Monday, March 18, 2013

The Calculus of Deceit

Liars calculate the costs of telling the truth and the potential costs of lying, weigh the results, and then choose to tell a lie.

This seems pretty straightforward.

Liars convince themselves that their lies won't be found out. Or, maybe they reason that the costs of being caught lying, while embarrassing and perhaps costly, are less of a problem than the results of telling the truth. After all, if one lies, the truth might not come to light. Maybe the  benefits of the lie, if it remains unrealized, are great enough that the risks of being caught lying simply pale in comparison.

When I was a kid, I lied. The risk of telling my parents the truth was greater than the risk of telling them the truth. I reasoned that the punishment for admitting to having done something that I knew they wouldn't approve of was no worse than the punishment I would have to endure if they caught me in a lie. So, all things being equal, even as a ten-year-old, I understood the odds: certain punishment vs. possible punishment. A no-brainer.

But I grew up. Honesty actually matters. And it matters a whole lot when one is in a position of public trust.

When people involved in the public's business lie to the public, their lies are much more serious than the lies of someone else, or the lies of a ten year old boy.

In the case of the University of Wisconsin, Madison's claim that the United States Department of Agriculture didn't find anything wrong with the treatment of the cats in Tom Yin's laboratory, the institution lied to the public.

It's important to understand this point.

The state university lied to the citizens of the state. 

It's not that they misspoke. They weren't mistaken. No one misled them.

 They lied.

They lied to you.

They lied knowingly. They told calculated lies. Repeatedly.

They hoped and banked on the likelihood that you would never learn the truth. They miscalculated.

But they knew all along that there was at least some possibility that their lies would be discovered.

They must believe that the public, you, are simply too stupid to notice. They believe that you are too stupid, too dull to do anything about it.

It's true that PeTA's first complaint to the USDA about the conditions in the Yin lab was dismissed. But the USDA is filled with people who have varying degrees of respect for animals, so big deal.

Their follow up complaint included statements from a UW veterinarian who added to and validated their observations. The USDA was forced to pay more attention.

The USDA inspected the lab and found wide-spread suffering and evidence of sloppy surgical procedures that failed to meet modern aseptic standards. Many of the cats had serious life-threatening infections associated with the screws driven into their skulls and the surgically implanted eye coils.

And the university knew this. 

And they told the public repeatedly that the USDA had found nothing amiss.

They believe that you are too stupid to notice or to do anything about it.

They might be right.

The university has lied to the public so many times over the years that they have come to believe that they are never, ever, held accountable for their lies.


The willing gullibility of reporters and newscasters makes any genuine discussion of the details of the university's use of animals nearly impossible.

Liars. Matter-of-fact habitual liars lying about the things they do to animals in their hidden labs. Despicable.

Get active. Get involved. Speak out. Call your state legislators today.

1 comment: said...

Hey Rick! Liars are a problem. I spent 6 years on the City of Houston Police Advisory Committee and they lied when there was no reason to lie. I guess that's how they get their kicks. Anyway, keep up the good work. And...respond to my message. I have my third Maltese since Dije. TTFN. JRT.