Debating Prevaricators

A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.

— Not Mark Twain

Prevaricator: a person who speaks so as to avoid the precise truth; quibbler; equivocator.

Tersely; a skillful liar.

Most all lying has conscious and subconscious elements. When a lie dribbles out of your mouth a little ding goes off in the brain that you might not even be able to articulate, but it informs you that what you just said perhaps was not entirely true, or could be a best guess expressed as if it were fact. The half-truth irritatingly gnaws away back there.  It can gnaw for a minute or a lifetime. But it gnaws until it is confronted, and if the lie is allowed to gestate, the prevaricator must eventually employ tactics to evade truth which comes hurling back at them in various manifestations over time.

For every prevaricator there is a general path taken consisting of 4 somewhat linear tactical stages involving the game theory of lying. A game plan to use to protect the lie told so as to weasel their way out of acknowledging the truth before them.

Stage 1: Avoidance

Most people don’t inquire about much of anything, they go along for the ride; those that do ask questions usually don’t ask more than once. So a prevaricator’s first best defense is to keep their mouth shut. Vague denial with a minimum of committed language is typically a great place to start for neophyte liars.

Liars don’t ever intend on winning a debate, in fact, they don’t want to stick to any cogent overriding idea or concept. A liar’s brain is clad with amorphous cliches and convenient turns of phrase that focus on avoidance. Slippery is advantageous to creating confusion. Cloud an issue and then you can shift the premise of an argument and lead people to your particular outcome. They don’t have to win arguments, just confuse the basis of the argument enough to misplace the onus of accountability for a lie and set people against each other.

Stage 2: Propaganda

This is the golden flight of the nascent prevaricator. Where avoided lies undergo metamorphosis into full blown wings of deception. A prevaricators’s chosen version of events may be either manufactured by spreading existing misinformation as truth or creating their own homespun lies which are usually as unfalsifiable as they are dishonest. A steely prevaricator will speckle just enough truth into their illusion that the eye will recognize it from a distance as truth but the image dematerializes if observed closer. Like a rainbow, the purported truth was an illusion to the subjective eye offering pots of gold at the end of their lies.

Gas-lighting is common, where the prevaricator’s use of convenient lies is tautologically hammered into the public consciousness to such degree their mark becomes unable to discern what truth is. Lies can be played out to the point the liar forgets it was a lie at all which yields a short lived respite in the mind from the gnawing truth. A sense of power given to a prevaricator when they think they might actually get away with a lie, it becomes toxic jet fuel to their toxic ego. They begin to understand the power of being able to make anything the truth. The ego becomes god once again with conscious awareness muffled and tied down in a dank cellar of the prevaricator’s hustling mind.

The chosen flavoring of propaganda is typically promoted as a public safety concern or a play to nebulous “values” they never bother to explain, something benign that makes the wolf look like a well meaning sheep. Should this twist of reality fail or prove too much bullshit to spin they can simply resort to some form of scapegoating, which has worked beautifully in the past; e.g., The Southern Strategy.

They will attempt to conflate ideas in a way where it sounds right on the surface but requires some deduction before the true nature of the idea is exposed. This kind of deception buys time as it takes a degree of thought to unravel Orwellian double speak, and time is all that is needed. The longer a lie can be extended the more it seems to gain legitimacy in the public sphere.

The game of ostensible claiming of “facts” that are nothing but red herrings is how the propagandist will volley retorts. It’s entirely possible to manufacture facts that work to the idea a prevaricator is an intellectually honest player doing their best in a game of chaos; e.g., the global economic system and due to their tutelage that system is doing just great! And when it’s not, well, there was probably bad weather that month or something of the like.

