Ethics

How Lies Work – More Reflections on the Cummings Situation

“I said when I was in my haste, that all men liars be” (Psalm 116:11 Scottish Psalms)

 “You’re a blatant liar”.  It’s not an accusation one hears every day.  At least not since I stopped reading Secular Scotland’s or Richard Dawkin’s FB page where I was often accused of ‘lying for Jesus”.   In a post-modern society it should be encouraging that people are so concerned about truth but I’m afraid ‘truth’ tends to mean ‘what I like and agree with’.  It’s a bit like one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.  Truth becomes what we believe.

The Importance of Truth

I also find it fascinating that the Bible lays such stress upon truth.  The devil is ‘the father of lies’, ‘the accuser’, whereas Jesus is ‘the truth’, the judge.  To tell lies is to do the devil’s work.   The tongue is a deadly poison.  And the keyboard.  No Christian ever wants to be accused of telling lies – but if we know our bibles and our own hearts and if we are being honest – then all of us lie.  We want to avoid it but sometimes it seems almost second nature.

No More Politicians?

That’s what makes it more than a little bizarre that if a politician is caught lying, then they are no longer fit to be a politician.   In that case we would have no politicians.  I’m not being disparaging to politicians – I believe that all humans lie.   I also accept that if a politician continually lies then they are not fit for office.  But the notion that if, after trawling through someone’s social media for years you come across some plagiarism, or lie, then they must immediately resign, is ridiculous.  In practice of course that is not what happens.  Usually if it is the politician, I don’t like then they must resign because they lied and have no ‘integrity’ but if the politician is ‘my guy’ then he/she is excused.

Mea Culpa

So back to this week.  I was accused of blatantly lying because I complained about Ian Blackford going to a radio show in Portree in the midst of lockdown.  He didn’t.  I was wrong.  For which I apologise.  It would have been a blatant lie if I had made it up, or if I knew it to be false.  But I reported it after checking with two different sources – and we were all wrong.  There is a fundamental difference between being wrong and telling a lie.  But not in the modern world.

It’s interesting also to see how quickly the charge of liar is thrown at our politicians.  Nicola is a liar.  Boris is a liar.  Keir is a liar. In the words of the old Psalm – all men (and women) liars be!  Except of course the person who is accusing others of being liars!  But this cheapening of the concept of lying does real harm.  Because when people do tell blatant lies (like Donald Trump) then they can get away with it.

The Durham Police

An example of this came today – even by modern standards it shocked me (hence this post) .

Screenshot 2020-05-29 18.19.58

Durham police issued an official statement about Dominic Cummings visiting his parents’ home and the now infamous drive to Barnard Castle. Immediately my Twitter feed filled with excited people saying this was the smoking gun.  Here are just three of the many examples saying the same thing:

“He broke the law.  Police confirmed it.  He’s lucky that he wasn’t charged” (a minister)

“Durham police say trip to Barnard castle was a breach of regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. That is to say #Cummings broke the law of which he & the Govt he advises were the architects” (Joanna Cherry – QC and SNP MP)

“If these reports are true then the PM must sack Cummings. If he does not, then he is completely undermining Policing in Eng & Wales. Surely that cannot be a sacrifice worth making?! What does it also say about the PM & Cabinet who defended his actions as being within the rules?”  (Humza Yousaf – Scottish Justice Secretary)

‘He Broke the Law’

Numerous other politicians, journalists, clergy, celebrities joined in the clamour .  The police stated Cummings broke the law.  He has to go.  Surely so many ‘experts’ could not be wrong?  And after all we had a QC (who I actually admire as a politician) and a justice minister telling us it was the truth.  But then I had my doubts.   Firstly, my experience earlier in the day of having passed on something that was wrong – despite what I thought were reliable sources.   Maybe I should check?  And secondly the fact that Mr Yousaf said ‘if’ these reports are true’.  I assumed that as a justice minister he would have access to the reports.  Surely Durham police would have issued a statement.  It took me 10 seconds to find it.  It’s not long and I suggest you read it for yourself.

On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended. 

Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.

Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.

Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this, and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.

 You don’t need a degree in textual analysis to work out what was being said.  The police state that Dominic Cummings did NOT breach section 6 of the guidelines in travelling to Durham.  And that he ‘MIGHT’ have committed a ‘MINOR’ breach of the regulations in going to the castle.  A breach so minor that if the police had stopped him they would simply have asked him to return home and not charged him.   It really couldn’t be plainer.   But nonetheless ‘quality’ newspapers, clergy, a QC and a Scottish government justice minister still managed to report that he had been found guilty.   I have no doubt that they are intelligent people – and that they can read police reports.   Therefore, in knowingly stating that he broke the law, they are lied.  In the case of the justice minister it maybe that he really hadn’t read the report which just makes me guilty of ignorance and laziness – twitting out responses to something he had not seen and yet which was easily accessible.

