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  1. #1
    Fe this! Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
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    Default Hyperbolic exaggeration or bald-face lying to express "emotional truths"

    Please note that - although the topic is best discussed by using examples from political discussion - this is not directly about politics, nor is it in the politics subforum. This is about the human tendency to express exaggeration and/or patent lying to express some underlying "emotional truth."

    From Honest Liars: Dishonest Leaders May Be Perceived as Authentic

    Donald Trump’s election suggests supporters view an outsider’s lies as symbolic protests against the establishment


    The researchers did tie the study to the 2016 election by surveying 402 participants, who were told that one of Trump's tweets about global warming being a hoax had been definitively debunked. Trump supporters were more likely than Clinton supporters to see the tweet as not literal but as a challenge to the elite. They were also twice as likely to rate their preferred candidate as highly “authentic.”

    I've seen this tendency alluded to more than a couple times this past year or so, mostly on podcasts - and only two of those podcasts I remember by name. Both were Sam Harris podcasts. Harris talked to Scott Adams (Dilbert writer, Trump supporter) in "Triggered", and Adams described something a lot like what was said in the piece above - that Trump knows how to appeal to "emotional truths" (I actually get the phrase "emotional truths" from this podcast). (Harris titled the podcast "triggered" because he felt so triggered himself by the conversation.) The other Harris podcast was "Hidden Motivations". He discussed what possible benefit someone could reap from outright lying with Robin Hanson (author of The Elephant In the Brain), and Hanson said something very much along the lines of what Adams said: it establishes a sort of intimacy or intimate/authentic connection (basically, it can appeal to 'emotional truths').

    So I guess my question here is: wtf are "emotional truths"? When there's such an emotional charge behind disagreeing with someone else's belief that hearing a lie which exaggerates/emphasizes the precise aspect we disagree with, that's pointing out an emotional truth?

    I know personally sometimes I throw out a snarky barb here and there which is a clear exaggeration - but I'm doing it to vent (regardless of whether I'm doing it in good faith or bad faith, it's to vent). And I guess if someone 'gets' why I exaggerated the precise aspect I was hyperbolic about, and shares the emotional charge behind disagreeing - that can foster a kind of 'intimacy' of sorts. So I can kinda see it.

    I just thought it was interesting.
    Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin

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  2. #2
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    Nov 2017


    Was Trump the first to use the appeal to 'emotional truths'? It's always been very frustrating to listen to US politicians because they tend to use strong words, shout and are generally quite dramatic, as if there is a war and you must pick their side or die. I consider it an emotional extortion. Makes you wonder why people are so easily turned against one another.

  3. #3
    Garbage human
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    Aug 2013


    Politicians and religious leaders have been doing this for millennia. It didn't begin in the US.
    'When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.'


  4. #4
    Alchemist of Life Coriolis's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    5w6 sp/sx


    Quote Originally Posted by asynartetic View Post
    Politicians and religious leaders have been doing this for millennia. It didn't begin in the US.
    I agree. I guess I was interpeting the term "emotional truths" both more broadly and more personally. We all have heard people say, "I'm going to wring his neck" or similar, about someone who really ticked them off or made things difficult for them. We assume they are not really going to strangle the offender, and understand this as simply a way of venting their anger and frustration, which I would call the "emotional truth" of the statement. In the spirit of this example, I can see a much greater role for hyperbole in expressing emotional truth than outright lies. Outright lying seems more geared to demonstrating solidarity with others who believe the lie.

    Now there is also the situation in which a group will share a belief in a fictional account which may contain important moral truths while being factually incorrect. The story about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree is one - with the moral, ironic here, that one should not lie. We can extend this beyond apocryphal stories about real life people to stories with no direct claim to reality, like Aesop's fables. One might even put much of religion into this category, in that the "truth" of the mythos is independent of the historical or factual veracity of its contents. This isn't a problem as long as people don't look to these accounts for historical and factual truth. Unfortunately some still do.

    But I have now gone quite far afield. Suffice it to say that emotional truth exists independent of factual truth, which is all well and good as long as we don't present one as the other.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

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