You are on page 1of 3

A Lie by Any Other Name

Sometimes there are just no words to describe lies told by politicians. They lie so often and in so
many different ways that it's exhausting to always have to explain to the ignorant why their
statements are false or misleading. So, I thought it was about time there was terminology that
could be used to describe these false statements.

Sociologists, psychologists, and linguists who conduct research on lies study their cause, nature,
occasion, victim, subject, size, result, and many other dimensions. I thought it might be simpler
to classify political lies only according to their nature and their seriousness. This classification
may not be all-inclusive, but it covers the most common political lies.

The nature of a political lie can be classified as one of six different types, each of which I have
named in honor of a famous practitioner:

• LIDDY -- Lies resulting from self-deception, mental confusion, cluelessness, or just

plain stupidity.
• O'REILLY -- Lies using fabricated facts or stories, fakery, or false empathy, often with
the intention of lending credibility or establishing commonalities.
• HANNITY -- Lies that use straw-man arguments, false comparisons, false
generalizations, and other logical fallacies.
• LIMBAUGH -- Lies involving omissions of facts, out-of-context quotes, misrepresented
positions, and other misleading statements.
• COULTER -- Lies involving ad hominem arguments, name calling, and other personal
• GALLUP -- Lies that use statistics or that are about a statistical analysis such as a poll.

Lies also have one of five magnitudes:

• LIMP -- Lies that are trivial, harmless, inconsequential, petty, not worth the time
responding to, or just plain stupid.
• BLOATED/SHRUNKEN -- Lies that are substantial (i.e., not limp) and are based on
exaggerations (bloated) or minimizations (shrunken) of the truth.
• CRYPTIC -- Lies that are consequential (i.e., more than just bloated or shrunken) and
are difficult to verify. If you can't verify that something is a lie by searching the internet,
reading a newspaper, opening a book, or watching TV, than it can be considered to be
cryptic. Some lies are cryptic because the subject matter is challenging such as scientific
or economic analyses. Some lies are cryptic because the information needed to dispute
them is dispersed and difficult to gather.
• NAKED -- Lies that are consequential and are easy to verify. A lie can start off being
cryptic but become naked as information is released to the public. Reports that Iraq had
WMD began as cryptic but slowly became naked as continued inspections found no
• UBER -- Lies that are so obviously and outrageously false that they are laughable and
should need no refutation.
Putting these two classifications together creates thirty categories of lies. Each category is named
by stringing the lie-type and lie-magnitude together into one word. Here are a few examples:

Ashcroft: The
objective of
Delay: We've securing the safety

Nixon: I am not a Bush: Mission Administrations:

eliminated all the of Americans from
crook Accomplished Reasons for the
fat in government crime and terror
Iraq War
has been
White House was

DoD stories about O'Reilly: I got my

Bush's Crawford trashed by the
Jessica Lynch and data from the Paris Intelligent Design
ranch Clinton
Pat Tillman Business Review
when they moved
I don't think
Limbaugh: Abu anyone could have

Ghraib was like a anticipated the

Bush: Great job, Bush: I'm a uniter Fox News: Fair
fraternity prank, the 9/11 attacks (Rice)
Brownie not a divider and Balanced
guards were just or the failure of the
blowing off steam NOLA levees

Bush: I served my Democrats think

Al Gore claims to Administration pays
term of enlistment Bush: You forgot that America
have invented the media to sell
honorably in the TX Poland deserves to be
internet education and
ANG attacked by
health programs
Malkin: Cindy Coulter: New

Coulter: Justice
Sheehan is an anti- Yorkers would
Photos of John O'Connor was
Swift Boat Ads American, terrorist- immediately
Kerry windsurfing Reagan's biggest
sympathizing surrender to
agitator attacking terrorists
Bush: we've
Bush's margin of
Bush Administration assembled the
victory in the 2004 State Department's Republicans are

statistics on the largest

election gave him count of the more fiscally
economy and the international
political capital and number of terrorist responsible than
budget, such as coalition in history
a mandate for attacks Democrats
Social Security to fight in Iraq and

So, for example, when the State Department defined terrorist attacks in a way that would
minimize their number in their annual report, they told a shrunkengallup. The swift boat ads
about John Kerry were crypticcoulters because they were personal attacks that could not be
verified easily. Intelligent design (i.e., creationism) is an uberoreilly to those who believe that the
creation story is a myth or a metaphor.
Lies can evolve in this system. The first time I heard President Bush's statement about nobody
being able to anticipate that the NOLA levees would have failed, I thought it was a crypticliddy
because it would be hard to show that Bush didn't actually believe what he said. Within a few
days, though, two facts emerged. First, FEMA had conducted an exercise called Hurricane Pam
that simulated a NOLA disaster, so obviously somebody thought about it. Second, Bush knew he
had cut funding for levee repair, so this was no self-deception. Clearly, it was a hannity not a
liddy, because the lie was based on a false generalization. When those reports hit the media,
Bush's statement became a nakedhannity.

These new terms can be used to express nuances in the interpretation of lies and differences of
opinion between interpreters. Remember when the Bush campaign used the photo of John Kerry
windsurfing to cast him as an elitist? I thought that was a limpcoulter. Who cares whether he
plays tennis, softball, or golf. The fact that he plays sports at all said to me that he was fit and
healthy enough to withstand the rigors of the presidency. Boy was I wrong. Calling it a
crypticcoulter or even a crypticlimbaugh would have been more accurate.

So, you think you have the concept? Test your self with the following lies. What would you call
them? (Answers Below)

1. Cheney: Reagan proved deficits don't matter.

2. Delay: There's no fat in government spending. We've eliminated it all.
3. Santorum: If you have the right to consensual sex, then you have the right to bigamy,
incest, and adultery.
4. Limbaugh: `Osama' Obama, `Frenchie' Kerry, Hurricane Katrina `vanden Heuvel.'
5. Rove's push poll about John McCain having fathered an illegitimate black child.
6. The credentials of Jeff Gannon and Michael Brown.
Of course, your answers may be different than mine. That's the beauty of the system. The names
express how we view the lie. So, give the new vocabulary a try. If nothing else, you'll find it
satisfying to slap your forehead and say `now that's an uberoreilly if I've ever heard one.'

1. Crypticliddy. 2. Uberoreilly. 3. Nakedhannity. 4. Limpcoulters. 5. Bloatedgallup. 6.

by TerraByte
Sep 24, 2005