By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
Growing up, our parents told us not to lie.
Lying is the subject of the eighth of the 10 commandments in the Christian faith we hear so many politicians espousing.
The commandment is “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” or in plain English lie about your neighbor or anyone else.
Today many have forgotten it is a sin to lie or at the very least morally wrong. Instead, it is commonplace.
When I “retired” from covering the State House six years ago, a young reporter asked me what had been the biggest change since 1990 when I first was there.
I said “people didn’t lie to you then. They may not have told you the whole truth, but they did not lie like they do now.” This political season is an example of the extreme drift away from truth telling.
Today, the problem is compounded with social media which repeats and amplifies the lie so that many non-discerning readers or listeners take the lie to be fact and that fuels the fires of division among us.
One of the most outrageous of the media giants who has a significant problem with the truth found out this week that lying has its price.
In the case of Alex Jones, the price is more than $1 billion dollars when all the legal cases filed against him are settled.
As you know, he made millions if not billions of dollars on the lie he promoted that the Sandy Hook mass shooting was a hoax and staged by actors.
The shooting by a 20-year-old killed 20 students and six staff members at the Connecticut school in 2012.
The lie was bad enough, but the effects on the victims’ families and the harassment some suffered were devastating.
After the Connecticut verdict for just short of $1 billion, New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz wrote that Fox News host Tucker Carlson said the billion dollar verdict would have a “chilling effect on lying” and “was no more and no less than a direct attack on the lying lifestyle.”
While done in humor, it is indicative of how embedded the “lying lifestyle” is in American culture today.
While Jones admitted in court the shooting did happen, he attempted to turn the proceedings into a sideshow and advertisement for his company.
Jones said later he was convinced the Texas and Connecticut verdicts would be overturned on appeal and said he only had two houses and a couple of million dollars in the bank.
He has claimed he and his company are bankrupt and cannot pay the penalties, but legal proceedings will determine if that is true.
Lying about a candidate’s record or position in politics has been going on for some time.
From Edmund Muskie’s speech in the snow outside the Union Leader’s old Amherst Street office and US Sen. Bob Dole’s shout out to then vice President George H W Bush at the Manchester airport to “stop lying about my record,” to today with former General Don Bolduc claims incumbent US Sen. Maggie Hassan is lying about his support for a nationwide abortion ban and GOP 1st Congressional District candidate Karoline Leavitt, a former Trump White House aide, makes similar claims about incumbent US Rep. Chris Pappas on the abortion issue.
As with many politicians, once the primary election is over, the winners want to move a little closer to the middle to appeal to more voters, so they change their positions and claim their opponent is lying about their position.
Bolduc as a primary candidate was an election denier saying the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, but now has changed his stance several times.
It is not just the federal races; the state’s governor’s race has its share of lies as well and records now downplayed and reinvented.
If you listened to Gov. Chris Sununu for example, you would believe he has done an amazing job running the state to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus revenue.
The surplus revenue is there, but most other states in the country are also experiencing large revenue surpluses, some in billions of dollars brought on by the fuel of federal money to help damp down the economic effects of the pandemic.
The money has spurred the economy, increased profits for corporations and returned inflation to the national lexicon.
And that is true around the world as greater demand for goods and services has driven up the prices along with supply chain issues.
But that is not what political campaigns want you to hear when leaders can be demonized.
Finding the truth during campaign season is a full-time job that most voters do not have the time to take on, and candidates and their campaigns know it.
The amplified social media rhetoric makes it even more difficult. Today, anyone can find on social media opinions, conspiracy theories and “facts” they agree with.
The biggest danger today, however, is the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and has convinced a majority of Republicans and enough of the country to put democracy in peril.
Not everyone is watching the January 6 Committee hearings, but they should because they have painted a picture with nearly all Republican witnesses of what lies do to our government, our society, our culture and our safety.
Former President Donald Trump broke many laws when he was president and after he left office.
He was not alone as his enablers and inner circle did the same and no one has yet been held accountable.
The anything goes environment did not start with the 2020 election, it began four years before that.
Michael Lewis’s book “The Fifth Risk” is about the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations through the eyes of longtime, high-level, non-partisan employees proud of their agencies’ work.
The Trump administration was not interested in learning what federal agencies did but was interested in how to use the agencies to their advantage and frankly corrupt their missions like installing the CEO of AccuWeather as head of NASA which includes the National Weather Service.
The change in leadership was not about continuing the work of government but about power.
Trying to stay in power is what drove Trump to try to overturn the election, which he knew he lost but refused to say publicly.
Consequently, for the first time in the United States’ history, there was no peaceful transition between administrations.
The Big Lie continues to drive much of the country’s politics with the 2022 election two weeks away. Voting laws have been changed, election deniers are running for offices that decide election results and intimidators are waiting at the polls.
Democracy does not survive on its own. Democracy is government by majority rule, but that is being upended and people need to realize this great experiment of self-rule may end.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.