If someone tells something false repeatedly, are they lying? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I was watching a video today where the subject was the recent lawsuit against Alex Jones and how he had to pay out for what he said about Sandy Hook. Someone with me who heard me watching it was telling me that what was really bad about Alex Jones was not just what he said but he had lied about it knowing otherwise. I then played a clip where I heard Alex Jones saying Sandy Hook was 100% real. When I asked the person with me where Jones said he lied he said, “You just heard him.”
Unfortunately for the person talking to me, that’s wrong.
This is not to defend Alex Jones at all. He was entirely wrong in what he said about Sandy Hook. It was a horrible thing to say. However, that being said, he was not lying. Why?
Because when he said that Sandy Hook was not real, he said it because he honestly believed that it was not real. If he had thought it was real and yet he was saying it was not real, he would be lying. If he thought it was not real, and was saying it was real, he would be lying.
This also means that someone could even tell you something that is true and at the same time be lying. Suppose you hear about someone being a flat-Earther and you go up to them and ask “Is the Earth flat?” Suppose that this person though is scared by you and is a rather timid person and is scared of an argument and just wants to appease you and says, “Absolutely not. The Earth is round.” This person has just lied to you. It’s not because they told you something untrue. It’s because they were not honest with their words in what they were saying and told you something that was contrary to what they really believe.
Why bring this up? Often in the worlds of politics and religion, which often do coincide together, it’s easy to have the word lie thrown around carelessly. We are not only accusing someone of having their facts wrong when they say this, but we are also accusing them of an immoral action. If just saying something that was wrong was a lie, then any time that a kid puts down the wrong answer on a math test, then he is guilty of lying.
In order to show a lie, one must show that a person said X is the case, when they really thought non-X was the case, or vice-versa. Often, I prefer to think not so much about lies that are commonly told, but myths that are commonly told. For instance, it is a myth that Columbus sailed to prove that the world was round. Everyone believed that it was. Many of us were taught otherwise in school, but that doesn’t mean our teachers necessarily lied. They could have passed on something they thought was true as well. It just means people collectively bought into a myth.
Be careful with the term lie, regardless of what you think of the person. I have plenty of people who are my intellectual opponents, but I do not call them liars lightly. That is not just making a statement about what is said, but about the character of the person saying it and should not be done lightly.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)