Those who are offended by people who lie sometimes refer to them as “lying sacks of shit.” I get this, and so do chimpanzees, apparently.
As Yuval Noah Harari tells it, this was observed in nature. Interested humans observed a group of chimpanzees in Africa. Chimps, we learn, have a vocabulary of specific warning cries for various threats. The lion cry will send them into the trees, the threat of other predators will spur them to different evasive actions. This mutual warning system has been a key to group survival for millions of years.
Harari describes a moment when several chimpanzees found a small trove of bananas. They began to eat, but there were not that many bananas to be shared among them. One of the chimps raised a warning cry that sent the others climbing to the treetops. As they climbed, the chimp who’d raised the alarm stuffed himself with bananas. When the other chimps saw this they realized the smelly ape was a lying sack of shit. They came down, cursed him out, threatened him, shunned him, sent him packing. “Good luck on your own, you lying motherfucker.”
Sadly, this principled behavior is not always observable in homo sapiens. Liars sometimes gain a tactical advantage. If many elections post-Roger Stone are decided at the last moment, with disinterested voters stomping off to the polls after being enraged by negative ads, who cares if the negative ad is a fucking lie? You don’t have to lie in a way that a court could fault you for– you just distort, or omit, or take a sound bite out of context. The point is, make people angry enough to storm off and vote against the fucker. What you can achieve, when you are unbound from scruples, is virtually limitless.
I don’t recall the political candidate, it may have been one of Karl Rove’s early campaigns, or possibly LBJ in an early Texas campaign (or it may merely be an unverifiable, but illustrative, myth), who ran a last minute story about his opponent fucking goats. The accused goat fucker had a very short time to either high-handedly ignore or deny the story. Neither was a very good option. The election was decided by a few votes, many of them disgusted anti-goat fucker votes. After the candidate won, the goat fucker gambit, if recalled at all, was just a laugh line. The lying sack of shit who made it up had a good belly laugh.
The problem with being a lying sack of shit, of course, is that eventually people stop trusting you. This can take a long time, if you have good skills in the spinning plausible alternate fact department. In the end, though, it is almost inevitable, if you lie enough, that your lying will be noticed, and resented. Other liars will not fault you, perhaps, but it’s hard to be in the company of people who lie all the time. Imagine a world where you could never take anyone’s word for anything, where every assurance would likely be pure bullshit.
I’ve known liars. It is disorienting to deal with them. They will tell you whatever they believe you need to hear in a given moment. It’s a pathology, I understand, but still hard for me, moral fucking prig that I am, to stomach. I understand that the roots of a lying sack of shit’s need to lie are deep in childhood shame. I understand that, outside of a statistically small number of actual psychopaths who lie in a purely instrumental way to get what they want, any habitual liar was damaged early in childhood. Still.
It brings up the old Hitler conundrum. A Hitler is not just produced at random. Baby Hitler is not born to rouse a humiliated nation to humiliate the world with its ruthless superiority. Baby Hitler has to have the shit beat out of him several times every day by a vicious wife beating piece of shit, a guy like Hitler’s father, Alois. The young Hitler steels himself, teaches himself not to cry during these beatings, no matter how brutal. In his heart the ability to conceive of a campaign of worldwide revenge and domination is hatched and hardened.
It is easy to conceptualize all this. The victimized child deserves sympathy, if he was a convicted criminal his cruel childhood would be raised as a mitigating factor to get him a more lenient sentence. The conundrum is – in the case of a Hitler – it’s impossible to give a shit about his suffering, though it was real and horrible and should never happen to a child. Send me back in a time machine and I’ll give Hitler’s mother an abortion. Beings forfeit their right to sympathy when they cross certain lines, as Mr. Hitler indisputably did. Very sorry for his horrific childhood, yes. I’d have stood on line with millions of others to spare him that, along with the rest of his glorious life.
Lying sacks of shit are having their day in the sun right now. If you call a lie an “alternative fact” you have a nice confusing cudgel to whack credulous people with. Credulous people are like candy for a lying sack of shit. Ironically, good people, basically honest people, are the best suckers for a lie.
Shakespeare has the conniving bastard Edmund happily gloat over his brother’s good character — Edgar’s incorruptible honesty, and his generous, trusting nature, make him the perfect sucker for Edmund’s evil scheme. He is far too good to suspect the evil Edmund is hatching. Not being capable of betrayal himself, he does not imagine his loving half-brother capable of it. Edmund chuckles at the divine irony of it.
I’d put many who vote for evil fucks in Edgar’s category. People are basically good, as Anne Frank said, before she was dragged out of her hiding place and shipped off to the death camp right before the end of the war. People are, perhaps, basically good. I think most people, if they could, would rush to rescue a crying baby about to be hit by a train.
Sometimes lying sacks of shit have been deeply humiliated in childhood and are also psychopaths. Psychopaths tend to raise, and humiliate, little psychopaths. We have to watch out for those motherfuckers. We do, indeed.