Media No Longer Capable of Catching Some Lies

October 4, 2021 Updated: October 5, 2021

Commentary

Joe Biden just got caught in a lie about Afghanistan,” headlined the Washington Examiner on Sept. 29. I know, I know. So this is news?

What the paper was referring to was of course the testimony of two top-ranking generals and President Biden’s own Secretary of Defense to the effect that they had all recommended to the President leaving 2500 troops in Afghanistan after the American withdrawal. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Biden had denied that he had received any such recommendation.

“No. No one said that to me that I can recall,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, that would certainly seem to amount to being caught in a lie—at least if you disregard the perjurer’s life-preserver: “that I can recall.” But even allowing for the possibility of a sudden onset of dementia, I don’t think he can really have forgotten anything as important as that.

Perhaps recognizing that his having forgotten might actually look worse for him than his having lied, the White House press spokesperson, Jen Psaki, tried to explain away the lie by averring that the generals advising the President had been “split” on the question of leaving a residual force behind, and that he had gone with the recommendation of the unnamed and now absent ones who had supposedly advised against leaving such a force.

Why, then, did he not say that to George Stephanopoulos instead of saying that no one had given him such advice? Someone—three someones, as a matter of fact—definitely had.

No, it was unmistakably a lie. And then Psaki told another lie to cover it up.

But I think we have a problem with that little word “caught”—as in “caught in a lie.”

Way back in 1987 when Mr. Biden first rose to national prominence, that was because he was caught in a lie.

He had appropriated a self-related episode from the life story of the then-leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, also known as the Welsh Windbag, and represented it as his own experience.

Having been caught in the lie, the then-Senator Biden still had enough of a sense of shame to have dropped out of contention in the following year’s Democratic presidential primaries. Not that he would have stood more than the slimmest of chances of winning any of them anyway.

That’s what we mean when we say that someone has been “caught in a lie.” It implies some punishment to follow, or at least some shame felt by the liar on account of his exposure as one.

Does anyone believe that either punishment or shame will follow this lie?

If a tree falls in the forest when no one is there, does it make a sound?

The national (and international) press was certainly there for the big lie of 1987. As the media were then constituted, it would have been impossible for them not to have covered extensively what became known as the Biden “plagiarism” scandal and, therefore, for everyone not to have known about it—and, therefore, for the plagiarist not to have felt sorry, if only for himself.

That’s what it meant to be “caught in a lie.”

That was then.

It’s my belief that the media culture of today, a third of a century later, and the virtual disappearance of shame from our public life—certainly of any shame for being caught in a lie—are closely related phenomena.

Just look at the lie on which Joe Biden last year claimed to have based his whole campaign—the reason, he said, why he ran for president: the lie that Donald Trump had called neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, “very fine people.”

That lie had already been exposed as a lie numerous times. It was an even more obvious lie than the one about a residual American force in Afghanistan, since there was documentary evidence in a transcript of the interview in which Trump had explicitly excluded the Nazis from his designation of the “very fine people” wishing to preserve a statue of Robert E. Lee—as well as those wishing to take it down.

But that tree fell in a part of the new media forest where there was no one around to hear it. The big media, the legacy media, the mainstream media have found that their readers, watchers, and listeners don’t care if they simply ignore news from the right-wing media ghetto that they don’t want to hear.

In other words, they’re never going to catch Joe Biden in a lie. And that means that even when a publication like The Washington Examiner or The Epoch Times does catch him in a lie, it will not resonate with the public at large who, unless they are readers of those publications, will never hear of it.

It’s as if he had never lied at all! There’s nothing for him to be ashamed of, even if he were any longer capable of shame.

Small wonder then that, having gotten away with it for so long, Biden’s lies have now become so shameless that he hardly even bothers to pretend that they aren’t lies.

“My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars,” he tweeted last week. Not, that is, that it would cost the $3.5 trillion that the media were reporting at the time and that the Democrats in Congress were desperately trying to keep at that figure in spite of the doubts of a few “moderates.” Let alone the $5.5 trillion that the Wall Street Journal thought it would cost. But $0.

If ever there were a lie to catch a man in—a lie that a child could catch a man in—it was that lie. And yet the mainstream media were ready to accommodate him.

Even famed Washington Post “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler only gave him two Pinocchios—on the grounds that he must have been communicating with fellow budget-wonks in a language that only they could understand.

I’m afraid we have to accept that, since there is no more any penalty accruing to being “caught in a lie,” nor even any shame in it, there’s no more catching people in lies either—and, therefore, no more lying in our public life, at least as reported by the media. Or, to put it another way, it’s all lies. Every word. Including “and” and “the.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James Bowman
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.