Monday, 8 March 2021


Having spent a considerable part of my life in advertising it would be fair to say some of it’s been in the company of the Lord of Mendacity. Richard French a doyen of the ad business, was asked at a party what he did and said: “Me? I’m a professional liar”. He did it to get a laugh which he got.

Over the past few years I’ve watched aghast at the example politicians and others are setting to a generation of young people to believe it’s perfectly OK to tell whoppers. No longer “the dog ate my homework.”  Instead “we were burgled last night; they wrecked everything. It was terrible… and my gran got whacked above her left eye and is badly bruised poor thing. They got away with TV, Cocker-Poodle and worst of all our Lenovo with my homework” (well done, specifics help add veracity). 

Strangely the more punctiliously regulated world of advertising is virtually devoid of lies now. 

I recall hearing a golden moment on a terrible night for the Tories in 1992 as their share of vote collapsed to Tony Blair. Tory spokespeople tried to eke out comfort by analysing swings so as to try and gild that crock of disaster. Chris Patten, Party Chairman, was interviewed and asked whether he’d admit this had been a bad night for the Conservatives. 

He retorted crossly that it had not been bad; instead it’d been an absolutely ghastly night. And he added when asked why it had gone wrong that the voters had said they didn’t like the Tories and they would have to change. Patten demonstrated the power of truth in putting down journalists wearing earpieces being instructed on the questions they should ask and failing to hear that word “ghastly.” 

Older generations were made to believe telling the truth was important. Getting away with it is the new cool way of behaving. Find a £20 note on the ground and say “nice one” not “whose is it?”. There was the doubtless apocryphal story of the traffic cop saying  as he pulled over a young man for exceeding the speed limit “I’ve spent all day waiting for someone speeding” to which the culprit said “I got here as fast as I could.” And, of course he got off.

Our biggest conundrum in politics is Boris who, despite the Brexit falsehoods about Turkey entering the EU and those slogans on that campaign bus, has earned a certain respect from the electorate for his barefaced bravado. I remember once seeing him interviewed about his exotic private life. He harrumphed and described himself in the third person as a scoundrel whose behaviour was execrable. The conservatives are currently 13% points ahead of Labour much as Trump is far ahead of his Republican rivals despite his extraordinary untruthfulness.

But it’s getting worse. Actor Miles Fisher described as a deep-fake viral creator has impersonated Tom Cruise so well on Tik Tok we are inevitably heading to a world of visual lying.

There comes a time when we need to say “enough”. Lying, like shoplifting, like driving whilst drunk, like bullying needs to be decried. If the post-Covid “build back better” campaign is to have any credibility telling the truth needs to be applauded and its ugly brother, lying, needs to be shown up and shamed.

Final point. Journalists need to be less aggressive. Their contemptuous behaviour has added fuel to the Liar’s party. Telling fibs to a sneering ogre of an interviewer seems almost acceptable.

Almost. But not quite.  Time for us all to be more sceptical.

No comments: