FWIW: Dealing with Lies

During most of the recent “debates” about (you name it) health care, Russia, size of crowds, vote counts – one side says one thing and the other side denies or refutes or obfuscates. Then it just boils down to a pissing contest whose takeaway is, for most people, “a pox on both your houses.” And it gets filed away in most minds as the same-old same-old political infighting, forgotten after an hour or so.

But what if one side says to the other, “You just said X; I said Y. not only do I believe that Y is correct and X is wrong, but I’m willing to back up my belief with money. I will pledge $Z to your favorite charity if I’m proved wrong; are you willing to pledge the same amount to my favorite charity if I’m right?”

Not only does this call the liar’s bluff and bluster, it also increases the length of time that the supposed controversy is in front of the public. “Why isn’t Congressperson PR (for example) willing to put his money where his mouth is?”

Your thoughts?

Author: Mike Maltz

Michael D. Maltz is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice and of Information and Decision Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently an adjunct professor of sociology at the Ohio State University His formal training is in electrical engineering (BEE, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1959; MS & PhD Stanford University, 1961, 1963), and he spent seven years in that field. He then joined the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (now National Institute of Justice), where he became a criminologist of sorts. After three years with NIJ, he spent thirty years at the University of Illinois at Chicago, during which time he was a part-time Visiting Fellow at the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. Maltz is the author of Recidivism, coauthor of Mapping Crime in Its Community Setting, and coeditor of Envisioning Criminology.

8 thoughts on “FWIW: Dealing with Lies”

  1. It wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. You'd still have the exact same argument over what is true, and those not directly involved would have the exact same reaction of choosing to believe that the problem is partisanship, not that one side consistently bolsters its arguments with claims that are false.

  2. Tim Lambert tried this at his Deltoid blog on denialists, when there were still some adults playing. IIRC they never accepted the bets.

  3. It only works if you can establish a basis for settling the bet, for demonstrating who's right and who's wrong, i.e., what constitutes evidence, what amounts to convincing evidence, what the standards of measurement are, and who judges the degree to which a statement by speaker A (for example) meant, in the context in which it originally occurred, what speaker B says it meant. There's a lot of room for getting lost in the weeds on this sort of thing.

    It also allows room for a lot of inappropriate posturing with bets, along the lines of Trump's $5 million bet with President Obama, offering $5 million to the charity/ies of Obama's choice if he released his long-form birth certificate. It gave Trump a lot of attention and put Obama in a lose-lose situation: releasing the birth certificate meant yielding to Trump; refusing to do so meant supporting Trump's narrative.

    1. Not just a lot of room for getting lost in the weeds, but with the current crop of shameless liars/bullsh*tters also the risk that they'll simply lie about whatever the outcome is and rely on having a louder megaphone and more dangerous followers.

      But I do remember a high school english teacher who would regularly respond to assertions with "Would you bet your life on that?" And then, when the student demurred, follow up by pointing to the next kid over and asking "Would you bet *his* life on it?" Which is more what's happening in the political arena.

  4. I'd settle for something along the lines of "politifallacy", in which statements are analyzed for use of fallacial rhetorical devices, such as straw-men, appeals to tradition, slippery slope, ad hominem, etc.

Comments are closed.