Thursday, September 28, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 12, 1445 H
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Does your nose grow? Pinocchio Paradox


Lying comes naturally to many people. Have you thought about the lies one writes on their social media profile or the photos used in their bio? What about the lies in a job interview or to be promoted at work?

Lying in public or private life is everywhere. What a man has never lied to his wife or a healthy person that fakes to be sick in order not to attend an event that had been invited to? Saying the phone battery was down or saying that everything is going well when in fact is not true. Who has never exaggerated a bit more than necessary?

Throughout the Middle Ages, into and beyond Renaissance lies had reached ‘never-before proportions’. From people in power to scientists lies have been told. The Cuban Missile crisis, the Watergate Scandal, the Pentagon Papers, Iraq’s Weapon of Mass Destruction are some of the examples in which lies took central stage. These, among another dozen, are the lies we are aware of…

Even the person who denies it is actually a liar. The interest in the art of lying goes back centuries ago. As a theoretical and sociological study, it can be dated from the time of Saint Augustine, a fourth-century philosopher. Aurelius Augustinus, also a theologian and prolific writer, devoted two treatises to the issue: De mendacio (On lying) and Contra mendacium (Against lying), written in 395 DC and 420 DC, respectively. For Saint Augustine, lying is intentional. But the reasons can vary broadly.

The motivations behind telling lies and what they get by telling lies are of great importance — not that we will solve or even fully understand one of the topics that have been addressed for thousands of years. Interesting, nowadays there is this struggle with falsehood, rumours, and lies that nobody solved before but on the contrary just made it more sophisticated.

A real situation pushed me to look into this topic. As if in a low budget movie, a security guard in one of these fancy locations not only fabricated a claim but also unshamefully lied to his supervisor right there in front of me. I could not believe my ears. What an irony!

I, one of those constantly emphasising the need for communication transparency, media literacy, understanding sources of information, use of clear words, was tasting the poison of a scorpion. It popped to my mind that the popular idea that liars avert direct eye contact proved to be wrong. The liar was looking straight into my eyes while making his claim. He knew he was lying — and that I knew it — still he chose to continue with his lie while I was sitting duck. I thought about this man’s family. I thought about the type of education his children get at home. Also, I thought about how damaging it can be, besides the moral and ethical questions that can arise from the situation.

This is not philosophy; it is real life. His nose didn’t grow! While a big number of white lies are likely to be trivial, others can have serious consequences.

Lying starts to be a problem when from an occasional ‘little white deceive’ turns to be a habit and then it becomes a routine in a person’s character. It comes to the point that people do make a conscious choice to lie. Have you thought about the use of filters on social media to look more attractive, toned? The bios? Perception, image and manipulation in visual communication are just lies and we are accepting these lies as normal. Worst of all is when those who claim that lying is freedom of expression. We are elevating the art of fabrication by normalising lies. However, can we handle the truth?

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