A Devil's Dictionary of Lies

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to withhold the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there are various substitutions to be used according to the circumstances. In my continuing tribute to Ambrose Bierce, I deadpan the following.

The simplest lie is one that denies knowledge of truth when in fact the truth is known to the liar. There is some difficulty with its standard response of “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The first tell is that this is often not accompanied by squinty puzzled eyes and the raised corners of an open-mouthed disgust, which is the more proper WTF facial expression. The second tell is the mumbling fake incomprehension that comes out is sentence fragments. The third is the shocked disbelief of an implied guilt. “Why would I do something like that?”.

One who misdirects intends to deflect the question and make a statement that is loud enough to dazzle the interrogator. The trick here is to pick something the interrogator is actually interested in, but the advanced trick is to segue into this new tangent in a way that implies a dismissal of the original subject. If the misdirection works in this manner you make it appear like you took the question as a non-sequitur and you now offer one in return that might actually be interesting, unlike that stupid boring question that makes no sense.

“Did you throw out the milk in the fridge. It wasn’t past its due date.”
(Yes I did). “We should go out to Lafitte’s. You know how you love their brioche.”

Baldfaced Lie
It’s pretty simple. You deny, deny, deny. You know nothing. You deny everything, continually. The best way is to demonstrate frustration and exasperation until you can get through the “We’ve been through this” phase. The aim is to make their curiosity appear to be an obsessive fixation. The most clever thing is to invent an alternative theory, but this can quickly degenerate into self-accusation if you reveal a devious scenario that has some element of the actual truth.

Jawboning is an elaborate way of erecting a smokescreen of hope that conceals the fact that responsible parties are either ignorant, incompetent or both. This tactic works exceptionally well for individuals responsible for answering for institutions in which they hold leadership positions. When it’s time to respond to the snarling sentiments of “Don’t just stand there, explain yourself. What did you know and when?” jawboning can be effective when baldface lies cannot. The presumption being that said institution had just one job and they screwed the pooch. You can’t just deny everything.

The last thing you want to do when jawboning is admit you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. What you will know however is all of the sophisticated terminology that laymen have never heard before. Since you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, you aim to fool everyone but the most insidy insiders.

“We’ve never had this exact scenario before, however anticipate that by using a modified methodology, we can be successful. We need your support in this endeavor.” The ‘support’ in this case will be immunity from previous regulations, or a shitload of cash. Jawboning at its best makes the public complicit in magnifying the powers and aegis of heretofore incompetent organizations actually responsible for the shitshow in progress.

Horseshit vs Bullshit
Horseshit is a term which applies to a specific instance of blatant stinking perfidy. In that regard it would be less of an insult to 'call horseshit' on a particular matter. If I am saying that some situation is full of shit, it is generally horseshit to which I am referring. Likewise, if an offended person has a moment of outrage, the surprise of "You've got to be shitting me" should be inferred to indicate a steaming pile of horseshit. 

However if the same kind of lie were reinforced by multiple other lies, the more appropriate response is to loudly interrupt and walk out of the room exclaiming "This is bullshit!" Bullshit thus in contrast to horseshit requires that one recognize and implicate a continuous and purposeful production of shit. Think of it this way. The average beef cow is double the weight of an average horse mare and the average cattle herd is generally much larger than the average herd of horses, although I cannot say my experience with these observations is expert. Nevertheless, it's useful to consider these facts with the understanding that the bulls will produce more shit. 

It is unfortunate that the term horseshit has fallen out of favor, because most short sequences of lies and individual excuses are merely horseshit. These days, with fewer Americans having any faith whatsoever, they are expecting bullshit.

As you know, cows may come and cows may go, but one bullshit story always leads to another. Delusion and illusion are at the heart of the bullshitters. They use combinations of misdirection and jawboning to become consummate bullshitters who may even perceive themselves as artists. The best high-function bullshitters engineer themselves into positions of subjective judgement, and of course find an ample supply of people who are easily cowed.

The ultimate craftsmanship of lies requires the tools of the intelligence trade. While many lies and deceptions can be effective on their own in the wild, there are limits.

Just like the ability to identify the apex of a curve, brake, downshift and smoothly accelerate out of it requires a certain amount of knowledge, it also requires tuned equipment, the right environment, time and disciplined practice over the long haul. If you only have an automatic transmission and live in a grid of streets, you will never master the curve. Counterintelligence involves keeping your ass in the backseat of a 1978 Ford Granada in Midtown Manhattan. In this manner, the very existence of downshifting through a curve is wholly alien to you. Counterintelligence makes it so that you literally cannot handle the truth even if all its component parts are staring you in the face.

“Ok so what am I supposed to do with this?” is what you want your victim of counterintelligence to say. Or given the truth of a certain exploit, you wish them to say something on the order of it not being humanly possible. You therefore make what has actually transpired as seeming impossible.


I would be lying if I told you I’m not tempted to assign real world events to these tactics and strategies of deception. Instead I aim to give you these tools of the Logos to consider your information consumption and also your skills at production of information.

What lies and disinformation are all most crippled by is the independent expert who can no necessarily pick out the liar, but recreate the circumstances under which certain outcomes are likely to occur. The murder detective knows how murders are perpetrated. The physicist understands the effect of low temperature on rubber O ring seals. The investigative journalist’s editor knows how statements are crafted towards or away from transparent clarity. The plumber knows what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet.

The great danger to a modern society is how it becomes overrun by genius such that its workings become opaque to its peasants. This is especially the case when its peasants are not as self-reliant as they should be and depend upon experts and professionals to jawbone them into security and complacency or to misdirect them into consideration of the most dramatic productions.

As we work together in our stoic approach to society try to remember the context in which I will be talking about those deceptions that keep us away from the perfection of our self-realization.