How do you tell when a politician is lying?
Twenty years ago, I was charged with training a new analyst at the Colorado Division of Insurance. Carol's extensive insurance background did not help, and throwing her to "the sharks" at the end of her first week of training was overwhelming. Her first solo complaint concerned a dispute between consumer and insurer, an automobile accident.
No matter what her preconceptions, Carol learned a valuable lesson - the need for critical thinking. After closing the file, Carol walked up to my desk with a stern look, stamped her foot and proclaimed, "The consumers, they lie, they lie, they lie."
We seem to have forgotten when the anthrax terrorist attacks took place in 2001, at the height of our collective fear of another terrorist attack. Even today, many believe that the attacks were masterminded by al-Qaida or some other foreign extremist organization wanting to destroy the United States. The FBI busted the case this month by naming American Bruce Ivins, scientist and expert in this lethal pathogen, as the prime suspect in the deadly mailings.
The problem is Ivins will never be brought to trail. Ivins is dead, a suicide, and the government is claiming victory, maintaining that the evidence, though circumstantial, is indisputable. That, somehow, a man with an obsession for a sorority and a fear of a project being cancelled — which is not that unusual in the world of scientific research — targeted members of the United States Congress for death. That Ivins drove cross-country to mail his package a few blocks from his obsession. That DNA evidence was found in Ivins' lab seven years after the fact proves his guilt. No, our government never lies.
As a potential juror of his peers, I have one question: Does any of this make sense?
We are told of a physiological profile that portrays this highly regarded scientist as a potential mass murderer, one who schemed to kill anyone who insulted him or threatened his research. Even with this hard evidence, Ivins was permitted to work with the deadliest of chemical agents. What is wrong with this picture?
This comes from the same agency that wrongly accused another scientist from the same lab for these attacks and paid $6 million in punitive damages; the same agency that arrested the wrong man for the Atlanta Olympics bombing.
These accusations are not being made by the field agents, but by the upper echelon and their superiors, possibly by the orders of the president and his appointed cronies. The same president that lied about weapons of mass destruction and connections between al-Qaida and America's arch enemy, Saddam Hussain.
In his 1997 book, "A Demon Haunted World," Carl Sagan talked about skeptical thinking and listening carefully to the explanations given by those who are in charge. Sagan warned us that some may use their position of power, like the director of the FBI or the president of the United States, to force pseudo-truths on the public. "Power by authority" suggests we must believe the "facts" because the information is coming from a person of power.
More important, persons of power may use "observational selection," selecting only facts that justify the wanted end and if you, the public jury of reasonable intelligence, question the facts, you are then labeled as "one of them," the enemy.
Government agencies have lied to the American people too often. Presidents have lied about their sexual exploits, the economy and war. President Bush lied to us about . . .
I am not into conspiracy theories or believe in things that I cannot prove by the facts, all the facts. But when facts are conveniently left out or maneuvered to achieve a self-serving goal, if my gut tells me that something may be wrong, I remember the words of my charge Carol: Politicians - they lie, they lie, they lie.
Ah, a new conspiracy theory.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.