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Black lies? 黑色的谎言

中国日报网 2018-08-21 13:10

Reader question:

Please explain “black lies”, as in: “This book is full of black lies.”


My comments:

Which book?

Anyways, when someone opines that a certain book is full of black lies, they mean to point out that the book is full of untruths, things that are not backed up by facts.

And crucially, what “black” implies is that the author of that book tells these untruths or lies out of sinister motivations – to incite public unrest, for example, or for propaganda purposes in general.

Black lies, that is, as vs white lies.

Black vs white, as in the dark vs the light, day vs night.

The white lie is a lie that’s innocent or rather innocuous in nature. We sometimes tell our mother, for instance, that the food she puts on the table is delicious when in fact the food is not easy to swallow at all. We do this to make her happy. After all, she’s one who toils in the kitchen all the time.

To tell such a white lie, we can see that such white lies are told out of unselfish motivations and that no-one’s getting hurt.

A black lie is the opposite. For example, if a vengeful child tells his mother that her cooking is disgusting when in fact no-one else finds anything wrong with it, then the child is telling a black lie – in order to hurt his dear mother, for whatever good excuse or, rather, bad reason.

Black lies, in short, are told for selfish reasons in order to hurt rather than protect. Black lies are sinister, even evil in nature.

Here are a few “black lie” examples, from old media and new, to drive the point firmly home:


1. The woman visitor left. The cowbell on the doorknob tingled as she shut the door.

“I bet she stole something,” said the Captain, smacking a fist against a knee in a petulant, childish gesture. “They all steal something. I got a fine cat, best cat I ever had. Jumps up and pulls the electric-light cord. Jumps in bed and scratches my back. Use to have a monkey for a house pet. I got rid of him; monkeys stink. When I talk I get excited. Had so many knocks on the head in saloon fights I don’t always remember. It’s a nuisance when you can’t remember. I be damned if it ain’t. It makes you mad. Look at this here snakeskin. South American boa constrictor. You could make a woman fifty-five pairs of pretty shoes out of that snakeskin. Longest damned snakeskin in the United States. Show me any millionaire that’s got a snakeskin as long as that. I’m disgusted to the full with this world. What I’d like is an expedition, a scientific expedition. I like brains. I’d kill a man for being stupid or give him credit for robbing me because that would demonstrate he had sense. Brains is what counts. I got a pension from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and I got a pension from the Spanish-American War, and I don’t trust nobody. Don’t trust the preacher, don’t trust the newspaper, don’t trust the radio set, don’t trust the billboards, don’t trust the pretty label on the liquor bottle where it says eight years old; it’s all big black lies. When I hear the whistle, I don’t even believe the train’s coming. I got a radical nature, and I can’t help it.”

- Hit on the head with a cow, by Joseph Mitchell, The New Yorker, 1938.


2. Exaggeration, statistics and advertising are the breeding-grounds for fibs, and research has shown that more than 80% of people who work in advertising lie continually during waking hours. Truth is, of course, a relative thing - what this means is that if you have a piece of cabbage between your front teeth, only a relative will be able to tell you the truth about it.

There are white lies, which we tell to avoid hurting people; big black lies, which we tell to drop people in it; and red lies, which we all tell for sheer entertainment - for example, ‘I once opened the emergency exit of a Boeing 757 over Belgium.’ Therefore, when you don’t feel as hurt as you were expecting, you’ve been told a white lie; when you find yourself dropped in it, you’ve been told a black lie; and if you’ve been sucked out of a plane over Belgium, you’ll know that I was lying about lying.

Of course, there are some people more disposed to lying than others by virtue of their jobs: for example, politicians, estate agents, roofers and, worst of all, Commissioners for Oaths, who are notorious for telling absolute whoppers. Other people, such as gardeners and firemen, you can be more sure of, as it’s really difficult to lie about the fact that you’ve mown the lawn or put out a fire.

Body language is a dead giveaway for liars. If a politician makes any movement at all above or below the neck, then what they are saying is an absolute pack of lies. Touching any part of the face, especially the nose, is the equivalent of saying, ‘Stand by for some made-up stuff’. Also, people are often defensive when lying, so look out for tell-tale signs such as crossing arms, erecting barbed wire and digging trenches. There are also verbal cues: when someone starts a sentence with a phrase such as ‘To be honest with you’ or ‘To tell you the truth’, brace yourself for some epic fibbing.

Strangely, the opposite is true (liar) when you react to something. If you find yourself saying, ‘Rubbish’, ‘Bullshit’ or ‘You lying toe-rag’, you’ve probably heard the truth, because people only tell lies when they think they will be believed. Too little or too much eye contact is another good porkie-detector. So, next time someone stares deep into your eyes and tells you that they love you, you’ll know what their little game is. Especially if they’ve come to fix your roof.

- How to tell when someone’s lying, TheGuardian.com, September 18, 1999.


3. During Hope Hicks’ interview by the House Intelligence Committee, the president’s White House Communications Director acknowledged that she tells “white lies.” As a political historian, I was not aware that lies have colors. I am well aware that human beings are identified by color, but in politics, this is a first.

In the Trump orbit, I am guessing the severity of the lie determines the color. The severity of a blue lie compared to a pink lie would be much more intense. But a yellow lie or a red lie would definitely not be as bad as a black lie. Hope Hicks only tells white lies for Trump, so Americans should definitely trust the rest of her testimony and statements.

Hope Hicks has also been interviewed by Mueller’s team. I wonder if she told lies, and I wonder what color they were. Hicks has been a trusted confident in Trump’s team during the campaign and beyond, so I am wondering when did the white lies start.

“It has been reported that Trump is furious with Hicks for admitting she had fudged on his behalf. Once, her ignorance counted as a qualification. (Trump speaking) ‘I said, what do you know about politics?’ Trump boasted in late 2016, recalling the moment he hired Hicks. Absolutely nothing. I said, Congratulations, you’re into the world of politics,” says staff writer, of The New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz.

It appears that Hope Hicks was hired for her looks, and not her record of achievement and education. So it should not be a surprise when she is caught drafting a statement defending Rob Porter who was accused of domestic abuse, and with whom she had a romantic relationship. It was no way she was qualified to make $179, 000.00 a year, but she was at the top of the pay scale.

In order to be paid at the top of the pay scale in the Trump orbit, you must be willing and ready to lie at the drop of a hat. Chief of staff John Kelly has been caught fabricating the truth during some of his statements.

Last year Kelly issued a statement on a speech given by Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, in which the information was wrong and untrue, and the White House backed her story. Even though Rep. Wilson has proven the statement was a lie; there has been no apology from Kelly. Presently, Kelly has told different stories about Rob Porter’s investigation, and it keeps changing.

As the different stories from Kelly keep changing, the question must be raised would the Chief of staff fabrications be considered “white lies.” Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor to the president was caught lying and forced to resign his position in just 23 days. Everywhere you turn in Trump’s administration, someone is resigning and being caught lying to the American people.

These admissions are appalling, and it is very difficult to call this lying in Trump’s administration “white lies.”

- Is it OK to tell white lies in Trump’s administration? By Roger Caldwell, TheWestsideGazette, March 7, 2018.

本文仅代表作者本人观点,与本网立场无关。欢迎大家讨论学术问题,尊重他人,禁止人身攻击和发布一切违反国家现行法律法规的内容。

About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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