Lies and the liars who tell them

IT APPEARS to be a feature of society nowadays that the trait of honesty has disappeared in toto. One of the major manifestations of this is in the utterances made by public figures – they say one thing and then, the very next minute, they deny they said it.

Else, they try to spin things – and the problem is, they actually believe their own spin. A small variation on the method advocated by the greatest spinmeister of them all, who once said, “if you tell people a lie repeatedly and they have no way of finding out the truth, then they will believe the lie.”

Two examples from the city in which I live: recently, Mick Malthouse, the head coach of a local Australian rules football team, called an opposing player a “fucking rapist” during one of the regular breaks in the game.

The coach first denied saying it; later, when witnesses came forward to contradict him and TV footage showed him mouthing off, he said he had denied it because what happens on the field stays on the field!

In other words, here is a man who dwells in two different worlds – you don’t need something like Second Life for him to live a virtual life or a virtual lie.

When the media quite rightly attacked him, the coach took things one step further – he wrote a column in a newspaper and claimed he had acted as Winston Churchill did, for the greater good. Yeah, sure. You can’t get more into denial mode than that.

And then we have the former commissioner of police in Victoria, Christine Nixon. who has been twisting the truth in testimony to a royal commission which is investigating the bushfires that took 173 lives in the state in February 2009.

On February 7. 2009, which has come to be known as Black Saturday due to the ferocity of the fires that raged, Nixon went out to the pub for a meal with friends at 6pm. To put this in context, at 5.45pm on that day, the emergency services commissioner, Bruce Esplin, had called the state’s police minister, Bob Cameron, to say that there was a ”very dire” fire situation and asked him to come to the emergency control centre.

For three hours Nixon was not contacted, despite her role as one of the senior people in tackling this emergency. It looks like her mobile phone was turned off though she will not admit it. But then she was reluctant to admit that she went out for a meal until it was raised by the commission. Talk of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt does not seem entirely out of place here.

Nixon stepped down from the post of police commissioner last year and now occupies a nice government-paid sinecure, in charge of rebuilding the area devastated by the bushfires. She refuses to quit and the lameduck state premier, John Brumby, a man who has been in power for 10 years and appears to be blind to her dereliction of duty, is backing her.

Many people reach a dangerous stage of being when they cannot see that there is some black and white alongside the grey. When they enter this nebulous zone, their conscience dies and they function in a manner that is essentially inhuman.