They create facts like the supposed facts of the unemployment rate, first it makes their jobs and style of slavish labor and exploitation seem desirable and valid without question, but also what it deems as employed is conveniently ignoring participation rates, the underemployed, the misery and loneliness created out of these jobs – all ignored, just the idea of that abstract percentage pertaining to jobs is kept low. Furthermore, the fact that the net result of most of the jobs is the acceleration of ecological apocalypse within this century, but, hey, look at the fact the unemployment rate is in the low 4% range, ain’t that dandy. As absurd capitalist logic follows we could be faced with imminent global apocalypse, but turn that frown upside down because now is the time to get a job in the funeral industry.

Or maybe consider the “fact” the Dow crossed the 26,000 mark as a nation recovers from a myriad of calamitous events in 2017 that devastated local economies in Houston, California, Florida, and Puerto Rico while wealth inequality accelerates. This stat of supposed economic health is completely detached from truth. It is propaganda dressed as “fact” sold to the public by government and corporate prevaricators.

Stage 3: Suppression of Dissent

Should the questions irritatingly persist despite the glitz of propaganda they begin to use held leverage to force the issue in their direction. Prison has been a tried and true way to get people to shut up over several millennia now. Tossing people in cages both removes that person from the argument and discredits them in the future since prisons are perceived as places of shame.

Controlling the media outlets is another staple of suppressing dissent, when everything shown to the senses may be appropriated by 6 major media outlets the arguments can be contrived to whatever best suits the needs of capitalist empire.

Stage 4: Forced Acceptance or Violence

If prevaricators run out of options and the lies are collapsing, as they always do, they can become violent if they are cornered. Violent to themselves, as suicide is not exactly uncommon when an identity built around lies collapses, and violent to others who pose a threat to their manufactured lies.

As Fredrick Douglass famously noted that “Power concedes nothing without a demand” and just because a prevaricator is proven wrong they will many times still not self correct to truthful dialog.  They must be forced into submitting, and they must be forced because what is installed in the prevaricator is addiction to the lie. Our institutions are addicted to their lies, our government and financial systems were constructed on lies, a nation built on slavery, genocide, and exploitation, built as a predatory system designed to systematically eradicate opposition so a juvenile oligarchy can rule in perpetuity. But – we’re told all are created equal, and a right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Pretty lies that are as detached from reality as our financial markets.

Prevaricators are addicted to the power of their lies. Some eventually self correct when made aware of their actions, and like all addicts who have finally woken up to their behavior they begin to accept truth and let go of the lie. Sometimes it doesn’t happen until the lies become so indefensible they can no longer manifest the illusion and everyone notices the emperor isn’t wearing clothes.

All lies work to the prevaricator’s subjective advantage in some way or they’d just tell the truth because it’s considerably easier, and maybe a prevaricator thinks their lie is unfalsifiable so it can offer that ring of plausible ambiguity and perhaps believe they can get away with it. After the realization of a lie there comes a decision; a reversal can be made with humility and dignity still intact, or you can let your ego have its way and go ahead and stick with a lie, maybe to such a degree you stake your career, reputation, and the safety of others to it, hedge all big bets on a fabrication.

Now if you’re going to stick to a lie that big you’ll have to construct all the supporting argumentation lattice to hold it in place so you’ll need a lawyer and a PR department. A lie that starts out as a knowing fabrication can morph into something you end up kind of believing after repeating it continually. Like when ExxonMobil discovered in the 70’s from their own scientists that global warming would occur from the burning of fossil fuels, they actively went about walking the path of the prevaricator to cover the evidence up and provide an alternate version of reality to the public so they could sell more of their toxic oil. Now a generation after the initial lie was told it’s probable many current employees fully believe what the initial liars knew was false.

Prevaricator extraordinaire Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no stranger to the ways of the prevaricator. When questioned by an intern in an open Q&A on the legal status of marijuana, which is one of the more innocuous substances for human consumption on the planet, Sessions played the public safety card and said pot causes harm and if we think differently then write a letter to the doctors in the American Medical Association (AMA). This is what I call layering your bullshit.