This is my truth – tell me yours.

But it gets even worse.  When it is pointed out that the police only stated that he might have committed a minor breach – they go full postmodern Bill Clinton – ‘it depends what you mean by the word ‘is’!   According to our learned friends when the police say ‘might’ they mean ‘definitely’.   That’s why I despair for this country.  When you have a justice minister demanding ‘justice’ based on a lie, backed up by a QC who lies about what is in front of her face – then the legal, political, media and church institutions are in deep trouble.  Yousaf and Cherry should apologise, correct their ‘mistake’ or resign.  Cummings should also admit he was wrong about going the castle and apologise for his ‘minor’ breach.  But I suspect pride will prevent either of these things happening.  And everyone else should follow the police in this matter and take no further action!

Have we gone full Goebbels? ‘the bigger the lie the more you are likely to get away with it’?  Or is it just that, despite all the shouting, at the end of the day, we don’t really care about truth – we just want our ‘side’ to win?

But there is nothing new under the sun.  Augustine summarised it perfectly…

 “(People) love truth when it shines warmly on them and hate it when it rebukes them”

A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently”.

The Cummings Affair – Part 3 – Hate, Hypocrisy and Holiness

The Sick Nation and Its Healing?

Letter from Australia 44 – Cummings, Compassion, and a Chilling Video

 

 

15 comments

  1. I love all the typos in this! Makes an even more interesting point are typos lies as well. Are they the intentional bits of untruth in spelling that misguidance lend to the case being made. Clever lad you!!!

  2. OK – so it is a government “guideline” to “stay at home”, not a regulation. So when Boris said we “must stay at home” that was his truth and when Cummings spoke of his leaving home to self isolate in Durham to not be a breach of regulations to be his truth and according to Boris’ truth what any father would instinctively do.

    It’s all becoming clear now.

    So the stay at home directive was a guideline and it’s within regulations to do what instinctively a father would do according to the truth as the father sees it. OK then – and all those press taking photographs in a huddle not observing 2 metre distancing were perhaps doing what a father’s instinct is in doing their job, earning money to provide for their family? Or perhaps would that not be considered minor because there was breach of social distancing. What about those queuing for facilities at Portobello Beach and not observing social distancing? Or the group of teenagers in my local park having a gathering.

    I noticed a few more vehicles on the roads locally today – I wonder why.

    And – what has emerged “Norway health chief: lockdown was not needed to tame Covid” https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/norway-health-chief-lockdown-was-not-needed-to-tame-covid

    So what is the truth?

    Surely the truth must be true for everyone? In the absence of clarity on what this is then there will no doubt be many making their own interpretations on with is “instinctive” for them and an “exception”.

    What does that say for the management of Covid-19, the law and the physical and mental health of the nation?

  3. I’d like to know who grassed Cummings up in the first place. Somebody was following or spying on him, so is that not illegal? It was almost certainly one or more members of the media, so do they not over-reach their remit by doing that?

  4. Brendan O’Neil from spiked:

    “Having jettisoned traditional scripture and Biblical thinking, in favour of embracing the cult of relativism and a happy-clappy rainbow non-judgementalism, the church has been reduced to raging against Dominic Cummings to try to show that it still has a semblance of a moral core. Dom is their devil substitute. It’s pathetic, and what’s more it is a threat to democracy. We don’t want the church in politics. Stick to religion, leave politics to the people.”

    He is an atheist, but has still hit the nail on the head.

    Read Isaiah ch. 59.

    There is nothing new under the sun.

  5. Why is it that Donald Trump is singled out in the article for telling “blatant lies”? Why not Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama forexample? Please note that Mr Trump is the only one of these four to take a stand against abortion. Also events have shown that he was telling the truth over “Russiagate” and was the victim of a real and sinister coup attempt, currently termed “Obamagate” and which is still coming to light four years later.

  6. Mr Yousaf employs a technique which henceforth should be known as the Yousaf Technique, in honour of his name. In his first sentence he uses the conditional ‘if’ to cover himself against the possibility that the reports may not be true. But in his second sentence he switches to the unconditional by asserting that if Mr Johnston does not sack Mr Cummings then he is completely undermining policing in “Eng and Wales”, wherever ‘Eng’ might be. His second sentence clearly implies that Mr Yousaf believes the reports to be true, or is phrased in such a way that one can only reasonably come to the conclusion that Mr Yousaf believes the reports to be true. His third sentence completely confirms this.

