Veracity Matters, Part Two
Eleven More Ways To Know If Your Politicians’ Lips are Moving
In my last post (Veracity Matters, Part One), I provided nine ways to know if your politician’s lips are moving. Remember the joke? “How do you know if a politician is lying? His lips are moving!” The next eleven continue the series of my tried ways to get to the truth, learned over fifteen years in public service.
- Visceral – pay attention to your physical response. If your stomach turns, your hair crawls, or you get goosebumps, it is a primal affirmation. Heed it, or weep.
- Beware – of those in power who hire incompetent or malleable people who can be manipulated or follow blindly. Good leaders do not need lackeys. Reliable leaders surround themselves with individuals with proven ability, even superior to their own.
- Research – read, watch, observe, ask questions. Test the associations that emerge for accuracy using the methods outlined in this list. Who do your leaders look to, lean toward, go to during breaks?
- Power – the real power may not lay with the person out front. Watch for who is driving the decisions. Is it the guy at the back of the room sending non-verbal signals that most people never see and that the formal meeting video recordings, focused only on the speaker, never catch?
- Insider – being on the inside is the best way to find out what is going on. Just because something looks suspicious, doesn’t make it malfeasant. It is critical to verify and test red flags ruling them in or out. It is a waste of time and energy, inherently unfair, even paranoid, to accuse without basis.
- Repetition – do you see behaviors or situations that remind you of other situations in which wrongdoing was involved? Follow up on this!
- Outcry – is there public outcry, are there whistleblowers, are you obstructed in attempts to get information that should be readily provided?
- Talking in Circles – or talking, talking, talking, talking, or speaking in complicated technical terms until you give up trying to follow or fall asleep.
- Emoto Cons – my son and his high school friends had a term they used for overly emotional types. They called them “Emos,” short for “Emoticons” Watch out for whiners who turn attention from the situation at hand by pushing people’s emotional buttons, thus redirecting the conversation to the emotion, rather than the real question.In my small town a former mayor triggered classic “Emo” responses when he made the following remarks transcribed from public comment at the 5/15/17 Grover Beach City Council Meeting:“Dr. A. again. As I said, I do live here in Grover Beach, groovy Grover beach, the jewel of the cannabis coast. I grew up in a small town in Nevada. There were two little houses of ill repute there. They were legal. I was told the ladies there would do anything for money. Now I live in a little community on the Central Coast of California, and I’m told the City Council would do anything for money. Are you whores?”These were serious charges made by a credible, well-educated community member. Would I have said it this way? No. Dr. A.’s disturbing portrayal of the council of three women and two men attracted media attention and exposed the self-absorbed qualities of council members, but it also allowed them to ‘emo’ out of the question of being bought. The two men on the Council sat back and watched the show, smug in their release from the spotlight, as two of the women on the Council made it all about themselves, bristling about ‘misogynist’ remarks, huffing and puffing in local newspapers.
When the press emailed me, I responded,
“I am a strong advocate for civil discourse and respect for one another as the most effective way to communicate. As elected representatives, we have the privilege of setting the example and tone of communication by the way we treat the public and one another.
As a council member, I would not reach out to the media to take exception to public comment from a constituent at a council meeting for several reasons.
First, I would not want to use my position to freeze public comment or dissuade the public from coming forward or taking action that could hamper anyone’s first amendment constitutional right to free speech. The three minutes afforded to engaged members of the public is there to protect us from the government, as one of the very critical checks and balances available to the public, whose duty as citizens is to participate and speak up.
Second, I would not want to divert attention from the discussion of what behavior on the part of the Council prompted the question. I’d like to explore that further. What actions on the part of the Council are causing him concern? What is so egregious that he felt he needed to use this example to bring attention to the actions of the Council or Council members?
Third, the point of spirited discourse is discussion of the issues. The issue raised here is the concern that the Council is selling out and will do anything for money. Let’s discuss that concern, not the delivery. Making it about delivery redirects the conversation to being one about the delivery rather than dealing with a very serious concern raised by the speaker.
Fourth, I would not want to make it about me, nor did I sense that the comment was directed at the women of the council, that it was personally directed at the councilwomen, or that it intended to belittle the women of the Council or was in any way misogynist.”
- “It will save us so much money” – this is the snag on which many a representative is caught. As soon as a contractor says, “I am saving you so much money,” compare apples with apples to be sure, and run the numbers to check the bottom line. The more they say it, the more you should look, i.e., “I am giving you such a good deal.” Ask, “Really? Why?”
- Say it Often, and Say it In Public – and it becomes Truth. Say it often enough, or say it first, and it sticks as truth and is quoted as truth whether or not it is. The Honorable Debbie Peterson is the author of “The California Cake & Cookie Cookbook” and “Great Scotswomen in Business” She served for 15 years as the Mayor, Councilmember, and Planning Commissioner of a small town in California.