall race, Fox News has become the instigator/conduit for the attempted political assassination of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the leading potential successor to Gov. Gray Davis. Its charge against him is bizarre -- that he refuses to denounce a racist organization. More bizarre is the media's feeding frenzy -- of relying upon repetition and "Internet journalism" -- rather than conducting their own investigations.

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) -- which was created to combat educational segregation -- has always had its internal and external critics. Yet in its 34-year existence of promoting higher education (there's no MEChA after college), not once has any of MEChA's hundreds of chapters -- which are all autonomous -- been disbanded for racist or "subversive" activities.

MEChA essentially carries on the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. As such, MEChA has inherited the same enemies, who charge that fighting against racial supremacy and against injustices makes one racist.

Yet the media have failed to ferret out the authors of this malicious slander. Bill O'Reilly (pictured), Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and Linda Chavez have all weighed in against MEChA. However, it's the viciously anti-immigrant Voice of Citizens Together/American Patrol (VCT/AP) that has long been picking on these youths.

With a look at the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center's 2002 list
of hate groups, one will find VCT/AP, along with a few of their anti-immigrant
Incidentally, a tiny Internet site that thrives on publicity and claims to be the voice of Chicanos is also on this same list, though MEChA and other human rights organizations have nothing to do with it.

This episode illustrates that lying has seemingly become legitimate and that there's no price to pay as long as your self-described mission is noble. Sadly, that message is coming straight from the top.

For example, before the president's vacation, in response to allegations that his administration knowingly used fraudulent evidence regarding Iraq, he proclaimed that he accepted personal responsibility for everything that he says. For him, that should have killed the story. What he conveyed was this: We did whatever we could -- including the use of fraudulent documents and misleading intelligence -- to rid the world of a bloodthirsty butcher. What's wrong with that?

What's wrong is that on the basis of what appears to be doctored intelligence, thousands of Iraqis have been killed. And since the president announced the end of major combat operations, more than one U.S. soldier continues to perish daily. This while Iraq threatens to become wholly ungovernable.

If things continue to deteriorate at home and abroad, the electorate will no doubt render judgment on president No. 43 in 2004, as trust in this administration (as is happening in England) will invariably become the next casualty.

But truth is much bigger than the fate of one president. This culture of lying threatens to become a permanent fixture of not just our body politic but also the entire nation. Incredulously, the media -- which should be the first line of defense against such a descent -- have opted to join the circus.

Ultimately, we all know that lies serve a purpose: to blind or distract. In the California recall, perhaps it's to divert the question of who will make for the best governor. In Iraq, it appears that unbiased intelligence would not have provided the casus belli for war that the administration so much trumpeted.

Hand in hand with this state of affairs is the growing trend among media toward censorship and doublespeak. Untruth prevails only when debate is muzzled and when opposition and dissenting views are silenced. Omission is another form of lying.

When warmongers are lauded as peacemakers and polluters as environmentalists, it's not difficult to see how business deregulation and tax breaks for the super-rich are touted as benefiting consumers and the poor. This while national health insurance is demonized. In this climate, it's easy to see how unrepentant bigots can come to see themselves as the arbiters of who the racial supremacists are.

The slope is becoming more slippery as the rise of governance via fund-raising speeches and paid political ads replace the need to directly face the public, virtually rendering the need to speak the truth obsolete. How much longer before truth and honesty become criminal endeavors?


About Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez:
Gonzales & Rodriguez can be reached at

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