  7. Crikey. 15,000! I haven’t the time to check all 15,000 so let’s just take the first one.
    When: Friday, February 7, and Wednesday, February 19
    The claim: The coronavirus would weaken “when we get into April, in the warmer weather—that has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus.”
    The truth: It’s too early to tell if the virus’s spread will be dampened by warmer conditions. Respiratory viruses can be seasonal, but the World Health Organization says that the new coronavirus “can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather.”
    Is that a lie? If a weather forecaster says that it’s going to be a lovely sunny day and what we get is rain, did the forecaster lie? Or just make a mistake?
    If a football pundit says that Chelsea will easily beat Ipswich Town in the FA Cup and they actually lose, is the pundit a liar?
    I wouldn’t call a false prediction a lie. How many of the 15,000 are like that? I don’t know. Perhaps only a few. But who has checked the actual number?
    Incidentally the source of the “lies” is The Atlantic, an anti-Trump publication. That doesn’t mean everything it says about Trump is a lie but I would certainly be wary of taking its claims at face value.
    In recent weeks a so-called Fact Checker in Germany was taken to court and the court found that their fact-checking in one particular case was incorrect. Fact checkers are now often no more than propaganda tools being used by people with a political axe to grind.

  8. the World Health Organization says that the new coronavirus “can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather.”
    Notice that ‘can be’. Always good to use the conditional when there is no general rule which applies. But it hardly contradicts what President Trump says. President Trump says that “warmer weather has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus.” The WHO says that the virus “can be” transmitted in areas with hot and humid weather. Furthermore, the record of the WHO during the Coronavirus is not one to be spectacularly proud of. So I’m not sure that using the WHO is necessarily a good way of proving President Trump to be wrong.
    As an example of why it is a good idea to use the conditional, it is of interest that despite not introducing a lockdown, Japan has one of the lowest rates of Coronavirus deaths in the world. And much of Japan has a sub-tropical climate.
    https://www.theweek.co.uk/coronavirus/107013/no-lockdown-little-testing-few-deaths-why-japan-is-a-coronavirus-outlier
    And the Daily Telegraph had this article:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/coronavirus-summer-weather-why-reduce-cases-warm/
    And as another example of predictions (sorry, projections) being very wide of the mark, every single projection from just about every report from the IPCC has projected a temperature increase that never happened.
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/11/16/memo-to-paris-dont-base-policy-on-overblown-prediction/
    I bet the Atlantic has never accused the IPCC of ‘lying’.

  9. “Cummings should also admit he was wrong about going the castle and apologise for his ‘minor’ breach. But I suspect pride will prevent either of these things happening.”

    I call it wisdom, not pride.

    Like a beam of sunlight peeping through an almost complete blanket of cloud covering the sun, I suspect that your own prejudice is showing here. It seems to me to be the kind of well-intentioned prejudice found in busy parents and schoolteachers dealing summarily with squabbling children, or in ministers consulted by married couples at he-says-she-says and he-started-it loggerheads, summarised by the worldly (and false) maxim, “there’s always right and wrong on both sides”, and the lazy, rough justice of a judgmental demand, “now go away and apologise to each other”.

    At most, Cummings should “admit” that going to or near a town with the word “castle” in its name that was named after a castle (not “to a castle”), he MIGHT have committed a MINOR breach, according to a police officer who has expressed his or her force’s collective, official opinion recently. Whether he committed even a minor breach very much depends upon a point of law that has not been ruled upon in any court so far as I know, which is what sort of test is to be applied in order to determine whether a purported Regulation 6 reasonable excuse is such or not, including but not confined to whether the test is subjective or objective. Cummings ought not to apologise for wrong-doing if he is not sure that he has done anything wrong. If he does so, he will be playing right into the hands of his enemies, who are legion and who don’t fight fair.

    (Apart from that, I agree with you more-or-less completely.)

    I think the bishops should be discussing whether HMG had a reasonable excuse for MAKING Regulation 6, rather than whether Dominic Cummings had a Regulation 6 reasonable excuse for driving to Barnard Castle and back. I agreed with Lord Sumption’s mood when he condemned the Regulations as “the worst interference with personal liberty in our history for a not very serious pandemic”.

    In my opinion, the Barnard Castle Cummings-and-goings were like Jesus healing on the sabbath, and often condemned for the same reasons. If Cummings hadn’t judged the reasons he left London and later went for a test drive before setting off back to London to be Regulation 6 reasonable excuses, I’d have doubts as to his character, as I would of Jesus if he’d said, “Sorry, I can’t heal you today. It’s our day off.” The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 were made for man, not man for the stupid regulations! Still, it’s encouraging to see that chief priests are making sacrifices like the rest of the world, keeping up the tradition of tithing (mint and?) Cummings.

    When the archangel Michael suspected the Father of Lies of lying, he was careful not to make an accusation against him that might have been false. Even those of us who think that Dominic Cummings might be sort of person who might lie to get out of trouble, should not accuse him of lying if they cannot prove their accusations.

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