Monday, August 15, 2016

Lying Liars Who Lie: 2016 Edition

Rob Taber
The Mormon Press

It was the picture that shattered all of our records.

The idea behind it is simple enough. Take the politicians who have been active enough on the national stage to get fact-checked by PolitiFact at least 50 times since the start of 2007. Look at all of their ratings and tally them. Place the tally in the chart. Not scientific by any means, but interesting. (Update 7/21/2016: Trump's "truthiness" rating, to use Nolan's criterion in his comment of "true" + "mostly true," currently sits at 11%, which is a small gain from the ~7% when the chart was made, but still well behind Michele Bachmann. Hillary's "truthiness" is at 51%, which is largely unchanged. Again, this chart is not scientific and the post is more about the response to the chart than the chart itself.) 

We didn't create the graphic (the original image is here), but we shared it on our Facebook page. It promptly shattered all previous benchmarks for reach and engagement by a factor of at least 20. Almost a hundred people were so shocked by it that they hid it in their newsfeeds; twenty-seven decided they never wanted to see anything shared by MormonPress ever again; one person unliked our Facebook page.

Judging by the comments, the harsh response wasn't because the graphic claimed that Jeb(!) Bush and Joe Biden are relatively honest politicians. No, our commenters were infuriated that Hillary Clinton was rated as being rather honest. Many of the comments on the photo can be summarized as "Hillary's a lying liar who lies." One commenter suggested that Mormon "would not stand for [MormonPress's] lies." Well, I guess we'll have to ask him down the road.

But it's clear that there's something special going on regarding the public's perception of Hillary's honesty. Just today, the 
Blue Nation Review called out the New York Times for saying that Donald Trump (who lies constantly, particularly about being against the Iraq War) is "being creative with the truth" instead of "dishonest." I recommend reading the piece in full for the list of ways that attributes that are positives for male candidates ("experience") become negatives for Hillary ("old," "represents the past"). 

This tendency to read Hillary through a particular frame of "dishonest" isn't rooted in her record, especially not when one compares her to Donald Trump,the pretend successful. A journalist who has investigated Hillary claims that she is 
fundamentally honest. PolitiFact has gathered many truthful statements Hillary has made. 

So what's going on?

To put it simply: in America we teach our children that women are liars.

The argument is laid out well in this essay, which I very much recommend. The essay includes frank conversations about our tendency to disbelieve rape victims, the way our inability to trust women affects public policies regarding choice and contraception. But also think about how it plays out in everyday life. When we hear two sides of a couple's dispute, how quick are we to say "well, he's a good guy" or "she's crazy" or "she needs to give him another chance"? We're quick to think that women are dominating a discussion if women are speaking for 30% of the time (and men for 70%). Within the LDS community, there are struggles regarding how much women's voices are heard at the ward, stake, and Church levels, though there's been recent movement to include more women in the highest councils. 

For female candidates, there is a greater perception of honesty, but this is adouble-edged sword. Women are held to a higher standard, and punished by voters to a greater extent for perceived failings. Hillary has had to walk this tightrope of being a woman trying to get things done in public--in ways that challenged patriarchal norms even as those norms were changing--for a long time now. It shouldn't come as a surprise that she's paid a price in voter perceptions. 

One more example: In an earlier era of church history, at the height of the ERA struggles, Elder Hartmann Rector of the First Quorum of the Seventy explained to Mrs. Teddie Wood that if women were to receive the priesthood, "the male would be so far below the female in power and influence that there would be little or no purpose for his existence [—] in fact [he] would probably be eaten by the female as is the case with the black widow Spider." 

I presume that Elder Rector (who became an emeritus General Authority many years ago) was speaking from his own feelings when he hypothesized that women with power or authority are inclined to physically consume men. Yet, we see these anti-woman attitudes throughout the Trump campaign.

And it isn't just Trump's objectifying and belittling of women, particularly women who challenge him; it carries through the memes shared by the people he's invited to join him on stage in Cleveland. 

Trump's misogyny has roots in a long American tradition of misogyny. Read 
the essay on how we teach our children that women are liars, reflect on it, and think about how we can improve. Even if you decide that you can't vote for Hillary, that your vote is going to Johnson or Stein or whoever else, the essay is still worth the read.

After all, it was Mormon who 
told us to learn from the mistakes of the past, so we can be more wise than those who came before.

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