What do governments lie about?

What do governments lie about?"…if a leader lies to sell a policy that works, people are unlikely to care all that much. If the policy turns out to be a dog, though, they’ll be furious, shocked at the deception."

Governments always lie, right? Political science professor John J. Mearsheimer discovered that’s not the case in his new book, "Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics:"

"…Mearsheimer found something that surprised him: Lying between countries is actually relatively rare. It happens occasionally the strategic cover-ups, the chest-puffing about weapons but what’s far more common is leaders lying to their own people on foreign policy matters. And he’s not talking about totalitarian propaganda, either: Lying is particularly prevalent in democratic states, where leaders need the support of the citizenry in order to execute their policies. This is where the United States comes in for some lumps. FDR lied about the German attack on the USS Greer in 1941 in the hopes of rallying support for America’s entrance into the war; LBJ lied about the Gulf of Tonkin; and the Bush administration lied about its "bulletproof" evidence that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were in cahoots.

Mearsheimer found that if a leader lies to sell a policy that works, people are unlikely to care all that much. If the policy turns out to be a dog, though, they’ll be furious, shocked at the deception. But in no time, they’ll implicitly trust the government anew. "There’s no question that once a president lies, people are then quite jaded in how they look at that president," he says. "But that quickly wears off. Trust reasserts itself. And then people are vulnerable all over again."

Why leaders lie – In international politics, guess who lies the most? The Boston Globe>>
John J. Mearsheimer’s website>>

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