Long ago, when I was a kid, somebody taught me how to lie.
“The main reason most liars get caught is because their lies are too vague,” they said.
“If you want to be a successful liar, always lie with specifics.”
For example, “Where were you last night?”
“I was at the bar.” – this is gonna get you caught.
“I was at that little joint on 23rd with the really good jukebox.” – this works, because it includes specific details.
When you lie with specifics that are true, the lie becomes more credible because those elements check out. There actually is a joint on 23rd with a good jukebox. And when people are presented with two out of three verifiable elements, they tend to not check too much on the third. They just assume it’s true, because the rest of the details sound right. You could have been halfway across town, but because you mentioned a specific street and a jukebox, most people believe you were at the joint on 23rd.
This is how you get people to do something that goes against their best interests: You convince them that what you’re doing is good for everyone, and use a couple of verifiable truths to disguise the lie at the the center.
Most people really like to think they’re “helping” in some way. It’s human nature. Whatever meaningless job they have is given value by the belief that in doing it, they’re improving other people’s existence.
So first you convince people that their actions help to make things better. When they believe that, it doesn’t matter what you ask them to do or say next. They won’t question your motives. They’ll embrace wholeheartedly whatever you tell them, because you’ve already convinced them that they’re “helping”, and it gives their lives value. So on your behalf they’ll do and say horrible things.
And here’s the problem when you try to bring these folks back to the real world. They don’t wanna come, because why should they? They’re living in a reality where they’re valued, important, and where their opinions matter. None of that is true, but they believe it is, because they want to. More, because they need to.
Because to admit even slightly that they were wrong, they might have backed the wrong horse, they may have been gullible, they didn’t think it through, they were craving acceptance, they needed to belong somewhere, and they latched onto the first group that accepted them as they were…
…would mean facing the reality that their entire existence was a sham. It would mean accepting the fact that their job was menial and their life had no real impact on others.
And that would be devastating and soul-crushing. So instead, they choose to focus on the verifiable elements around the Big Lie, and use them to justify ignoring the painful truth at its core.
Because two outta three ain’t bad.