First proclaiming marijuana causes “harm” an immediate ambiguity, and uttered by someone who has either not looked at the existing research or has chose to ignore it, either way portends bad things. Second, his basis of logic is an appeal to an authority who isn’t one. The AMA has not openly debated their platform of being against pot either, they just say things and then employ the tactics of the prevaricator instead of allowing themselves to be challenged in an open scientific inquiry. Funny thing happens to doctors, they come down with the same afflictions as everyone else, afflictions that cause them to uncontrollably lie when massive sums of money are thrown at them.

“Take it up with AMA” he says, an organization who is continually one of the largest lobbyists in the country who has opposed single payer healthcare, medicare, assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, and sides almost universally with Big Pharma; all things that work against the needs of the people and all conveniently side on the position that causes healthcare costs to increase for the patient in favor of profits for the medical industrial complex. The AMA is the fine work of a collective of purportedly caring doctors who pay membership fees to be part of an organization where the net effect is not the prevention of disease, rather preventing the American populace from getting adequate care due the perversions of capitalist activity where dollars mean more to them than lives. These quack sellouts are not lobbying for our better health, they are lobbying to achieve maximum exploitation of the lower classes with price gouging tactics that, again, prefer to watch Americans die than make less money than they think is possible.

After years of outright opposition to marijuana the ever so courageous AMA’s latest position as of 2009 on the use of marijuana changed a bit, written in full blown prevaricator talk, it is as follows:

Our AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods. This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.

“Development of cannabinoid-based medicines” is code for keep it illegal but they want something they can patent and make profitable, believing that people shouldn’t be able to use their autonomy to freely make decisions for themselves because this ostensible “expert” class has capitalist objectives that override any sense of humane based reason. Do these caring doctors stop to think about the blatantly racist origins of marijuana prohibition and the implications of what that does to lives? Or that there, in fact, was ZERO scientific basis for outlawing it initially? Do they stop to think that enforcing regulation means that people go to jail over what is termed misuse of a benign plant and that it ultimately empowers authoritarian control? It’s my suspicion these topics are actively evaded by most prevaricating capitalist doctors.

The AMA is a predatory profiteering anti-humane organization and our anti-humane Attorney General Jeff Sessions flippantly requests we plea to them to change their biased tune on marijuana. These doctors base their positions on what puts the most money in their pocket, not public health, and fall into all the traps of a gutter-rat prevaricator. And I’m curious where is Jeff Sessions appeal to scientific authority and empirical data when it comes to climate change? Nowhere to be seen since his position is one of avoidance and whatever is convenient to his money and power acquisition schemes to make the rich richer.

In a TED talk Kathryn Schulz talks about the pain of being wrong. This avoidance of pain is almost certainly part of he impetus for lying initially and cause for the subsequent evasive tactics used to maintain the lie. No one wants to be wrong and owning up to it takes courage, a courage most people lack. She asserts that people learn from an early age that being wrong has implications, like poor grades on tests, and maybe lower social status, so to be successful we understand we must be right, or at least perceived that way. Schulz also speaks to the idea of the mental framework built around wanting to be right to the degree it diminishes our objectivity and results in arriving at a mental state where “we just insist that we are right.” This insistence forms a cognitive bias which filters out most dissent and seeks to only take in information that validates the contrivance.

A path to greater truth, and there can be only greater truth as no absolute truth exists, but, the path to greater truth is to stop when we get that gnawing in our heads that says maybe we don’t fully understand something and choose to seek understanding rather than fill the void with misinformation that just happens to work best for us. There are real implications to lies, real costs to real human beings, and that is a greater truth. There is no shame in not knowing something, or feeling a desire for something we lack, but guilt is most appropriately felt when telling a lie to cover up ignorance or manipulate for selfish reasons, and once the lie is told and held firmly in place the ascension of the prevaricating spirit is assured and our social fabric torn asunder a little more.

Jason Holland is a writer and a proponent of peaceful revolution. Visit his blog He can be reached at or follow him on twitter @ReasonBowl. Youtube content at Reason Bowl Radio. Read other articles by Jason, or visit Jason's website.