The Art of Lying

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Lying is tough business.

People believe lies with more details. Time, date, people, exact words, what people were wearing, sequences of events. All that. So liars usually provide some gripping details to make their lies more believable.

In casual conversation, this works. Once some sucker buys your lie, you’re pretty much in the clear. The problem comes when you broadcast your lie for maximum coverage. The more people who hear the lie, the more people try to verify those details.

Details like dates and people.

Details like sequences of events and how things work.

Two of the women who accused Donald Trump of inappropriate contact today lied poorly. Oh, their lies were weapons grade, Olympic class lies in casual conversation. They provided such vivid, specific detail that no one would doubt them.

But when their lies were broadcast, people tried to verify those details. And it turns out those women lied.

First, there’s Jessica Leed, a friend of Hillary’s who recalls specific details of an encounter on an airplane with Donald Trump 30 years ago. Two of Leed’s details destroy her story.

  1. She said she was upgraded to first class. But 30 years ago, airlines didn’t upgrade passengers. 
  2. She said Donald Trump raised the armrest between their seats. But first class seats never had armrests you could raise. They’re fixed, unlike the ones in coach.

Again, if she told this lie to a friend who’s prone to believe her, the lie would work. But when the whole world hears the lie, the truth emerges. Jessica Leed lied.

Then there’s Mindy McGillivray. Mindy says Trump groped her, and she remembers the details precisely. She was at Mar-a-lago attending a Ray Charles concert. The date was January 24, 2003. The concert was over. Ray was getting ready to leave. Someone grapped her ass, and Trump was the only person behind her. Sounds so plausible with all those details seared into her mind, doesn’t it?

Only problem is, there was no such concert. As Gateway Pundit points out:

Mindy McGillivray says Donald Trump nudged her at a concert at Mar-a-Lago at a concert on January 24, 2003. She went public with her story this week.

There was no such concert at Mar-a-Lago on January 24, 2003.

Again, the specifics that make a lie believable also make it debunkable.

Remember this about lying well: as your audience increases, your specificity decreases. While vague recollections might increase doubt, they also make your story harder to disprove.

Jessica Leed and Mindy McGillivray learned this lesson the hard way. When it comes to lying, they’re not true artists but mere dabblers.

CORRECTED: A previous version misstated the date in question as January 24, 2009.

Also published on Medium.