December 6th, 2009 10:28 EST
Are our leaders telling the truth? Let's start testing them
Have you ever seen the Fox television series, Lie To Me? In the series a consulting company of Washington social psychologists read micro-expressions and body language to determine for their clients who is lying. It`s fiction, but it`s based on excellent research.
I think of this show whenever a public figure gets within range of a camera. Wouldn`t it be fun "instead of these silly reality shows and smart-ass talk shows "to subject our public largemouths to micro-expression analysts?
Cops do it all the time, and some of them are good at it. Truth is, we all do it. I usually knew when adults were lying to me, didn`t you? But we didn`t want them to be liars, so we made allowances for them, and they depended on our good will to get away with their lies. We don`t want our leaders to be liars, either, but we can get in an awful lot of trouble when we suspend our disbelief.
I listened to Denis McDonough, the chief of staff of the President`s security council, tell CNN the other day that Afghanistan is the wellspring " of Islamic terrorism. Sounded to me like Dick Cheney`s weapons of mass destruction. If only the press, I mused, would hire someone like Lie To Me`s Cal Lightman, played with electric eccentricity on TV by Tim Roth, to study McDonough`s face.
But that wouldn`t be cricket, would it? Aw, why not? If such men and women are going to bask in the limelight and tell our children where to go to die and then pocket our tax money, why shouldn`t we apply a modern social science to their shiny faces?
I`m not a psychologist, but if a Cal Lightman told me McDonough was telling the truth, I`d study Lightman`s face closer, a lot closer. But an even worse possibility is that McDonough actually believed what he was saying.
I don`t know how far society can go with this sort of thing. It won`t stand up in court any more than a lie detector will. But I have a feeling that in a distant future society our intuitions and our innate ability to read each other will play much stronger roles than they do now in our daily lives.
We still have a 19th Century press, operating as if Freud, Adler, Jung and Alice Miller, who is still among us, were fringe theorists who might even be crackpots rather than evolutionary pioneers. So it is with 19th Century minds that we use 21st Century technology to deliver what we so deceptively call the news.
The real news is being made by our artists, writers, actors, dancers, sculptors, scientists, mathematicians, composers, not by the bought-and-paid-for deceivers who lead us into wars and tend to the care and feeding of our growing predator class.
Why then shouldn`t we analyze the micro-expressions of men like McDonough and the members of Congress who daily pocket the money of lobbyists? This is how critics treat actors and analyze books. What`s wrong with a Cal Lightman Show after each public pronunciamento?
We have Sanjay Gupta telling us how healthy we`re not. We have Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs telling us how angry we ought to be. Why not a Cal Lightman telling us who is lying?
And if he`s wrong? Well, how often is he going to be more wrong than Dobbs and Limbaugh?