Between lies and sincerity

There are various shades of grey between lying and sincerity, and a number of things that I would feel are dishonest in some way without being outright lies. For example, when I look at Extinction Rebellion and similar groups, I get the impression that climate change is not the main driver of their actions. They seem to be anti-capitalists first and foremost. It’s not quite a lie to say that they are concerned with the climate, but I find myself wanting to ask what trade-offs they would accept in order to halt climate change. If they wouldn’t accept a capitalist solution to climate change (e.g. a patent for clean energy that would make the owner very rich), is climate change really what they care about?

So what are these types of dishonesty?

  • Stating things that you know to be false.
  • Avoiding stating things that you know to be true.
    • Much coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse case from the NYT et al avoided stating the obvious fact that Rittenhouse was being physically attacked at the times when he shot people.
    • Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine describes the Pinochet coup entirely without mentioning that Chile was undergoing a constitutional crisis at the time.
  • Either exaggerating or downplaying the significance of true statements.
    • Extinction Rebellion say that they are concerned about climate change (which I presume is true) but then their proposed solutions seem suspiciously to have more to do with anti-capitalism. So perhaps they are exaggerating the extent of that concern.
  • Avoiding investigating things that you have reason to be unsure of, in order to not have to conceal or lie about them later.
    • If you were doubting your religion in a strongly religious society, you might well avoid investigating the question. Even if your doubts were reasonable, thinking and saying so would have no other effect than to make you a pariah.
    • A gangster’s accountant might say, “don’t tell me what you’re doing so that I don’t have to lie about it later”.
  • Keeping arguments simple despite being aware of complicating nuances.
    • Saying that masks prevent the spread of covid. You might think on balance of probabilities that this is true, but avoid acknowledging that the evidence is somewhat shaky and uncertain. This isn’t lying, exactly, because your goal is to make people believe what you sincerely believe, but there is nevertheless something underhand about it.

And this can also be considered through the lens of motivations:

  • You might be dishonest in order to manipulate people into believing what you want them to believe, or to act in ways that you want them to act.
  • You might be dishonest in order to indicate your loyalty and belonging to a tribe.

You might also have multiple factors going on at the same time: E.g. with the masks example, you might believe it probably reduces the spread of covid. You might also like people to believe that masks reduce the spread of covid because (despite being aware of your own uncertainty) you think that the expected value of general mask wearing is greater than not. You might also like to affiliate yourself with the tribe of people advocating mask-wearing.